Medications to Treat Schizophrenia

Published on: 23 Nov 2021
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Schizophrenia is a complicated, chronic neuropsychiatric disorder (brain disorder) that affects how you feel, think, and behave. Less than 1% of people in the United States have schizophrenia, and its exact cause isn’t known. While there isn’t a cure for schizophrenia, understanding as much as possible about it can help with both treatment and learning to manage the disorder.  

Schizophrenia treatment can greatly improve most, if not all, symptoms. Effective treatment also reduces the likelihood of a recurrence of negative symptoms. 

Schizophrenia medications — like antipsychotics and other meds — when combined with psychological treatments — like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and other psychotherapy (also known as talk therapy) techniques — work together to significantly reduce symptoms.   

Keep reading to learn more about meds for schizophrenia. We’re discussing everything you need to know, including how they work, what side effects may occur, and how to get medication to treat schizophrenia. 

Types of Medications Used to Treat Schizophrenia 

Schizophrenia medication names can be confusing because there are so many of them. By looking closely at each of the different medications to treat schizophrenia, it’s easier to find the right type for you and your symptoms. 

Antipsychotics (atypical & typical)

Antipsychotics are schizophrenia medications that are often prescribed to treat psychosis. They’re the first-line treatment and work on chemicals in the brain like dopamine and serotonin. Antipsychotics can reduce some common schizophrenia symptoms like hallucinations and delusions. They can be taken in the middle of an episode to quickly stop psychosis, or they can also be taken long-term as a preventative. 

There are two types of antipsychotics: atypical and typical.

Atypical antipsychotics

Known as second-generation antipsychotics, atypical antipsychotics are often the first type of medication prescribed to treat schizophrenia. This is due to a lower overall risk of serious side effects associated with most of them. However, they might increase the risk of hyperglycemia and weight gain, which can result in diabetes. 

Atypical antipsychotics to treat schizophrenia:

  • Abilify (Aripiprazole)
  • Fanapt (Iloperidone)
  • Geodon (Ziprasidone)
  • Invega (Paliperidone)
  • Latuda (Lurasidone)
  • Risperdal (Risperidone)
  • Rexulti (Brexpiprazole)
  • Saphris (Asenapine)
  • Seroquel (Quetiapine)
  • Vraylar (Cariprazine)
  • Zyprexa (Olanzapine)

Possible side effects of atypical antipsychotics to treat schizophrenia:

  • Weight gain
  • Decreased libido
  • Diabetes
  • High cholesterol
  • Sun sensitivity
  • Drowsiness
  • Seizures

Typical antipsychotics

Typical antipsychotics are an older group of medications to treat schizophrenia. These first-generation meds might still be quite effective in managing some of the symptoms of schizophrenia, but they’re known to cause both short- and long-term side effects. Most often, typical antipsychotics are only prescribed when other meds for schizophrenia have not proven effective.

Typical antipsychotics to treat schizophrenia:

  • Haldol (Haloperidol)
  • Loxitane (Loxapine)
  • Navane (Thiothixene)
  • Prolixin (Fluphenazine)
  • Thorazine (Chlorpromazine)
  • Trilafon (Perphenazine)
  • Stelazine (Trifluoperazine)

Possible side effects of typical antipsychotics to treat schizophrenia:

  • Restlessness that’s uncomfortable (akathisia)
  • Hormonal changes that cause sexual problems
  • Uncontrollable movements of lips, tongue, and jaw (tardive dyskinesia)
  • Weight gain
  • Constipation
  • Dry mouth
  • Increased risk of diabetes
  • Sedation
  • Extrapyramidal symptoms

Antidepressants

Antidepressants are sometimes prescribed to people with symptoms of depression in addition to schizophrenia. Antidepressants work by affecting the brain chemicals linked to our emotions. Most often, a specific group of antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) is the type of antidepressant prescribed to treat schizophrenia.

Antidepressants to treat schizophrenia:

  • Celexa (Citalopram)
  • Zoloft (Sertraline)
  • Prozac (Fluoxetine)
  • Paxil (Paroxetine)
  • Lexapro

Possible side effects of antidepressants to treat schizophrenia:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Sex problems
  • Weight gain 
  • Tiredness
  • Diarrhea 

Mood stabilizers

Mood stabilizers typically aren’t the first line of treatment for schizophrenia. However, they might be considered in certain cases. Mood stabilizers work by balancing your mood, so you’re less likely to experience anxiety, depression, or even excitement.

Mood stabilizers to treat schizophrenia:

  • Lamictal (Lamotrigine)
  • Lithium
  • Tegretol (Carbamazepine)
  • Depakote (Sodium valproate)
  • Trileptal
  • Topamax

Possible side effects of mood stabilizers to treat schizophrenia:

  • Nausea
  • Itching
  • Thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Rashes
  • Trembling hands
  • Rapid/uneven heartbeat
  • Slurred speech
  • Changes in eyesight 
  • Muscle control problems
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Swelling in the eyes, mouth, throat, face, feet, hands, or lower legs

Medications Commonly Prescribed for Schizophrenia

The following list of medications to treat schizophrenia is meant to help you understand the available options. 

