Antipsychotic drugs are a class of medicines used to treat psychosis and other mental and emotional conditions.
Psychosis is defined as "a serious mental disorder (as schizophrenia) characterized by defective or lost contact with reality often with hallucinations or delusions." Psychosis is an end-stage condition arising from a variety of possible causes. Anti-psychotic drugs control the symptoms of psychosis, and in many cases are effective in controlling the symptoms of other disorders that may lead to psychosis, including bipolar mood disorder (formerly termed manic-depressive), in which the patient cycles from severe depression to feelings of extreme excitation. This class of drugs is primarily composed of the major tranquilizers; however, lithium carbonate, a drug that is largely specific to bipolar mood disorder, is commonly classified among the antipsychotic agents.
The antipsychotic agents may be divided by chemical class. The phenothiazines are the oldest group, and include chlorpromazine (Thorazine), mesoridazine (Serentil), prochlorperazine (Compazine), and thioridazine (Mellaril). These drugs are essentially similar in action and adverse effects. They may also be used as anti-emetics, although prochlorperazine is the drug most often used for this indication.
The phenylbutylpiperadines are haloperidol (Haldol) and pimozide (Orap). They find primary use in control of Tourette's syndrome. Haloperidol has been extremely useful in controlling aggressive behavior.
The debenzapine derivatives, clozapine (Clozaril), loxapine (Loxitane), olanzapine (Zyprexa) and quetiapine (Seroquel), have been effective in controlling psychotic symptoms that have not been responsive to other classes of drugs.
The benzisoxidil group is composed of resperidone (Resperidal) and ziprasidone (Geodon). Resperidone has been found useful for controlling bipolar mood disorder, while ziprasidone is used primarily as second-line treatment for schizophrenia.
In addition to these drugs, the class of antipsychotic agents includes lithium carbonate (Eskalith, Lithonate), which is used for control of bipolar mood disorder, and thiothixene (Navane), which is used in the treatment of psychosis.
Dose varies with the drug, condition being treated, and patient response. See specific references.
Neuroleptic malignant syndrome (NMS). NMS is a rare, idiosyncratic combination of extra-pyramidal symptoms (EPS), hyperthermia, and autonomic disturbance. Onset may be hours to months after drug initiation, but once started, proceeds rapidly over 24 to 72 hours. It is most commonly associated with haloperidol, long-acting fluphenazine, but has occurred with thiothixene, thioridazine, and clozapine, and may occur with other agents. NMS is potentially fatal, and requires intensive symptomatic treatment and immediate discontinuation of neuroleptic treatment. There is no established treatment. Most patients who develop NMS will have the same problem if the drug is restarted.
Tardive dyskinesia (TD). Tardive dyskinesia is a syndrome of involuntary movements that may appear in patients treated with neuroleptic drugs. Although prevalence of TD appears highest among the elderly, especially women, it is impossible to predict which patients are likely to develop the syndrome. Both the risk of developing TD and the likelihood that it will become irreversible are increased with higher doses and longer periods of treatment. The syndrome can develop after short treatment periods at low doses. Anticholinergic agents may worsen these effects. Clozapine has occasionally been useful in controlling the TD caused by other antipsychotic drugs.
Agranulocytosis has been associated with clozapine. This is a potentially fatal reaction, but can be prevented with careful monitoring of the white blood count. There are no well-established risk factors for developing agranulocytosis, and so all patients treated with this drug must follow the clozapine Patient Management System. For more information, call 1-800-448-5938.
Anticholinergic effects, particularly dry mouth, have been reported with all of the phenothiazines, and can be severe enough to cause patients to discontinue their medication.
Photosensitization is a common reaction to chlorpromazine. Patients must be instructed to use precautions when exposed to sunlight.
|Brand Name (Generic Name)||Possible Common Side Effects Include:|
|Clozaril (clozapine)||Seizures, agranulocytosis, dizziness, increased blood pressure|
|Compazine (prochlorperazine)||Involuntary muscle spasms, dizziness, jitteriness, puckering of the mouth|
|Haldol (haloperidol)||Involuntary muscle spasms, blurred vision, dehydration, headache, puckering of the mouth|
|Mellaril (thioridazine)||Involuntary muscle spasms, constipation and diarrhea, sensitivity to light|
|Navane (thiothixene)||Involuntary muscle spasms, dry mouth, rash, hives|
|Risperdal (risperidone)||Involuntary muscle spasms, abdominal and chest pain, fever, headache|
|Stelazine (trifluoperazine hydrochloride)||Involuntary muscle spasms, drowsiness, fatigue|
|Thorazine (chlorpromazine)||Involuntary muscle spasms, labored breathing, fever, puckering of the mouth|
|Triavil||Involuntary muscle spasms, disorientation, excitability, lightheadedness|
Lithium carbonate commonly causes increased frequency of urination.
Antipsychotic drugs are pregnancy category C. (Clozapine is category B.) The drugs in this class appear to be generally safe for occasional use at low doses during pregnancy, but should be avoided near time of delivery. Although the drugs do not appear to be teratogenic, when used near term, they may cross the placenta and have adverse effects on the newborn infant, including causing involuntary movements. There is no information about safety in breast feeding.
As a class, the antipsychotic drugs have a large number of potential side effects, many of them serious. Specific references should be consulted.
Because the phenothiazines have anticholinergic effects, they should not be used in combination with other drugs that may have similar effects.
Because the drugs in this group may cause hypotension, or low blood pressure, they should be used with extreme care in combination with blood pressure-lowering drugs.
The antipsychotic drugs have a large number of drug interactions. Consult specific references.
Samuel D. Uretsky, PharmD