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What Is The Main Drug Used To Treat Schizophrenia

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Antipsychotics: Medications That Tame Psychosis


The medications doctors prescribe most often for schizophrenia are called antipsychotics. They ease symptoms such as delusions and hallucinations.

These drugs work on chemicals in the brain such as dopamine and serotonin. You can get them during an episode to help relieve psychosis quickly, and also take them long term to prevent symptoms.

You’ll most likely have to take schizophrenia medication your entire life, even if your symptoms get better. You can take antipsychotics as a liquid, a pill, or as an injection.

If you think you might have trouble remembering to take medicine every day, you can try a shot you get from your doctor once or twice a month called a long-acting injectable antipsychotic medication . It works just as well as taking a daily pill.

Doctors will choose which medication is best by looking at the following:

  • How well it works on your symptoms
  • How much it will cost
  • Side effects
  • How easily you can get it
  • How often you have to take it

Your doctor may adjust your dosage over time and might change the medication you take, depending on how you respond. In some cases, your doctor will prescribe more than one kind of antipsychotic drug.

Antipsychotics work best on “positive” symptoms like hallucinations and delusions. They may be less effective on “negative” symptoms like withdrawal and lack of emotion.

Which Antipsychotic Medicine Will Be Best For Me

People respond differently to different antipsychotic medicines some work well for one person but not so well for another. Or side effects may be a problem with one medicine but less so with another. So, treatment for schizophrenia is tailored specifically for each individual.

In Australia, antipsychotics are available only on prescription. The medicine that your doctor or psychiatrist prescribes will depend on:

  • your symptoms and how long you have had them
  • likely side effects of medicines
  • your age and sex and
  • whether you have any other conditions or take other regular medicines.

Sometimes the first antipsychotic medicine you try wont be effective or will cause troublesome side effects, so you may need to change medicines. Your doctor will work with you to find the best medicine for you and the right dose.

A second-generation antipsychotic is usually the first choice for people who are having a psychotic episode for the first time. If the first medicine tried is not effective in controlling symptoms, a different second-generation or a first-generation antipsychotic may need to be tried.

Its usually recommended that people take antipsychotic medicines for 2 to 5 years after a psychotic episode. After a certain period of time , some people may be able to have a trial of no medicines under their doctors supervision. If they remain symptom free, they may not need to take long-term medicines.

Last Resort Antipsychotic Remains The Gold Standard For Treatment

Among patients with schizophrenia that has not responded to other drugs, the antipsychotic drug clozapine cuts the chances of hospital admissions and drug discontinuation.

Recent trials have questioned the superior efficacy of clozapine compared with other standard antipsychotic drugs. However, a review of real-world data from observational studies confirms its place as a drug that may work when others fail. Patients prescribed clozapine had better outcomes, despite having more severe illness.

As expected the data show that clozapine increases the risk of weight gain and type 2 diabetes. The side effects associated with clozapine prevent its use as a first-line drug.

The findings suggest that clinicians should continue to offer a treatment trial of clozapine to people with schizophrenia who have not benefited from standard antipsychotic drugs.

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How Do Antipsychotics Work

Antipsychotics are thought to work by altering the effect of certain chemicals in the brain, called dopamine, serotonin, noradrenaline and acetylcholine. These chemicals have the effect of changing your behaviour, mood and emotions. Dopamine is the main chemical that these medicines have an effect on.

  • Hallucinations .
  • Delusions .
  • Thought disorder.
  • Extreme mood swings that are associated with bipolar disorder.

Nicotinic Receptors In Schizophrenia

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Many people suffering from schizophrenia smoke. This can be attributed to the disease itself or its treatment . There are numerous reports about disturbed brain cholinergic transmission in patients with schizophrenia . Patients communicate that smoking helps them to relieve negative symptoms which can be linked to their deficiencies regarding nicotinic receptors.

The high rate of smokers among patients with schizophrenia stimulated the research on the role of nicotinic receptors in this disorder . Studying of 7 receptors with specific venomous toxins showed that 7 receptors are located in brain regions involved in cognition . Deterioration of cognitive abilities such as working memory and cognitive flexibility, as well as attention, anticipate psychotic symptoms and are a prognosticator of functional outcome .

