Home > Side Effects of Antipsychotics (Major Tranquilizers or > Side Effects of Antipsychotics (Major Tranquilizers or Neuroleptics)

Side Effects of Antipsychotics (Major Tranquilizers or Neuroleptics)

The below information is taken from a report which overviews the side effects of common psychiatric drugs and includes information on drug regulatory agency warnings, studies and other reports that may not appear in the packaging information for the drugs themselves.

(Called Major Tranquilizers or Neuroleptics)

BRAND NAMES: (Older Antipsychotics)


BRAND NAMES: (Newer Antipsychotics)


Side Effects:

Abnormal gait (manner of walking)
Birth defects
Blood disorders
Blurred vision
Cardiac arrest
Death from liver failure
Extreme inner-anxiety
Fatal blood clots
Heart arrhythmia
Heart failure
Heart palpitation
Heat stroke
Hyperglycemia (abnormally high blood sugar)
Hypoglycemia (abnormally low blood sugar)
Involuntary movements
Manic reaction
Muscle rigidity
Neuroleptic malignant
Painful skin rashes
Pancreatitis (inflammation of pancreas, a gland near the stomach that helps digestion)
Poor concentration
Sexual dysfunction
Suicidal thoughts
Swollen and leaking breasts
Tachycardia (heart irregularity)
Tardive dyskinesia*
Weight gain68

*Akathisia: A, meaning “without” and kathisia, meaning “sitting,” an inability to keep still. Patients pace about uncontrollably. The side effect has been linked to assaultive, violent behavior.69

*Neuroleptic malignant syndrome: A potentially fatal toxic reaction where patients break into fevers and become confused, agitated, and extremely rigid. An estimated 100,000 Americans have died from it after taking the older antipsychotics.70

*Tardive Dyskinesia: Tardive, meaning “late” and dyskinesia meaning, “abnormal movement of muscles.” Tardive Dyskinesia is a permanent impairment of the power of voluntary movement of the lips, tongue, jaw, fingers, toes, and other body parts.71


The Journal of Toxicology reported that the newer antipsychotics “will soon account for the majority of poisonings from antipsychotic agents that get presented to health care facilities in the U.S.”72 It found “seizures are uncommonly associated with atypical antipsychotic agents following both therapeutic doses and overdoses.” And “the ingestion of a single tablet of clozapine (Clozaril), olanzapine (Zyprexa) and risperidone (Risperidal) may cause significant toxicity in a toddler. Ataxia (involuntary muscular movement), confusions, EPS (extrapyramidal symptoms—nerve damage), coma, and respiratory arrest have been reported following ingestion of 50-200mg of clozapine in toddlers.”73

September 2003: The FDA requested the makers of six newer antipsychotic drugs add a caution to their labeling language about the potential risk of diabetes and blood sugar abnormalities.74

June 2004: The Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration published an Adverse Drug Reactions Bulletin reporting that the newer antipsychotics could increase the risk of diabetes.75

September 22, 2005: Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman of Columbia University and other researchers published a study in The New England Journal of Medicine that compared the older generation of antipsychotics with several newer ones. Far from proving effectiveness, of the 1,493 patients who had participated, 74% discontinued their antipsychotic drugs before the end of their treatment due to inefficacy, intolerable side effects or other reasons. After 18 months of taking Zyprexa, 64% of the patients taking this stopped, most commonly because it caused sleepiness, weight gain or neurological symptoms like stiffness and tremors.76

December 1, 2005: Researchers found that 18% of nearly 23,000 elderly patients taking the older antipsychotics died within the first six months of taking them.77

May 2, 2006: USA Today released the results of an analysis of Food and Drug Administration (FDA) data that showed at least 45 children died between 2000 and 2004 from the side effects of antipsychotic drugs (Clozaril, Risperdal, Zyprexa, Seroquel, Abilify and Geodon). Despite an adults-only FDA approval for these drugs, according to the USA Today, up to 2.5 million children have been prescribed them. As the FDA’s Adverse Drug Reactions reporting database only collects 1% to 10% of drug-induced side effects and deaths, the true child death rate could be between 450 and several thousand. The USA Today exposé ran on its front page and in a series of 5 other articles spanning 4 pages. Further, there were 1,328 reports of other side effects, some life threatening such as convulsions and low white blood cell count.78



Abilify and other antipsychotic drugs have caused a condition referred to as neuroleptic malignant syndrome. This is potentially fatal and patients who develop this syndrome may have high fevers, muscle rigidity, altered mental status, irregular pulse or blood pressure, rapid heart rate, excessive sweating, and heart arrhythmias (irregularities).79

Body temperature regulation—disruption of the body’s ability to reduce core body temperature—has been attributed to antipsychotic agents such as Abilify.80

In April 2003, the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen conducted their own review of information published on Abilify. They based their evaluation primarily on publicly available FDA reviews of information submitted by the manufacturer of Abilify in gaining FDA approval for the drug. FDA approval was based on just five trials lasting four to six weeks. According to Public Citizen, “…nothing in these five trials can lead one to believe that aripiprazole (Abilify) is a meaningful advancement in the treatment of schizophrenia.”81

