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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    What medications are used to treat schizophrenia?

    What are the most common medications prescribed by psychiatrists? How do they differ?
  • Find a professional to answer your question

  • 1


    Raynor Lander

    Health Psychologist, Psychologist

    I have worked as a psychologist in clinical practice for the past eighteen years. My private practice focuses on family therapy and relationship counselling. The … View Profile

    A person having a schizophrenic or psychotic ‘episode’ may lose contact with reality and experience delusions, hallucinations and disturbances of thought. During such episodes, antipsychotic medicines, as their name suggests, help to minimise or take away these symptoms, and are also used to try to prevent them recurring.  These are called anti psychotics and there are older and newer anti-psychotics.

    The older antipsychotics were developed in the 1950s and revolutionised the treatment of schizophrenia.  Many of these early medicines, or derivatives of them, are still used today. They include chlorpromazine (e.g. Largactil), fluphenazine (Modecate), haloperidol (Serenace), pericyazine (Neulactil) and trifluoperazine (Stelazine).

    All the older antipsychotic medicines work, but they have some important differences between them — the main one being in their potency, that is, the dose of the medicine needed to have an effect.  The psychiatrist will prescribe depending upon specific symptoms and side effect tolerance.  Some older medicines, such as Modecate, can be given as ‘depot injections’ to prevent relapse of symptoms. 

    The new antipsychotics are called atypical antipsychotics and have been developed in recent years and are alternatives to the older medicines but older medications are still used. Some of the new anti-psychotics include:  Solian, Abilify, Clozaril, Zyprexa, Invega, Sereuel, Risperidone, Zeldox.

    It is felt these drugs more effectively treat the so called ‘negative’ symptoms of schizophrenia, such as social withdrawal, loss of motivation and lack of emotional expression. Doctors also think that they have less side effects such as trembling and stiffening of muscles and unusual movements, and are better tolerated than the older traditional medicines.

    Clozapine, although it is very effective, is usually reserved for people who have not been helped by other antipsychotic medicines, and is available in Australia only through specific authorised medical practitioners.  All anti-psychotics have side effects but it is a matter of balancing benefits against the disadvantages.   

    The antipsychotics have been revolutionary in the treatment of this disorder in that people with controlled symptoms can live a perfectly normal life including careers, home and family.

    Raynor Lander
    Health Psychologist

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