Adverse Effects of Antipsychotic Drugs

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Since the introduction of chlorpromazine in the 1950s, neuroleptic medications have been the mainstay of treatment of schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders. These medications do not always lead to complete remission of symptoms but they have allowed many patients to lead more productive and satisfying lives away from the restrictions of chronic hospitalisation. However, neuroleptics are associated with a number of adverse effects that can compromise their effectiveness. Extrapyramidal adverse effects include acute dystonic reactions, neuroleptic-induced Parkinsonism and akathisia. They can often be treated with neuroleptic dose reduction, addition of anticholinergic or β-blocking agents, or medication change. Later-onset movement disorders such as tardive dyskinesia or dystonia require careful evaluation and may be treated with dose reduction or change of neuroleptic to an atypical agent. Potentially fatal reactions such as agranulocytosis and neuroleptic malignant syndrome can rarely occur and often require significant medical intervention. Clozapine offers some advantages over ‘typical’ neuroleptics but has a unique adverse effect profile which includes agranulocytosis.

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