Myths and Facts about Antipsychotic Medications

There is a lot of misinformation on the internet about medications, including antipsychotic medications.

Examples of antipsychotic medications include haloperidol, olanzapine, quetiapine, risperidone, aripiprazole, ziprasidone and clozapine.

To help you get the correct information about antipsychotic medications, please read the common myths and facts below. Never make any changes to your medications on your own. Make sure you speak first to your doctor and pharmacist.

MYTH: All patients on antipsychotics have schizophrenia.

FACT: While antipsychotics are the main medications that are used to treat schizophrenia, they can also be used in the treatment of other medical conditions such as bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder and Tourette’s syndrome. Antipsychotics can also be used to treat psychosis that may occur with depression and certain types of dementia.

MYTH: If one antipsychotic is not working well enough, it is best to add on another antipsychotic medication.

FACT: No antipsychotic works equally well for everyone who takes it. Some will find a medication works great, others will find it only helps with some symptoms, and still others may find that it doesn’t work at all. In truth, many people may need to try several antipsychotics before they find the one that works for them. The potential benefit of combining two (or more) antipsychotics needs to be weighed against the increased risk for drug interactions, side effects and medication errors.  Thus, combinations are generally avoided and reserved for patients who have already tried three different antipsychotics at separate times without benefit. 

MYTH: Antipsychotic medications should not be used in pregnancy.

FACT: Untreated mental illnesses like bipolar disorder and schizophrenia can be harmful to both the mother and her baby. In general, if antipsychotic medications are helping to treat the mother’s mental illness, they are usually continued throughout the pregnancy. Patients should not stop any of their medications without first talking with their health care provider.

MYTH: All antipsychotics cause the same amount of weight gain.

FACT: Although all antipsychotics can cause weight gain, some are more likely to cause weight gain than others. For example, clozapine, olanzapine and quetiapine tend to cause greater increases in weight than risperidone, aripirazole or ziprasidone. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle through diet and exercise is important to minimize such changes. If a patient is concerned about weight gain as a possible side effect of their medication, they should talk to their health care provider about their options.

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