Some Adverse Effects of Antipsychotics: Prevention and Treatment

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Antipsychotic medication causes a wide range of adverse effects, which can be serious and may further imperil both the physical and psychological health of schizophrenic patients. The range of side effects patients commonly encounter includes weight gain, endocrine disturbances, sedation, anticholinergic effects, hypotension, seizures, and extrapyramidal symptoms. Less common and unpredictable reactions are blood dyscrasias, cardiotoxicity, sudden death, and the neuroleptic malignant syndrome. Antipsychotic drugs differ significantly regarding their propensity to cause these reactions. Patients should undergo comprehensive health checks before an antipsychotic is prescribed, and drug therapy should be individualized to take account of any preexisting symptoms. Side effects and the wider implications of drug treatment, such as effects on occupational and social functioning, should be discussed with the patient before initiating therapy. Patients should be regularly monitored for side effects during treatment and switched to alternative therapy if side effects are serious and/or persistent.

J Clin Psychiatry 1999;60(suppl 12):18-21