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Side effects of anti-psychotics

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Most people diagnosed with schizophrenia and schizophrenia-related disorders are prescribed anti-psychotic medications. Most of these medications are relatively new, having been introduced a little more than fifty years ago. These are the “typical” anti-psychotic drugs like Thorazine (chlorpromazine), Haldol (haloperidol), Perphenazine and fluphenazine.

A new generation of drugs was introduced in the 1990s. These are referred to as “atypical” and include Clozaril (clozapine), Risperdal (risperidone), Zyprexa (olanzapine), Seroquel (quetiapine), Geodon (ziprasidone), Abilify (aripiprazole), and Invega (paliperidone).

There are side effects. Clozapine has a unique side effect called agranulocytosis which is the loss of white blood cells. Since white blood cells help prevent infection, this is a cause for concern and requires frequent blood tests to make sure the patient is not in danger. Other anti-psychotics do not have this condition associated with it.

A lot of people experience side effects as they acclimate to the new drugs. These go away. When a side effect does not go away, it is time to talk to the doctor. Side effects may include drowsiness, dizziness when changing positions, blurred vision, rapid heartbeat, sensitivity to the sun, skin rashes and, for women, menstrual irregularity. Weight gain is also typical and can be a serious side effect as a person’s metabolism changes. This increases risk of diabetes and high cholesterol. Therefore, weight, glucose levels, and lipid levels should be tested regularly.

Some other side effects include rigidity, persistent muscle spasm, tremors and restlessness. Occasionally long-term use of typical anti-psychotic meds may lead to tardive dyskinesia or TD. This causes muscle movements a person can’t control usually around the mouth. Sometimes this condition will end, in full or part, when a person stops taking the medication. The condition happens less frequently to those taking the atypical medications.

Source: National Institute of Mental Health

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