Haldol

One of the medications which has been used in the treatment of schizophrenia for decades is Haloperidol, more commonly known as Haldol. Even though Haldol is one of the older neuroleptic medications, it is still used quite frequently today, particularly in hospital settings when a patient is acutely psychotic, exhibiting serious hallucinations or delusions, as well as manic, confused, and / or agitated.

What it’s used to treat

Haldol is primarily used in the treatment of schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder (a disorder similar to schizophrenia but including mood symptoms such as depression or mania). It is also often used to treat the tics and uncontrollable vocal outbursts associated with Tourette’s syndrome. It is sometimes used on a short term basis to help severely hyperactive children or children with significant behavioral issues for whom other types of treatment have not been effective.

When a person is psychotic, haldol helps to restore clear thinking, decrease agitation, aggression and anxiety, and function better in general. It can help reduce or alleviate the hallucinations and delusions the schizophrenic may be experiencing.

How it works

Haldol works in the brain by affecting certain chemicals, called neurotransmitters. It essentially helps bring them back into balance which in turn causes symptoms to decrease in severity or stop altogether. It also has a very sedating effect, which is why it can be very effective for acute agitation.

How it’s administered

In hospitals, haldol is often given as an injection. As a regular prescription, it is available in tablet form as well as a liquid, both of which can be taken orally. There are also long-acting and short-acting versions for injections. Typically, the oral form is prescribed to be taken daily at least twice and sometimes three times. Like all medications, it should be taken exactly as prescribed. The dose may vary considerably from one person to the next, depending on a variety of factors.

Potential Side Effects

Unfortunately, like most of the medications used to treat schizophrenia, haldol has many potential side effects. Some of the more common ones include drowsiness, sweating, nausea, dryness in the mouth, decreased appetite, blurred vision, headache, dizziness, problems with sleep, and feelings of restlessness. There are many other potential side effects as well.

Tardive Dyskinesia

One of the most troublesome potential side effects of haldol, as well as the other older neuroleptics, is tardive dyskinesia (TD). There is a much higher risk of this occurring in individuals who take haldol on a long term basis. TD symptoms involve involuntary, random and uncontrollable movements, such as lip smacking, odd tongue or jaw movements, blinking, grimacing, and movements involving the limbs, fingers, toes, upper body or hips. While once believed to be irreversible, studies have shown that in some cases, it can resolve completely1. However, TD symptoms can be permanent for some patients.

Neuroleptic Malignant Syndrome (NMS)

Neuroleptic malignant syndrome (NMS) is a potentially life-threatening side effect of haldol. Some of the symptoms include muscle stiffness, changes in one’s mental state, fluctuations in blood pressure or heartbeat, sudden renal failure, tremors, difficulty breathing, dehydration, rapid heartbeat, and extremely high temperature.

Precautions

If you are considering taking haldol, be sure to inform your doctor if you are pregnant or nursing, have problems urinating, have glaucoma or Parkinson’s disease, have any kind of cardiovascular or lung disease, have a history of thyroid problems, have epilepsy or any other type of seizure disorder, have any history of liver, prostrate or kidney abnormalities or have any known allergies to drugs.

References


schizophrenia