Antipsychotic Medicines

Antipsychotic Medicines

About This Medicine

Make sure you know about each of the medicines you take. This includes why you take it, how to take it, what you can expect while you're taking it, and any warnings about the medicine.

The information provided here is general. So be sure to read the information that came with your medicine. If you have any questions or concerns, talk to your pharmacist or doctor.

What are some examples?

Here are some examples of antipsychotics. For each item in the list, the generic name is first, followed by any brand names.

  • aripiprazole (Abilify)
  • chlorpromazine
  • haloperidol (Haldol)
  • olanzapine (Zyprexa)
  • quetiapine (Seroquel)
  • risperidone (Risperdal, Risperdal Consta)

This is not a complete list.

Why are antipsychotics used?

These medicines are used mainly to help treat mania and psychosis.

  • In bipolar disorder, they are used to treat manic symptoms, such as reckless and impulsive behavior. They are also used to help stabilize moods.
  • In schizophrenia, they can reduce or control delusions and hallucinations (psychosis). They are also used to reduce anxiety and agitation. They can reduce problems with thinking or remembering (cognitive impairment).
  • In borderline personality disorder, they are used to help treat symptoms of psychosis.
  • In depression, they may be used along with antidepressants.

How do they work?

Experts don't know exactly how these medicines work. They think that they work because of how they affect brain chemicals. (These chemicals are called neurotransmitters.)

What about side effects?

Side effects may include:

  • Changes in your weight, cholesterol levels, or blood sugar levels.
  • Feeling restless or sleepy.
  • Stiff, tense muscles that can't relax.

General information about side effects

All medicines can cause side effects. Many people don't have side effects. And minor side effects sometimes go away after a while.

But sometimes side effects can be a problem or can be serious.

If you're having problems with side effects, talk to your doctor. He or she may be able to lower your dose or change to a different medicine.

Always be sure you get specific information on the medicine you're taking. For a full list of side effects, check the information that came with the medicine you're using. If you have questions, talk to your pharmacist or doctor.

What are some cautions about antipsychotics?

Cautions for antipsychotics include the following:

  • Antipsychotics may cause you to do a movement over and over, like smacking the lips. This is known as tardive dyskinesia. Talk to your doctor if you have symptoms.
  • These medicines may cause a fast or uneven heartbeat, fast breathing, and severe sweating. Talk to your doctor if you have symptoms.
  • These medicines have been well studied for use in adults. But there are no long-term studies that show how well they work and how safe they are for children and teens.

General cautions for all medicines

Allergic reactions.
All medicines can cause a reaction. This can sometimes be an emergency. Before you take any new medicine, tell the doctor or pharmacist about any past allergic reactions you've had.
Drug interactions.
Sometimes one medicine may keep another medicine from working well. Or you may get a side effect you didn't expect. Medicines may also interact with certain foods or drinks, like grapefruit juice and alcohol. Some interactions can be dangerous.
Harm during pregnancy or breastfeeding.
If you are pregnant, trying to get pregnant, or breastfeeding, ask your doctor or pharmacist if all the medicines you take are safe.
Other health problems.
Before taking a medicine, be sure your doctor or pharmacist knows about all your health problems. The medicine for one health problem may affect another health problem.

Always tell your doctor or pharmacist about all the medicines you take. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, herbs, and supplements. That information will help prevent serious problems.

Always be sure you get specific information on the medicine you're taking. For a full list of warnings, check the information that came with the medicine you're using. If you have questions, talk to your pharmacist or doctor.


Current as of: June 16, 2021

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Christine R. Maldonado PhD - Behavioral Health

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