Name BrandGenericTypeDescription
AbilifyAripiprazoleAtypical antipsychoticUsed to treat schizophrenia and other disorders like bipolar disorder and depression. Can also help with irritability.
RisperdalRisperidoneAtypical antipsychoticWorks in the brain to treat specific mental and mood disorders like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. 
ZyprexaOlanzapineAtypical antipsychoticHelps restore the balance of natural substances in the brain to treat disorders like schizophrenia and bipolar.
HaldolHaloperidolTypical antipsychoticWorks in the brain and is a first-generation antipsychotic used to treat schizophrenia. It rebalances dopamine to improve symptoms.
Loxitane LoxapineTypical antipsychoticAnother first-generation antipsychotic, also works in the brain and restores balances of dopamine levels.
Celexa CitalopramAntidepressantHas been shown effective in reducing depressive symptoms in schizophrenia or in treating first-episode schizophrenia (FES). 
ZoloftSertralineAntidepressantUsed to treat depression related to schizophrenia. It can take several weeks before any real benefits are felt or seen.
LatudaLurasidoneAtypical antipsychoticWorks in the brain to treat symptoms of schizophrenia but is a second-generation antipsychotic that rebalances serotonin and dopamine in the brain.
LamictalLamotrigineMood stabilizerMight be able to prevent some psychotic symptoms induced by NMDA receptor antagonists to treat symptoms of schizophrenia.
LithiumMood stabilizerWorks to stabilize mood and is often used as an add-on treatment in addition to antipsychotics to treat schizophrenia. Might reduce both depressive and manic symptoms.

Talk to your psychiatrist or healthcare professional about the possible risks and benefits associated with the above medications before starting treatment.

How to Get Schizophrenia Medication

Finding the right medication for schizophrenia is part of managing it. Even if you’re already seeking treatment through therapy, it can be a good idea to reach out to your doctor or psychiatrist to discuss your options. In case you can’t visit your psychiatrist in person and need a prescription, you can reach out to a licensed online psychiatrist to get you the medication you need.

One of the first things you should consider is how any medication might affect you. Candid conversations with your doctor or psychiatrist can ensure you’re learning everything you need to know about potential schizophrenia medications. This way, you’ll be confident in your decision if you begin taking any specific type of medication. You can also have discussions with your doctor about medication adherence and medication nonadherence in case there are unique situations that prevent you from taking medicine as initially prescribed by your doctor.

To get meds for schizophrenia, complete the following steps:

  1. Get diagnosed
    After you’re diagnosed with schizophrenia, you’ll be able to start seriously considering your medication options. There isn’t a test for schizophrenia, but a proper assessment can shed light on a diagnosis.  
  2. Begin therapy or treatment
    The earlier you begin treatment for schizophrenia, the more likely it’ll be successful.
  3. Consider your options for medication
    Learn the different schizophrenia medication names. 
  4. Talk to your doctor
    Your doctor can prescribe the right schizophrenia medication. 

Should You Treat Schizophrenia with Medication? 

If you’re considering treating your schizophrenia with medication, it’s important to think about all the pros and cons of your decision. Your doctor can help you make the right choice by fully explaining each of the benefits of medication along with all the side effects.

Questions to ask your doctor:

  • Should I consider schizophrenia medication?
    You and your doctor should have long conversations about whether medication is right for you. It’s important to look at both sides of the issue and come up with a decision that makes you feel good about your choice.   
  • What are the possible side effects of this medication?
    Understanding each of the potential side effects of a medication will help you determine if you really want to take it. Another important factor to keep in mind is that when you know the side effects, you can better monitor how you’re feeling when you start taking something new. When you know what to look for right away, you might be able to see any potential red flags or dangerous side effects, hopefully before they become a bigger issue. 
  • What other treatments should I be considering for my schizophrenia?
    Taking medication for your schizophrenia is not inclusive. In fact, the most effective form of treatment often includes an approach where medication plus another treatment style (like therapy) are used together to quickly improve symptoms.    
  • Should I consider treatment in conjunction with schizophrenia medication? While antipsychotics are often the first-line treatment and likely to be the initial recommendation to treat schizophrenia, talk therapy (psychotherapy), other medications, social skills training, and family therapy can all be very beneficial to an overall treatment plan, especially for people that are also experiencing substance abuse and suicidal thoughts. 
  • Are there any holistic or self-help techniques I can try?
    Medication can be useful, and necessary, but there are other things you can do to treat schizophrenia, too. Self-help techniques like goal setting, supportive therapy, being active, and managing your stress are all ways to make additional strides in treatment for schizophrenia. 
  • Should I consider therapy in addition to medication?  When therapy is used in addition to medication, schizophrenia treatment tends to be more successful. Schizophrenia is a lifelong condition that requires lifelong treatment. Even in between episodes, when symptoms are not pronounced or when they’re seemingly nonexistent, it’s still important to maintain your treatment plan.
  • Are there any other conditions going on that could be contributing to schizophrenia?
    There are some risk factors that can contribute to schizophrenia. Family history is one, and malnutrition or toxin exposure are others that might be considered as contributors. It’s widely accepted that a combination of genetic, physical, psychological, and environmental factors can increase the likelihood of someone developing schizophrenia.

Once you’ve gotten answers to these questions and have decided if you want to seek medication for schizophrenia, get connected with a licensed prescriber at Talkspace.

Sources: 

1. Torres, M.D., MBA, DFAPA F. What Is Schizophrenia?. Psychiatry.org. https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/schizophrenia/what-is-schizophrenia. Published 2020. Accessed October 19, 2021.

2. What is Schizophrenia? | NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness. Nami.org. https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-Conditions/Schizophrenia. Accessed October 19, 2021.

Talkspace articles are written by experienced mental health-wellness contributors; they are grounded in scientific research and evidence-based practices. Articles are extensively reviewed by our team of clinical experts (therapists and psychiatrists of various specialties) to ensure content is accurate and on par with current industry standards.

Our goal at Talkspace is to provide the most up-to-date, valuable, and objective information on mental health-related topics in order to help readers make informed decisions.

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