Antipsychotic medications can reduce or relieve symptoms of psychosis, such as delusions (false beliefs) and hallucinations (seeing or hearing something that is not there). Formerly known as major tranquilizers and neuroleptics, antipsychotic medications are the main class of drugs used to treat people with schizophrenia. They are also used to treat people with psychosis that occurs in bipolar disorder, depression and Alzheimer’s disease. Other uses of antipsychotics include stabilizing moods in bipolar disorder, reducing anxiety in anxiety disorders and reducing tics in Tourette syndrome. Some antipsychotics are used to treat mania (which is a symptom of illnesses such as bipolar disorder) and psychotic symptoms of depression.
Antipsychotic medications can help to calm and clear confusion in a person with acute psychosis within hours or days, but they can take up to four or six weeks to reach their full effect. These medications can help to control symptoms, but they do not cure the underlying condition. When taken over a longer term, antipsychotics can help to prevent further episodes of psychosis.
While antipsychotic medications can help some people with psychosis and mood disorders, these drugs can have serious side-effects. The aim of medication treatment is to reduce and control symptoms while keeping side-effects at a minimum. Psychosis is believed to be caused, at least in part, by overactivity of a brain chemical called dopamine, and antipsychotics are thought to work by blocking this dopamine effect. This blocking helps to make the symptoms of psychosis—such as voices and delusions—less commanding and preoccupying, but it does not always make them go away completely. People may still hear voices and have delusions, but they are more able to recognize what isn’t real and to focus on other things, such as work, school or family.
The first generation of antipsychotics have been prescribed since the 1950s. The following medications are typical antipsychotics. They have been listed by their generic name with the brand name in brackets.
- Benperidol (Anquil)
- Chlorpromazine (Largactil)
- Flupentixol (Depixol)
- Fluphenazine (Modecate)
- Haloperidol (Haldol)
- Levomepromazine (Nozinan)
- Perphenazine (Fentazin)
- Pimozide (Orap)
- Sulpiride (Dolmatil, Sulpor)
- Trifluoperazine (Stelazine)
- Zuclopenthixol (Clopixol)
The second generation of antipsychotics have been used more since the 1990s. Although some of them were developed before then. They have been listed by their generic name with the brand name in brackets.
- Amisulpride (Solian)
- Aripiprazole (Abilify, Abilify Maintena)
- Clozapine (Clozaril, Denzapine, Zaponex)
- Risperidone (Risperdal & Risperdal Consta)
- Olanzapine (Zyprexa)
- Quetiapine (Seroquel)
- Paliperidone (Invega, Xeplion)
- Movement effects
- Weight gain
- Tardive dyskinesia
- Neuroleptic malignant syndrome
- Uncomfortable restlessness (akathisia).
- Movements of the jaw, lips and tongue (tardive dyskinesia).
- Sexual problems due to hormonal changes.
- Sleepiness and slowness.
- A higher risk of getting diabetes.
- Dry mouth.
- Blurred vision.
There are lots of different interactions between antipsychotics and other medications. For example some antipsychotics can interact with tricyclic antidepressants. In some cases, this means they should not be prescribed together. Some antipsychotics can cause drowsiness, so doctors should be careful when about prescribing benzodiazepines with them. It could make you feel more drowsy. You must tell your doctor about all the medicines you are taking. This includes any homeopathic medicine. This will allow your doctor to prescribe the right antipsychotic.