Schizophrenia and Antipsychotics

Possible Side Effects of Antipsychotics

When people first start to take an atypical antipsychotic medication, they may:
  • Become drowsy
  • Experience dizziness when they change positions
  • Have blurred vision
  • Develop a rapid heartbeat
  • Experience menstrual or sexual problems
  • Be more sensitive to the sun
  • Have excessive saliva production, leading to drooling
  • Develop skin rashes.
Most of these symptoms will go away after the first days of treatment, but people who are taking an atypical antipsychotic medication should not drive until they adjust to it.
If people with schizophrenia become depressed, it may be necessary to add an antidepressant to their drug regimen.

Schizophrenia and Antipsychotics: Treatment Length

Like diabetes or high blood pressure, schizophrenia is a chronic disorder that needs constant management. At this time, the condition cannot be cured, but the number of psychotic episodes a person experiences can be decreased significantly by staying on the prescribed medications.
Although responses vary from person to person, most people receiving schizophrenia treatment need to take some type of antipsychotic medication for the rest of their lives and use other approaches, such as supportive therapy or rehabilitation, as well.
Relapses occur most often when people with schizophrenia stop taking their antipsychotic medication because they feel better, or only take it occasionally because they forget or don't think taking it regularly is important.
It is very important for people with schizophrenia to take their antipsychotic medication on a regular basis and for as long as their healthcare providers recommend. If they do so, they will experience fewer psychotic symptoms.
No antipsychotic medication should be discontinued without talking to the healthcare provider who prescribed it (see Antipsychotic Medication Withdrawal). These medications should always be tapered off under a healthcare provider's supervision rather than being stopped all at once.
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