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Medications for Treating Schizophrenia

Medications for Treating Schizophrenia

What can these medications do?
What side effects may occur?
What else should I know about antipsychotic medications?

Antipsychotics are a class of medication for treating schizophrenia and other serious mental disorders. Sometimes these mental disorders are called "disordered thinking," meaning that people have thoughts that they can't control and that can be harmful. People who have schizophrenia and other thought disorders have illnesses, and, like people with other illnesses, medication may help them feel better and keep the symptoms under control. People with schizophrenia may hear voices, believe things that are not true or real, or behave in bizarre ways. Antipsychotics are sometimes used to treat other conditions as well. Some people take these medications for Tourette's disorder, a condition that causes uncontrollable muscle twitches and verbal outbursts. Other people take the medications to control severe anxiety or depression, extreme mood swings, or violent behavior. back to top

What can these medications do?
Medications can't cure schizophrenia, but they can help keep the symptoms in check. They can help people who have serious mental disorders live a more normal life. Most people with schizophrenia improve greatly once they start taking medication, but a few are not helped very much. In addition, the medications are more helpful for certain symptoms, such as hearing voices and having strange beliefs, than for others, such as having trouble expressing normal emotions. back to top

What side effects may occur?
A number of different antipsychotic medications are used today. The main differences among them are the dose a person needs to take and the side effects that may occur. Among the possible side effects are sleepiness, restlessness, muscle spasms, shaking, dry mouth, and blurry vision. Sometimes people will respond to one medication and not another. Changing the dose or the medication may relieve these problems. There are some other medications like cogentin that can help make side effects easier to handle.

Since 1990, several newer antipsychotic medications, the atypical antipsychotics, have been introduced. These medications have fewer side effects. However, even the newer medications can have some unwanted side effects, including weight gain. If the dose is too high, they may also cause problems such as social withdrawal and shaking. In addition, one medication, Clozaril® (clozapine), can lead to a serious loss of the white blood cells that fight infection. If you are taking it, your health care provider will want to test your blood regularly. Many health care providers prescribe Risperdal® (resperidone) or Zyprexa® (olanzapine), both of which have fewer side effects. back to top

What else should I know about antipsychotic medications?
If you are taking a medication, it is important to ask your health care provider about the possible side effects. Make sure you or a parent knows what to do if side effects occur. Don't stop taking your medication or start taking more or less of it without talking with your health care provider first.

You can't just buy antipsychotic medications at the drugstore. A health professional must prescribe all antipsychotic medications. If you have symptoms that worry you, talk with your parents, another trusted adult, or your health care provider. Don't take someone else's medicine, such as a friend's or a parent's. A medication that works for someone else may not work for you, and could even hurt you. back to top

Last Modified Date: 4/4/2001
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