Antipsychotics – Side Effects, Safety & Warnings

This class of drugs is used to treat a range of mental illnesses.

Antipsychotics are a group of drugs that are used to treat schizophrenia.

The medicines are also sometimes used to treat other mental illnesses, such as bipolar disorder, severe anxiety, or depression.

Older antipsychotics (known as "typical" antipsychotics) have been around since the mid-1950s.

Newer antipsychotics (known as "atypical" antipsychotics) were developed in the 1990s.

Antipsychotics work by blocking dopamine, a substance in the brain known as a neurotransmitter.

The medicines come as tablets, capsules, liquids, and depot (long-acting) injections. They're marketed under various brand names.

Common Antipsychotics

Some common antipsychotics include:

  • Chlorpromazine (Thorazine)
  • Clozaril and FazaClo (clozapine)
  • Haloperidol
  • Perphenazine
  • Fluphenazine
  • Risperdal (risperidone)
  • Zyprexa (olanzapine)
  • Seroquel (quetiapine)
  • Geodon (ziprasidone)
  • Abilify (aripiprazole)
  • Invega (paliperidone)
  • Latuda (lurasidone)

Side Effects of Antipsychotics

Side effects of antipsychotics may include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Blurred vision
  • Constipation
  • Skin rash
  • Sensitivity to sunlight
  • Menstrual problems in women
  • Weight gain or changes in metabolism
  • Muscle spasms
  • Tremors
  • Restlessness

Antipsychotic Safety and Warnings

Long-term use of typical (older) antipsychotic drugs may cause a serious and sometimes incurable movement condition called tardive dyskinesia (TD).

About 5 percent of people who take antipsychotics get TD each year, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

Antipsychotics aren't recommended for older adults with dementia, as these drugs may put them at increased risk for stroke and death.

The antipsychotic clozapine is highly effective, but it can cause a serious decrease in the number of white blood cells, which help your body fight off infections. Talk to your doctor about this risk.

Antipsychotics may also raise your risk of developing high cholesterol and diabetes.

Tell your doctor about all medical conditions you have before taking an antipsychotic.

Also, let your doctor know about all prescription, non-prescription, illegal, recreational, herbal, nutritional, or dietary drugs you're taking.

Don't drive or perform activities that require alertness until you know how the antipsychotic you're taking affects you.

Follow the instructions on your prescription or package label carefully. Don't take more or less of the drug than is recommended.

Don't stop taking an antipsychotic without first talking to your doctor. Your doctor will probably want to take you off the drug gradually.

Keep all appointments with your doctor's office and laboratory while taking an antipsychotic.

Your doctor will probably want to perform tests frequently to monitor your body's response to the medicine.

Let your healthcare provider know that you're taking an antipsychotic before having any type of surgery, including a dental procedure.

Antipsychotics and Alcohol

Alcohol can increase certain side effects of antipsychotics.

Avoid drinking alcohol while taking these medicines.

Antipsychotics and Pregnancy

Tell your doctor if you're pregnant, or might become pregnant, before taking an antipsychotic.

Some antipsychotics may be safe to take during pregnancy, but you should discuss the benefits and risks of this with your doctor.

Also, talk to your healthcare provider before taking an antipsychotic if you're breastfeeding.

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