Promoting mental health, demystifying mental illness, countering stigma and discrimination


Newer Anti-psychotic Medications

What are psychotic medications?
Psychotic illnesses such as schizophrenia are associated with changes in brain chemistry. Antipsychotic medications assist the brain to restore its usual balance - reducing symptoms so that the person feels better.

How effective are the traditional antipsychotic medications?

The traditional antipsychotic medications available since the 1950s, such as chlorpromazine (Largactil) cannot 'cure' mental illness for good, but they are effective for many people in eliminating or reducing, psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations, delusions and thought disorders. They are less useful in the treatment of so called 'negative' symptoms such as social withdrawal and loss of drive and emotional expression. They may also lead to 'extrapyramidal' side effects, i.e. movement disorders such as involuntary trembling and stiff muscles.

What are the newer antipsychotics?

In recent years a new generation of antipsychotic medications have become available. These novel medications include Clozapine (Clozaril), Risperidone (Risperidol), Olanzapine (Zyprexa) and Quetiapine (Seroquel), Amisulpride (Solian), Aripiprazole (Abilify), Ziprasidone (Zeldox).

What makes them different?

These new medications have a number of advantages:

  • They lead to fewer of the unpleasant side effects such as trembling or stiffening of muscles associated with traditional medications.
  • There may be less risk of developing 'tardive dyskinesia' a particular movement disorder that develops over the long term in some people, and which does not respond well to treatment.
  • There is some evidence that they are effective against the 'negative' symptoms, helping people to feel less withdrawn and more motivated.

Do they have disadvantages?

Any antipsychotic medication may have unwanted side effects. While the new medications have fewer or none of the movement disorder side effects, they may have others.

It is important to remember that the same medication can affect people quite differently. In other words, not everyone who takes a particular medication will have the same unwanted side effects.

Are they available to anyone who needs them?

All seven have been approved for use in New Zealand. This means that your psychiatrist can prescribe them whenever it is considered appropriate.

Are they enough on their own?

Antipsychotic medication is rarely sufficient treatment on its own. In addition to medication, effective treatment for psychotic illnesses such as schizophrenia includes ongoing clinical support in the community, education about the illness and how to cope with it, psychosocial rehabilitation, accommodation support, and a range of other services.

Family/whanau too need accurate, easily understood information about medication and other aspects of treatment, so that they are best able to support the person with the mental illness lead as independent a life as possible.

Adapted from SANE Australia

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