The development of antipsychotic drugs has followed two complementary approaches, either towards highly specific actions (e.g. on the dopamine receptor) or targeting a broad range of receptors. The properties of ‘atypical’ agents challenge the original dopamine hypothesis and suggest roles for a variety of dopamine receptors and for other pathways, such as serotonin. Older drugs, despite their proven efficacy in relieving many schizophrenic symptoms, have several drawbacks, being ineffective in some patients, relatively ineffective against negative symptoms, and causing adverse neurological effects which may, in turn, be associated with poor compliance. Among newer agents, currently available ones, such as clozapine and risperidone, offer the possibility of more effective control of negative symptoms and an improved side-effect profile, while others are in earlier stages of development. However, much still remains to be understood about their mechanisms of action.