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Antipsychotic medications, also referred to as neuroleptics, constitute a specific category of drugs designed to address a range of psychiatric disorders, such as major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia.

In addition, some antipsychotics are prescribed off-label for the treatment of other mental health concerns.

How Antipsychotic Medications Function

Various chemicals within your brain facilitate the transmission of messages. Dopamine is one such chemical involved in this process. Elevated dopamine levels can alter brain function, potentially leading to psychosis. 

Antipsychotic medications can alleviate psychotic symptoms through various mechanisms.

  1. Inhibiting dopamine activity in the brain: Dopamine, a neurotransmitter, facilitates communication within the brain. Researchers theorize that excessive dopamine production may contribute to psychotic experiences. By blocking some dopamine receptors in the brain, antipsychotic medications can help reduce psychotic symptoms.
  2. Modulating the activity of other brain chemicals: Some antipsychotics, particularly second-generation ones, influence the interaction of other brain chemicals involved in mood regulation. These neurotransmitters include:
    • Serotonin
    • Noradrenaline
    • Glutamate

By altering the brain's chemistry, antipsychotics effectively alleviate psychotic symptoms.

What Can Be Treated with Antipsychotic Medication

Antipsychotic medications are primarily used to treat mental health conditions involving psychosis, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. They can also be used for other mental health conditions, including:

It is essential to consult a healthcare professional to determine the appropriate use of antipsychotics for specific mental health conditions.

Classification of Antipsychotic Medication

Antipsychotic medications fall into two primary categories:

  1. First-generation or typical antipsychotics
    • These medications have been utilized since the 1950s.
    • They function as dopamine receptor antagonists (DRAs), influencing dopamine signaling, a neurotransmitter in your brain.
    • They can be further classified into distinct chemical groups with similar mechanisms of action and side effects.
    • They may cause severe neuromuscular side effects.
  2. Second-generation or atypical antipsychotics
    • These medications have been in use since the 1990s, with ongoing development and introduction of new versions.
    • They also affect dopamine signaling.
    • They influence the signaling of other neurotransmitters, particularly serotonin, which plays a role in mood regulation.
    • They generally cause less severe neuromuscular side effects compared to first-generation antipsychotics.
    • They might be more likely to induce metabolic side effects, such as rapid weight gain and fluctuations in blood sugar levels. 

Clinical studies have demonstrated that second-generation antipsychotics can improve depression symptoms.

Each antipsychotic medication should be considered individually, as it may or may not be effective for you. It is often challenging to predict how your body will respond and what side effects you may encounter until you try a specific medication. Finding the right medication may take time.

If you have concerns about side effects after taking an antipsychotic for several weeks, consult a healthcare professional. Your dosage may need adjustment, you might need to try a different antipsychotic medication or additional medication may be required to manage the side effects.

Do not abruptly stop taking antipsychotic medications without consulting a healthcare professional. To manage side effects, work with your doctor to gradually reduce the dosage.

Efficacy of Antipsychotics

Patients may need up to six weeks to observe significant improvements from antipsychotic medication. If there is no noticeable change in symptoms after six weeks, consult your doctor.

For optimal effectiveness, it is crucial to take antipsychotics as prescribed by your healthcare professional.

Antipsychotics in Depression Treatment

Alternative treatment strategies are sometimes necessary to manage major depression. One such approach is combining second-generation antipsychotic medications with antidepressants.

These medications may be used in conjunction with antidepressant medications.

Antipsychotics for Psychosis-related Mental Health Conditions

Antipsychotic medications play a crucial role in managing mental health conditions involving psychotic symptoms, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. These medications help alleviate symptoms and improve the quality of life for individuals affected by these conditions.


Schizophrenia is a chronic mental health disorder characterized by hallucinations, delusions, disorganized thinking, and cognitive impairment. Antipsychotic medications are the primary treatment for schizophrenia and help to manage positive symptoms, such as hallucinations and delusions. 

Both first-generation (typical) and second-generation (atypical) antipsychotics are used to treat schizophrenia, with second-generation antipsychotics being the preferred choice due to fewer severe side effects.

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder that causes alternating periods of depression and mania. Antipsychotic medications are used to manage acute manic or mixed episodes, as well as to prevent relapses. 

Second-generation antipsychotics are generally preferred for treating bipolar disorder, as they have a lower risk of side effects and may also help manage depressive symptoms.

In both schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, antipsychotic medications are often used in combination with other treatments, such as psychotherapy, to provide comprehensive care and support for individuals with these conditions. 

It is essential to work closely with a healthcare professional to determine the most appropriate treatment plan and medication regimen for each individual.

Explore Antipsychotic Medication Options with Bristol Health

Are you seeking guidance on antipsychotic medications? Contact Bristol Health at (801) 903-5903 or request an appointment today. 

Our dedicated team is here to help you with mental health medication in Utah County, and provide the support you need for improved mental health.

1125 W. Center St.
Orem, UT 84057

Fax: (801) 515-0935

If you are struggling and need someone to talk to right now, the resources below provide free and confidential assistance 24/7:
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