The results of trials with 7 nicotinic receptor agonists or positive allosteric modulators are promising but require further investigation.

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Comparative Efficacy Of Agents

For some years, it was believed that the newer antipsychotic drugs were more effective, but there is now some uncertainty about that. An exception is clozapine, which consistently outperforms the other antipsychotic drugs.

Phase 1 of the CATIE study, a large nationwide trial that compared the first-generation antipsychotic perphenazine with the second-generation drugs olanzapine, risperidone, quetiapine, and ziprasidone, found that olanzapine was slightly better than the other drugs in terms of the patients choosing to stay on it, and number of hospitalizations, but also was associated with significant weight gain. Surprisingly, perphenazine performed about as well as the other 3 second-generation agents.

In this and other studies the primary outcome, stopping the drug, may seem to be unusual. It is used because it reflects the real-world decision of the clinician and patient that the agent is either no longer tolerable or effective.

In CUtLASS , a study from the United Kingdom, more than 200 patients who were about to change antipsychotic medication were randomly assigned to either a first-generation or a second-generation agent. In this study, the first-generation drugs seemed to perform slightly better than the newer ones, as measured by the Quality-of-Life Scale.

First-episode schizophrenia

Managing Medication Side Effects

If you are worried about any side effects you may be experiencing, talk to your treating doctor. To manage or reduce side effects, your doctor may:

  • change the dose of the medication
  • prescribe a different medication
  • suggest that you take the medication at a different time of day
  • try non-medication intervention to reduce side effects. For example, diet and exercise programs can be helpful in addressing weight gain.

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Schizophrenia And Polysubstance Abuse

Polysubstance drug abuse involving mind-altering substances such as potent opiates and illicit street-drugs can have a dramatically negative effect on schizophrenia. Even in individuals with relatively normal genetics and a strong physical constitution, polysubstance drug abuse can take a crippling toll. With regard to schizophrenia, specifically, the disorganized thought patterns, auditory and visual hallucinations, erratic behaviors, and communication difficulties react with far greater volatility to the presence of mind-altering substances and create long-term damage.

The already disjointed, neurologically dysfunctional brain of a schizophrenic is not designed to withstand the assault of hard-core substances. Although typical antipsychotic medications such as Haldol and Proxilin, and atypical antipsychotic medications such as Seroquel and Risperdal can be very effective in alleviating certain symptoms of schizophreniathey interact badly with mind-altering substances and run the risk of producing serious, potentially fatal, complications. For this reason, it is imperative that individuals suffering from schizophrenia refrain from any unnecessary drug use.

Schizophrenia Medication: How Many Are There

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Schizophrenia medication include second-generation antipsychotics such as:

  • Aripiprazole
  • Olanzapine
  • Paliperidone

These are known as antipsychotics and are the most commonly prescribed drugs for the treatment of the symptoms of schizophrenia which tend to alter the effect of neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin, noradrenaline, and acetylcholine.

Perhaps you or a loved one has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and would like to explore the options for treatment through schizophrenia medication. It is important to always discuss this with the doctor treating you or your loved one for a full explanation of the possible treatment options depending on your symptoms, medical history and other important aspects that need to be taken into consideration.

The use of antipsychotic medications is to manage the symptoms implementing the lowest possible dose, however, doctors may need to try different drugs, doses, and combinations in the search for the one with the best results, since not everyone reacts the same way to all medications and not all of them have the desired effect or result in every case.

Besides, doctors should also warn patients and their relatives about the possible side effects and it can take a few weeks before they can start seeing results. In addition, other medications may be prescribed, such as the case of antidepressants or anti-anxiety medication.

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How Is Bipolar Disorder Treated

  • Bipolar disorder can be treated with medicine and psychotherapy . Medicines to treat bipolar disorder include mood stabilizers , antipsychotic medicines, and antidepressant medicines. Each person responds differently to different antipsychotic medicines. You may need to try several medicines or combinations of medicines before finding what works best for you.
  • Your doctor may also suggest other nonmedicine treatments that can help you cope with your illness and symptoms. Such treatments can include counseling or support groups.
  • Sometimes, doctors may suggest a stay in the hospital to help people with bipolar disorder stabilize their mood.

