Thorazine® is the brand name for chlorpromazine, one of the first-generation antipsychotic drugs. Developed in the early 1950s, Thorazine was originally used for postoperative sedation, as well as the sedation of psychiatric patients. It wasn’t long, however, before its antipsychotic effects were recognized. It was the very first antipsychotic medication used to treat schizophrenia, and belongs to a class of neuroleptic medications known as phenothiazines.

What it’s Used to Treat

One of the primary uses of Thorazine is the treatment schizophrenia. It is also used to treat manic episodes in individuals with bipolar disorder and serious behavioral problems in children. Thorazine is also used in the treatment of porphyria (a blood disorder), nausea and vomiting, severe cases of hiccups, and tetanus symptoms. It is also used at times as a sedative for individuals who are feeling anxious or restless prior to surgery.

How Thorazine Works

Although the exact mechanisms of antipsychotic medications are not fully understood, Thorazine and similar medications help reduce agitation and psychotic symptoms by targeting dopamine receptors in the brain. Dopamine is one of many chemicals in the brain known as neurotransmitters. It is believed to play a major role in the manifestation of psychotic symptoms, such as hallucinations (e.g. hearing voices) and delusions (e.g. believing aliens are controlling one’s thoughts). The sedative effects of Thorazine help relieve agitation, anxiety, and behavior that is combative and aggressive.

How it’s Administered

Thorazine is usually taken in tablet or an oral liquid form when prescribed as an ongoing medication. Tablets are usually taken 2 to 4 times each day. The liquid form is a concentrate, so it must be diluted with another liquid or put in a semi-solid type of food, such as soup. Thorazine may also be administered via injection or intravenously.

Like all medications, it’s important to take Thorazine only as prescribed. Your doctor may initially prescribe a low dose and gradually increase it. It may take several weeks before the benefits are fully experienced. The medication should never be stopped suddenly; discontinuation of Thorazine should be done only under your doctor’s guidance.

Potential Side Effects of Thorazine

As with all antipsychotic medications, Thorazine has the potential to cause a variety of side effects. While some side effects are mild, others can be very serious. Some of the more common side effects may include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Constipation
  • Weight gain
  • Dry mouth
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Shakiness
  • Sleep problems
  • Blurry vision

Less common side effects may include:

  • Breast milk production in females
  • Menstrual irregularities
  • Difficulties conceiving
  • Sexual problems in males
  • Liver problems
  • Chest pain
  • Infection
  • Bruising
  • Anemia
  • Seizures
  • Changes in mood
  • Worsening of psychotic symptoms
  • Slowed breathing

Two other potential side effects of Thorazine include tardive dyskinesia and neuroleptic malignant syndrome.

Tardive Dyskinesia

Tardive dyskinesia (TD) is one of the most challenging potential side effects of antipsychotic medications, such as Thorazine. It is more likely to occur when the mediation is taken for a long time. Tardive dyskinesia is a movement disorder. The symptoms are involuntary and may include lip smacking, grimacing, unusual movement of the jaw or tongue, and also odd movements of the arms, legs, and other parts of the body. In some cases, the symptoms of TD never go away once they appear.

Neuroleptic Malignant Syndrome (NMS)

One of the most serious and potentially deadly side effects of Thorazine is neuroleptic malignant syndrome. Symptoms may include altered mental status, sudden changes in blood pressure or heart rate, muscle stiffness, extremely high temperature, profuse sweating, and tremors.


Before taking Thorazine, be sure to talk to your doctor about any medical conditions you may have (including whether or not you are pregnant or nursing, or thinking about becoming pregnant), or any that you’ve had in the past. Also disclose any other medications you are taking as well.

Thorazine can be a very effective medication, particularly if you have been diagnosed with schizophrenia or have a history of manic episodes. However, there are many newer antipsychotic medications that may also be considered first. Ultimately, you may need to go through a period of trial and error to determine which medication most effectively treats your symptoms while giving you the fewest and / or most tolerable side effects.


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