Drugs for Schizophrenia

The majority of people with schizophrenia require the use of medication at some point, and many schizophrenics find that ongoing treatment with medication is the best way to prevent relapse. The first effective medication for schizophrenia's positive symptoms was the antipsychotic drug Thorazine, which revolutionized treatment upon its introduction in 1952. Today there are a number of drugs available to treat schizophrenia, with new ones currently in development, but so far most options are effective only at treating the positive symptoms of schizophrenia--hallucinations and delusions--and do little to treat negative symptoms like apathy, social withdrawal, flattening of emotions, and difficulties with attention and memory.

These days, most people with schizophrenia are treated with newer medications known as second-generation or atypical antipsychotics. The atypical antipsychotics have fewer neurological side effects than conventional antipsychotics, and are generally the preferred first course of treatment. Their most common side effects are weight gain, diabetes, and high blood pressure.

Commonly prescribed atypical antipsychotics include risperidone (Risperdal), olanzapine (Zyprexa), quetiapine (Seroquel), ziprasidone (Geodon), aripiprazole (Abilify), and paliperidone (Invega), all introduced since 1990. The atypical antipsychotic Clozapine (Clozaril) is considered for people who have not responded to two other drugs, and the first-generation antipsychotics like chlorpromazine (Thorazine), thioridazine (Mellaril), or haloperidol (Haldol) may be used if second-generation drugs fail.

Higher doses are often necessary during a psychotic phase, and dosages are then gradually reduced to the lowest effective amount for maintenance treatment.

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