Note: This summary only discusses antipsychotic medicines to treat bipolar disorder. It does not discuss other medicines, nonmedicine treatments, or hospital stays.

Common Medications For Schizophrenia Reviewed

Medications are the foundation of schizophrenia treatment, and antipsychotic medications are the most frequently prescribed drugs. Theyre believed to manage symptoms by affecting the brain neurotransmitter dopamine.

The objective of treatment with antipsychotic medications is to effectively manage symptoms and signs at the lowest possible dosage. The psychiatrist might try various drugs, different dosages or combinations with time to achieve the wanted result. Other medications also might help, such as antidepressants or anti-anxiety drugs. It can take several weeks to observe an improvement in symptoms.

Since medications used for schizophrenia can cause serious side effects, people with schizophrenia may be reluctant to take them. Willingness to comply with treatment may impact drug option. For example, someone who is resistant to taking medication consistently might need to be given injections rather of taking a tablet.

Ask your doctor about the advantages and side effects of any medication thats recommended.

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How To Use Chlorpromazine Hcl

Take this medication by mouth with or without food as directed by your doctor, usually 2-4 times daily.

The dosage is based on your medical condition, age, and response to treatment. In children, the dosage is also based on weight. To reduce your risk of side effects, your doctor may direct you to start this medication at a low dose and gradually increase your dose. Follow your doctor’s instructions carefully.

If you are using the liquid concentrate form of this medication, carefully measure the dose using a special measuring device/spoon. Do not use a household spoon because you may not get the correct dose. Mix the prescribed dose in 2 ounces or more of liquid or soft foods as directed. Some examples of recommended liquids and soft foods to use for mixing include: tomato or fruit juice, milk, simple syrup, coffee, tea, soda, water, soup, or pudding.

Take this medication regularly to get the most benefit from it. To help you remember, take it at the same times each day.

Although you may notice some medication effects soon after starting, for some conditions, it may take several weeks before you get the full benefit of this drug.

Tell your doctor if your condition does not improve or if it worsens.

What Different Types Of Antipsychotic Are There

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Antipsychotic drugs tend to fall into one of two categories:

  • first generation , or ‘typical’ antipsychotics
  • second generation , or ‘atypical’ antipsychotics.

Both types can potentially work for different people. They also have different side effects.

First generation antipsychotics

Key facts:

  • These are sometimes referred to as ‘typicals’.
  • They divide into various chemical groups which all act in a very similar way and can cause very similar side effects, including severe neuromuscular side effects.
  • But they are not all the same. For example, some may cause more severe movement disorders than others, or be more likely to make you more drowsy.

Second generation antipsychotics

  • These are sometimes referred to as ‘atypicals’.
  • In general, they cause less severe neuromuscular side effects than first generation antipsychotics.
  • Some are also less likely to cause sexual side effects compared to first generation antipsychotics.
  • But second generation antipsychotics may be more likely to cause serious metabolic side effects. This may include rapid weight gain and changes to blood sugar levels.

The side effects that you may experience from drugs in either group will vary, depending on your dose and how you respond to the drug that you are prescribed.

“I still take antipsychotic medication today and I don’t have a problem with it. I feel so much better than when I was first prescribed an antipsychotic. I know that they work for me and help.”

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Switching To Another Antipsychotic

Subsequently, changing to another antipsychotic can be considered by the doctor. It is considered that switching antipsychotics is less clearly beneficial when the initial medication lacked effectiveness. Most of the studies conducted have shown that poor respond to the first medication increased the chance to have a poor response against a second medication, except if the second drug is clozapine.

Targeting The Glutamate Pathway

Antipsychotics are safe and effective at treating the positive symptoms of schizophrenia. They are less effective at addressing negative and cognitive symptoms, such as difficulty concentrating, thinking, and socializing. These symptoms can make it harder for a person to hold a job, maintain a relationship, and live independently.

