As one of many people said to me "when I didn't take my medication I was haunted by demons and so terrified I couldn't leave my room." "I couldn't talk to anyone because the voices were always interfering." "Thanks to the medication I can lead a normal life." This is what these medications achieve routinely. Peoples lives are restored and the medications that are used for mental illness have been as beneficial as the antibiotics or medications used for other diseases such as those of heart, kidneys or joints.
People too often forget the amazing progress that medications have brought for literally millions of sufferers of mental illness. Schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorders, manic depressive disorders, psychotic depressions, and borderline personality disorders all were conditions that only 50 years ago could mean a life in an asylum for those sufferers who would not be able to work or have normal relationships. These conditions were not a phenomena of the 'western world' but had been seen throughout history and had lead to horrible difficulties for so many in all the countries of the world. Roughly 1% were afflicted with these difficulties. Certainly some of those with hallucinations or delusions were having a religious experience or spiritual awakening or some situational psychologically complicated event but that was only at most a small percentage of the majority of cases who were more likely having the consequences of encephalitis, meningitis or traumatic brain injury. Increasing evidence from MRI studies shows that the most severe of these conditions have actual brain damage that may well have occurred intra uterine or as a result of a head injury or infection in childhood. It's not something that would just 'go' away on its own. It's a mental illness and not just a bad attitude or lack of will power.
Thanks to medications the asylums literally emptied. The problem today is that we need hospital beds for the mentally ill not because of the old mental illnesses but rather because of new mentall illness mostly associated with drug and alcohol abuse and traumatic brain injury and post traumatic stress disorders. Those with schizophrenia and the other severe mental illnesses are mostly able to live in the community thanks to medication but they do need respite care in hospital at times. The lack of resources often makes this otherwise treatable illness a nightmare. These individuals who once needed to be a lifetime in hospital now will have months or at most a year of their life in hospital however they still need those hospital beds for these periods of illness severity no different than people with heart disease who experience periods of angina and have mild heart attacks. The very success of the antipsychotic medications cost the mentally ill patients the government funding and hospital beds that were once always necessary.
As to the atypical medications, these were a god send to the patients collectively because they didn't have the extra parimidal side effects and didn't have the danger of tardive dyskenesia. They were pleasant to take compared to the original medications for so many. Unfortunately they came with their own side effects which is simply the way of life, there is no 'free lunch'. All treatments come with costs. For most these new side effects are not a problem. The risk is small compared to the overall benefits of the drugs and there are indeed ways of treating the side effects.
That said, Ziprasidone or Zeldox (Pfizor Pharmaceuticals) is a new class of medication which has all the benefits of the original antipsychotics and the atypicals but in addition is energizing and doesn't lead to weight gain or cause metabolic side effects. It's been a relative breakthrough in the psychiatric medication armamentarium. No doubt it will eventually be seen to have it's limitations. Even the God send Penicillin caused allergies in many while it saved the lives of millions. Ziprasidone for now is working very well for those who need a major antianxiety medication but won't cause the other serious side effects. It's proving highly beneficial in the treatment of schizophrenia but is also very helpful in the treatment of anxiety disorders and mood disorders.