Various medications belong to the category of antipsychotics, and are intended to help deliver specific outcomes. From controlling agitated behavior, reducing a psychotic state of mind, to bringing about a calming effect, anti-psychotics have helped patients with expected outcomes. However, by virtue of the mechanism of action of these medications, there is a possibility of possible undesirable effects. It is necessary for patients to understand, identify and take suitable remedial measures to prevent or mitigate any possible side effects of antipsychotics. The following subsections offer detailed information about the effects to create this awareness.

Overview of antipsychotic medications

Drugs that belong to this category are used in condition such as schizophrenia, dementia among the aged, and also in patients who experience transient psychosis after having undergone surgical procedures. Such medications are collectively known as neuroleptics, referring to the possible neurological side effects that are likely to be triggered by the drugs. However, it is important to note that all medications may not necessarily cause neurological effects in patients.  The medications are used either as short-term treatments or as long-term therapy for managing common symptoms like hallucinations, mania and possible delusionary state of mind. Most of these symptoms are linked to depression and other similar ailments.

Antipsychotic medications are also used as off label drugs for the sedative properties. This helps deal with insomnia, and to control anxiety apart from exerting a calming influence on agitated patients. More commonly, the drugs are often combined with mood stabilizer category of drugs, and the effects of the medication help the patient to cope with the symptoms, till the mood stabilizers begin to work in the patient. There are however, antipsychotics that are also taken alone, without the need for combining with mood stabilizers, due to the mechanism of action of these medications.

Mechanism of action of antipsychotics

The mechanism of action of antipsychotic drugs may differ or have variations between specific formulations. However, as broad category, the drugs are known to work by regulating the functioning of brain circuits. This delivers the desired effects due to the impact on thinking, perceptions of the individual and the mood of the patient. The drugs are also known to help rein in manic episodes of patients, bringing in relief and preventing untoward incidents. For instance, the new category of antipsychotics is known to prevent impulsive conduct and uninhibited recklessness of patients. It is also linked to restoring normal thinking processes after a few weeks of treatment.

Possibility of side effects of antipsychotics

With some of the background information about the medications outlined above, it is time to look at the undesirable effects of the drugs. Without exception, all medications come with the burden of unwanted outcomes. This is mainly attributed to the mechanism of action of the drugs, or the properties of the active compounds in the formulations. The actual effects may differ from person to person and depends on a host of factors. For instance, the health of the individual and the age of the patient have a role to play in the possible side effects. Similarly, the effects depend on the condition being treated, the dosage and schedule of the medication recommended, and other existing ailments of the patient.

Effects are typically classified into mild or moderate effects and serious or adverse effects. The mild or moderate effects are known to resolve naturally without the need for any medication or intervention. The serious effects may require medical intervention, and depending on the nature and intensity may some times require emergency attention at a healthcare facility. It is also noteworthy to bear in mind, that some users of medications may not experience any side effects whatsoever, and it is therefore incorrect to assume that all patients will experience similar effects. The following is a compilation of possible undesirable effects of the medication, and is intended to help users understand the broad nature of effects. This is neither exhaustive nor complete, and there may be other effects apart from those listed below.

Commonly reported undesirable effects of medications that are antipsychotic in nature

There is the possibility of abnormal weight gain from the medication, while some patients may end up with an increase in cholesterol levels. The patients may also be exposed to the risk of diabetes as a result of the medication, and the changes in lifestyle it could cause. Specialists typically recommend screening of patients for risk of heart ailments, stroke and diabetes prior to commencement of medication for bipolar disorder. Effects that are commonly reported among patients include blurred vision, while many are known to experience a drowsy feeling. A distinct dry feeling in the mouth is also possible, while some are likely to experience spasms in the muscle. As listed above, weight gain is a possibility in antipsychotic medications prescribed for bipolar disorder.

Impact of antipsychotic drugs belonging to older generation of medications

Certain antipsychotics that belong to the older generation of medications are typically not prescribed as the first choice, but are used when the patient does not respond to the new class of drugs. This is because of the possible long term undesirable effects such as tardive dyskinesia, which refers to a movement disorder. Patients with the condition may exhibit repetitive and involuntary movements, and this could cause embarrassment in social settings. For instance, the patient may repeatedly smack his or her lips, may start sticking the tongue out or the patient may grimace for no reason. While the new class of antipsychotic medications also have the possibility of causing such actions, the frequency is relatively lesser.

Effects that need to be monitored and a cause for concern

While the effects outlined above belong to the category of commonly occurring effects and are not a cause for concern in most circumstances, the following effects need to be monitored and may require medical intervention. These effects are relatively serious in nature, and are a cause for concern. For instance, antipsychotic medications may cause antimuscarinic effects, and the patient may also experience certain blood disorders. The body temperature may also change as a result of the medication’s mechanism of action. Antipsychotics may also have an impact on the emotional health of the patient.

Other issues linked to antipsychotics include problems with vision, heart ailments, and neuromuscular complications. There is the possibility of the patient ending up with metabolic syndrome, or neuroleptic malignant syndrome. Other undesirable outcomes include increased drowsy/sleepy feelings, and possible seizure episodes. The patient may also have sex and hormone problems as a result of the drug. The medication may also impact the skin, and could cause suicidal tendencies among patients.

What are antimuscarinic effects?

As listed above, the patient may experience antimuscarinic effects, and this section offers additional information about the effects that may not be known to a large number of individuals. This refers to the effects attributed to changed chemical acetylcholine levels in the body, and are also known as anticholinergic in nature. The outcome of this change is a confused state of mind, with the individuals feeling agitated for no apparent reason. The patient may also experience constipation that may require treatment, failing which the condition may turn serious in nature. The condition also causes blurred vision in patients, apart from an impact on the ability to urinate normally.

Other commonly associated outcomes of anticholinergic effects include abnormal drowsy feelings, and a dry mouth. This in turn could lead to other secondary effects such as decaying tooth, due to the lack of moisture in the mouth. The patient may also have difficulty in sustaining an erection, while some are known to experience hallucinations due to the changes. The skin may turn dry and hot, with a reduction in sweating. The patient may also experience an increase in pressure in the eyes, with sudden increase in heart beat rhythm.

Important information about agranulocytosis and the link to infections

One of the outlined side effects of antipsychotics includes blood disorders with agranulocytosis being a possible condition. This refers to the loss of a specific type of white blood cell, and this in turn will expose the patient to the risk of getting infected easily. As the white blood cells have an important role to play in fighting infections, this could impact the ability of the patient to combat infections. This is a relatively serious condition, and without the right treatment, it could also end up as fatal condition. Patients and caregivers are advised to look out for tell-tale symptoms that indicate the condition. For instance, abnormal or unusual sore throat that is not linked to any other condition could be indicative of a weakened immune system. There is also the possibility of the patient experiencing mouth ulcers, in addition to ending up with fever frequently.

Impact of metabolic syndrome on the patient

As mentioned above, antipsychotic medications are likely to cause metabolic syndrome and this syndrome may trigger certain discernible outcomes. For instance, the patient may gain weight and turn obese, while some are known to find that blood sugar levels have spiked. Similarly, there is also the possibility of an increase in blood pressure levels, and cholesterol levels. These effects can have long term implications on the health of the individual and could expose the patient to the risk of stroke, or heart ailments and possible diabetes. The condition is referred to as metabolic syndrome due to the changes that it brings about in metabolic health of the patient. The risk associated with this may increase manifold if the patient has an unhealthy lifestyle, with less physical activity.

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