A newer theory of schizophrenia asserts that negative and cognitive symptoms arise when the neurotransmitter glutamate becomes overactive. According to this theory, glutamate imbalances also stimulate dopamine receptors to cause positive symptoms.

Researchers have been exploring how to target the glutamate pathway to treat negative symptoms. Some drugs, such as lumateperone, target or otherwise affect this pathway.

These treatments are safe and effective at improving overall schizophrenia symptoms. However, so far, research has not shown these treatments to be more effective at addressing negative schizophrenia symptoms.

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Antipsychotic Medications And Psychotic Symptoms

During a psychotic episode, the person may experience delusions, hallucinations or thought disturbances. Antipsychotic medications work to minimise or stop these symptoms. There are many different types of antipsychotic mediations. These works in different ways. People who begin taking antipsychotic mediations are usually closely monitored by their doctor for the first few weeks. The doctor will be checking for signs of improvement as well as side effects.A person usually begins to feel some improvement within six weeks of starting to take antipsychotic medication. However, it can take several months before they feel the full benefits. It is not possible to predict which medication will work best for a specific person. You might need to try a few before you find the right one for you.

Clozaril As Schizophrenia Treatment

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In Schizophrenia treatment, Clozaril has proved very efficient and is the most frequently prescribed medicine to help manage the diseases symptoms. With its very effective effects on many patients, this type of Schizophrenia treatment has also shown some considerable negative impact on some users.

Antipsychotic drugs are currently the most effective Schizophrenia treatment, but they are not considered safe Schizophrenia treatment or ensure that there wont be any more psychotic episodes. The dosage of medicine is fully individualized for every patient. People can vary significantly in how much drug is required to bring on a complete response to the drug without creating troublesome side effects. Psychotherapy is also one of the most effective Schizophrenia treatment. Its worth finding a therapist if you feel you may have problems relating to your medication or have a tough time sleeping.

These medicines include:

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The Pharmacological Treatment Of Schizophrenia

Until the early 1950s the treatment of schizophrenia consisted predominantly of sedating the patients or using shock therapy such as cardiozol or insulin. The rationale behind this type of therapy was based on the theory that epilepsy and schizophrenia rarely co-occur.

A second break-through in the treatment of patients with schizophrenia came with the re-introduction of clozapine in 1989. Originally synthesized and tested in the 1960s this drug showed some unique properties. A major comparison with chlorpromazine showed that it was effective in otherwise therapy resistant patients . This particular characteristic, in addition to its significantly lower potency to induce extrapyramidal side effects led to the reintroduction of clozapine in most countries in the world, albeit under strict conditions where white blood cell counts need to be checked regularly.

Nowadays, antipsychotic are most commonly subdivided into first- and second-generation, with 1989 as the dividing point. All drugs introduced before this data are referred to as first-generation, while all those after that are referred to as second-generation. To this latter group belong drugs such as risperidone, olanzapine, quetiapine and of course clozapine. In addition to the difference in time, many of these second generation antipsychotics are also characterized by a rich pharmacology, that is, they affect multiple neurotransmitter receptors .

Figure 9.5. The differences between antipsychotic drugs.

Identification Of Signs And Symptoms

Regardless of which dominant expression schizophrenia takes, signs and symptoms are divided into four main quadrants. This helps simplify the often painstakingly detailed, tedious process of disentangling a complex equation of interwoven symptoms. The quadrants are, in no particular order:

  • Cognitive symptomsare characterized by the inability to appropriately use language, difficulty learning, chaotic, disorganized thinking, and faulty beliefs .
  • Behavioral symptomsare characterized by social withdrawal, self-imposed isolation, irrational fear of eating, drinking, or touching others, loss of motivation, neglected personal hygiene, erratic, unpredictable and disturbing behavior, and dangerous impulsivity.
  • Emotional symptomsare characterized by a flat, emotionless expression , nonsensical responses, lacking empathy or patience with others, and erratic mood shifts.
  • Sensory symptomsare characterized by seeing things that do not exist, otherwise known as visual hallucination, or hearing voices that are inaudible to others and imaginedauditory hallucination. In many schizophrenics, both auditory and visual hallucinations occur simultaneously.

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