HealthSheets™


Using Antipsychotics

Psychosis is a serious mental disorder. People with this condition have lost contact with reality. This means they may see, hear, or believe things that aren’t really happening or aren’t true. Psychosis can be caused by physical illness, another mental disorder, or by alcohol and drug use. Antipsychotic medicines may help ease the symptoms of psychosis.

What are the risks?

Antipsychotic medicines may cause many side effects. Some side effects, such as a dry mouth and blurred vision, are minor. These often go away in a few weeks. Other side effects are more severe. They include:

  • Tardive dyskinesia. This causes facial muscles to make movements a person can’t control. Unless it’s detected early, the condition may not go away.

  • Akathisia. This causes people to be so restless that they may not be able to sit still. Often, these symptoms can be helped with other medicines.

  • Parkinsonism. This may cause slowed movements, a shuffling walk, and drooling. Other medicines may help manage these symptoms.

  • Neuroleptic malignant syndrome. This occurs only in rare cases. But it can be fatal. Signs include rigid limbs, high fever, and a rapid heartbeat. The person may also be confused and have trouble breathing. If you see these signs, get emergency care for your loved one right away.

  • Other conditions. Antipsychotics can also cause high cholesterol, and increase the risk of diabetes and heart issues.  

Can side effects be prevented?

In most cases, side effects can’t be prevented. But they can be treated. You can help your loved one by knowing what to look for. If you notice side effects, call your loved one’s healthcare provider. Never adjust medicines unless directed to do so by the healthcare provider. Changing the dosage or type of medicine may help. Other medicines may also help relieve side effects.

Your role

Antipsychotic medicines may return your loved one to a more normal life. The side effects can be very troubling. But you can help by showing your love and support and encouraging the person to talk to his or her provider about the side effects. Also encourage your loved one to keep taking his or her medicine as prescribed. Stopping medicine will likely cause the symptoms of psychosis to come back. These are often far worse than the side effects of the medicines.

Common antipsychotic medicines

  • Chlorpromazine

  • Quetiapine

  • Aripiprazole

  • Ziprasidone

  • Loxapine

  • Haloperidol

  • Clozapine

  • Risperidone

  • Olanzapine

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