Antipsychotic medication

Antipsychotic medications (also called antipsychotics) are used to treat symptoms of psychosis such as hearing voices and seeing things that are not real.

Before you start

Before starting medication, your healthcare professional will do a health check and discuss possible medications with you.

Your healthcare professional should check your:

  • weight and waist measurements

  • pulse and blood pressure

  • general health (including some blood tests and asking whether you eat healthily and take regular exercise).

They may also check your heart using a test called an electrocardiogram (sometimes called an ECG).

Antipsychotic medication can often have side effects. Your healthcare professional should:

  • give you the details of different antipsychotic medications, how they can help, and their benefits and side effects

  • ask which side effects you are most willing to accept

  • involve you (and your family or carer if appropriate) in deciding which medication to take.

You should not usually be prescribed antipsychotic medication by a GP (unless they have had advice from a psychiatrist).

Starting antipsychotic medication

When you first take antipsychotic medication, your healthcare professional should:

  • give you a low dose, which can be increased if needed

  • see you regularly while you are taking it, especially at first

  • ask if it is helping, if you are having any side effects and if you are having problems taking the medication

  • monitor your general health (including weekly weight checks for the first 6 weeks and weight, pulse, blood pressure and blood tests at 3 months).

See also Looking after your general health.

The medication may take some time to work, but if you have distressing side effects or it is not helping after 4 to 6 weeks, your healthcare team may offer you a different antipsychotic medication.

You should not be offered more than one antipsychotic at the same time, except temporarily if your medication is changed.

Healthcare professionals should tell you that drinking alcohol, smoking or taking other drugs while taking antipsychotic medication could stop the treatment working properly and make your symptoms worse.

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