Consumer Medication Brochure Series
What is an antipsychotic?
T h e m a i n a d v a n t a g e o f t h e a t y p i c a l How should I take the medication?
An antipsychotic is a medication that is used to antipsychotics is that they are less likely to cause You should take the medication as prescribed by help treat psychotic symptoms. Psychotic side effects such as muscle stiffness, your doctor. It is a good idea to have a routine symptoms involve distortions of reality and can restlessness or involuntary movements, which e.g. take your medication every night after your include symptoms such as hal ucinations, can be more likely with the typical antipsychotics. meal, or cleaning your teeth, or before getting extreme paranoia or fear and disorganised T h e m a i n d i s a d v a n t a g e s o f a t y p i c a l into bed. If you have forgotten to take your thinking. These symptoms can occur in a range antipsychotics are weight gain and increased risk medication, you should take it as soon as of mental illnesses that include schizophrenia, of diabetes and heart disease. Therefore it is possible (provided this is within a few hours of depression and mania.
especially important to watch your diet, weight the usual time you would take your medication).
and exercise if taking these medications. Some Otherwise, you should wait until the next dose is
There are two main types of antipsychotics, people find that the typical antipsychotics are due and only take the usual amount. Do not
these are the “atypical” or newer antipsychotics more suitable for them.
to catch up by doubling the amount if you miss a
and the “typical” or older antipsychotics.
“Typical” Antipsychotics “Atypical” Antipsychotics
Most antipsychotics are available in an oral
(tablet) form. Some antipsychotics come as a You should continue taking the medication, even
if you are feeling well. Many people prescribed
antipsychotics need to take them for a period of
How do they work?
months to even years, to prevent a relapse of
Antipsychotic medications help to restore an their symptoms. You should never just stop
imbalance in the brain’s natural chemicals, in taking your medication suddenly without medical
advice as this could lead to a relapse and
potentially, an unplanned admission to hospital.
How long do they take to work?
One of the aims of psychiatric treatment is to
Some of the effects of antipsychotic medications keep you well and safe. If you have any concerns
can occur as early as the first week of treatment, about your prescribed medication you should
with relief of agitation and sleep problems. discuss these with your doctor.
Generally, improvements in psychotic symptoms
can take up to 6 weeks after starting treatment,
while the full benefits may take several months.
Published: November 2009.
What about other medications?
You should tell your doctor about any other
medications that you are taking, including natural Some antipsychotic medications are not safe in
remedies and medications you have purchased pregnancy. You should consult your doctor about
the risks and benefits of your medication if you
Your doctor may prescribe other medications in
addition to the antipsychotic to assist with What are some of the common side-effects I might
symptoms such as mood swings, low mood, experience?
sleep problems, anxiety and muscle stiffness.
What precautions should I take?
Drowsiness/Fatigue This is usually worse when the
You should avoid extremely hot and humid
environments as the medication may affect your
body’s ability to regulate its temperature and
I f t h i s h a p p e n s , t a k e t h e
Change in sexual ability/ Discuss with your doctor about
Antipsychotic medications can increase the
Some antipsychotic medications can cause
(adapted from Prof D. Castle and N Tran: Psychiatric Medication
abnormal movements of your tongue, mouth,
Information, St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne February 2008)
fingers, or feet. If you have this experience you
should discuss this with your doctor so that your
restlessness, involuntary any of these effects. You may be
Some antipsychotics can make you feel drowsy movements
or slow you down so you should not drive a car
or operate machinery if you experience these Dry mouth
effects. Alternatively, you should tell your doctor if
This brochure contains general information and does not include all
you experience these side-effects as you may
possible side effects or all brand names of medications.
Cigarette smoking can affect the levels of the
medication in your bloodstream so it is important
to let your doctor know about changes in your
Published: November 2009.
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