Antipsychotic drugs also known as neuroleptics are medicines used to treat psychosis, a severe mental illness in which people lose touch with reality and other mental and emotional conditions. People with psychosis may hear voices, see things that aren't really there, and have strange or untrue thoughts, such as believing that other people can hear their thoughts or are trying to harm them.
Anti-psychotic drugs do not cure mental illness, but can reduce some of the symptoms or make them milder. The medicine may improve symptoms enough for the person to undergo counseling and live a more normal life.
Consult a physician regularly while taking antipsychotic drugs, especially during the first few months. Patients taking long-lasting injectable forms of antipsychotic drugs should be aware that their effects can continue for up to 12 weeks after stopping the drug. All precautions should be observed during this period.
Patients who are taking lithium should check with their physicians before going on a low-sodium or low-salt diet or making any other diet changes. Too little sodium in the diet can lead to serious side effects in people taking this drug. Problems can also arise if people taking lithium lose too much water and salt from their bodies. This can happen when they exercise in hot weather or when they have illnesses that cause heavy sweating, diarrhea, or vomiting.
Anti-psychotic drugs may interact with medicines used during surgery, dental procedures, or emergency treatment. These interactions could increase the chance of side effects. Anyone who is taking anti-psychotic drugs should be sure to tell the health care professional in charge before having any surgical or dental procedures or receiving emergency treatment.
Some anti-psychotic drugs may change the results of certain medical tests. Before having medical tests, anyone taking this medicine should alert the health care professional in charge.
People taking anti-psychotic medicines may sweat less, which can cause the body temperature to rise. Anyone who takes this medicine should be careful not to become overheated during exercise and should avoid hot baths, hot tubs, and saunas. Overheating could lead to heat stroke.
Some anti-psychotic drugs also make people more sensitive to cold. Anyone who takes this medicine should dress warmly in cold weather and take care to avoid long exposure to the cold.
Some anti-psychotic drugs cause a movement disorder called tardive dyskinesia which may not go away when the patient stops taking the medicine. The problem is most common in older people, especially women. Signs of tardive dyskinesia include worm-like movements of the tongue and other involuntary movements of the mouth, cheeks, jaw, arms or legs.
Some common mild side effects of anti-psychotic drugs will go away as the patient's body adjusts to the medicines. Some of these effects include
- Blurred vision
- Changes in menstrual period
- Breast pain or swelling or unusual secretion of milk
- Dry mouth or increased thirst
- Nasal congestion
- Mild nausea
More serious side effects of the antipsychotics include
- Seizures (convulsions)
- Breathing problems
- Fast or irregular heartbeat
- High or low blood pressure
- Increased sweating
- Loss of bladder control
Some side effects, such as trembling of the fingers and hands or involuntary movements of the mouth, tongue, and jaw, may occur after treatment with this medicine has ended. Check with a physician if any unusual symptoms occur after stopping the drug. Anyone who has unusual symptoms after taking this medicine should get in touch with his/her physician.
Antipsychotic drugs may interact with a number of other medicines. When this happens, the effects of one or both of the drugs may change or the risk of side effects may be greater. Anyone who takes anti-psychotic drugs should let the physician know all other medicines he or she is taking. The drugs that may interact with anti-psychotic drugs are
- Other anti psychotic drugs
- Central nervous system (CNS) depressants such as medicine for allergies, colds, hay fever, and asthma; sedatives; other tranquilizers; narcotic pain medicine; muscle relaxants; medicine for seizures; sleep aids; barbiturates; and anesthetics.
- Levodopa (Larodopa), or levodopa-carbidopa (Sinemet) used to treat Parkinson's disease
- Blood pressure medicines such as reserpine
- Water pills (diuretics), such as furosemide (Lasix)
- Pimoline (Cylert), used to treat attention deficit disorder with hyperactivity
The list above does not include all the drugs that may interact with anti-psychotic drugs. One has to be sure to check with a physician or pharmacist before combining anti-psychotic drugs with any other (over-the-counter) medicine.