The information insert on Abilify lists hyperglycemia (abnormally high blood sugar—usually associated with diabetes), hypoglycemia (abnormally low blood sugar) and diabetes as possible side effects.82


July 22, 2005: Eli Lilly, the manufacturer of the antipsychotic drug, Zyprexa, agreed to pay $1.07 billion to settle more than 8,000 claims against the drug alleging it can potentially cause life-threatening diabetes.83

September 22, 2005: Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman of Columbia University and other researchers published a study in The New England Journal of Medicine comparing an older generation of antipsychotics with several newer ones.84 After 18 months on Zyprexa, 64% of the patients taking this had stopped, most commonly because it was not well tolerated and caused sleepiness, weight gain or neurological symptoms like stiffness and tremors.85

The Citizens Commission on Human Rights investigates and exposes psychiatric violations of human rights. It works shoulder-to-shoulder with like-minded groups and individuals who share a common purpose to clean up the field of mental health. It shall continue to do so until psychiatry’s abusive and coercive practices cease and human rights and dignity are returned to all.

For further information consult the Physicians’ Desk Reference, which can be found at http://www.pdrhealth.com. It could be dangerous to immediately cease taking psychiatric drugs because of significant and dangerous withdrawal side effects. No one should stop taking any psychiatric drug without the advice and assistance of a competent, medical doctor. This report and CCHR does not offer medical advice or recommendations.

  1. November 18, 2007 at 7:02 pm

    I have cervical dystonia? cause unknown. Several possibilities.
    It is much worse with stress, but only appears upon beginning to
    relax. Sometimes other parts of my body are affected, such
    as legs or arms. Quie fancy movements at times. I must laugh,
    but it is extremely annoying -beyond words. Embarrassing if I
    am very tired, and do not catch the head “twitch” in time to stop it.
    No way could I do those movements intentionally. I do tire easily,
    but I am not tired all the time. No fatique problem, I do have
    severe right eye pain off and on that cannot be diagnosed.
    No mental deterioration, at all. Actually have improved in many
    areas. In the past two years I have taken up piano again, with great
    strides, am learning guitar, wrote a little book, tested out on 12
    college hours upper level credit, during a time of terrible stress,
    including my usual test anxiety. I was certified for ACLS and PALS. I am 60. This is of long duration the cervical dystonia or whatever it is. As a child, upon relaxation, I would occasionally have one “jerk”, at night only when drifting to sleep. Thought this was called a myoclonic
    jerk: Not abnormal. Since then, I had a severe whiplash injury, 1965,
    for which i received no treatment. Problems/pain from that are worse at times. I am told I have degenerative disc disease in my neck.
    I have a lot of pain and discomfort at times, and must protect
    my neck from injury. I can build up my strength gradually and
    decrease problems. I have pantopaque dye from a myelogram left in my spine. I was not having cervical dystonia at those times, they were trying to figure out why my right arm and neck hurt. Turned out I had
    really bad carpal tunnel, and tendonitis, with the whiplash,
    and the stress of life. (being told I probably had a collagen disease.)
    Those were popular diagnoses then. Everyone had one, seems.
    Valium and librium, and librax were also popular to prescribe as well
    as trycyclics (which I cannot take, greatly adversely affects concentration. I can concentrate, but it is much more difficult, tiring.
    Only had the thing I called a myoclonic jerk, occasionally.
    During a period of great stress in my life, I began the “no no “movement of my head. Alarming. Only the back forth movement. I told a psychiatarist about this. He gave me 25 mg of Mellaril for that, I had trouble sleeping. I was not having severe anxiety. Just many really justified worries from very real life problems.
    Only trouble sleeping was worry from stress of life’s problems. I
    slept well, after falling asleep. I have far
    worse problems now from this. I know it is not Huntington’s and
    not Parkinson’s. I am not psychotic, totally oriented, no personality
    disorders, or illnesses such as Schizophrenia. SSRIS seem to
    exacerbate the problem. Recently, as in the past week, I discovered
    if I used my Albuterol inhaler a couple of hours before bed, and elevated my head, these movements are almost gone, and I sleep very well.I have actually slept four nights in a row, well, with only a couple
    of movements. This is a rare, phenomenal, occurrence. How can
    this be. I was also doing some sort of “agonal” type gasp while
    relaxing trying to go to sleep. Could this be related to sleep apnea?
    Asthma? Sometimes sitting in recliner, I have a movement, again
    if I use the Albuterol, one or two puffs, it stops. I can also tense
    up and it will stop. I could not have an MRI due to the movements,
    I had to tense- so tense, to stop them – when they were the very
    worst. Could not do the MRI. I also had carbon monoxide
    poisoning, about four years ago. It was an insidious thing, only alive because there was some ventilation in the room. Had excruciating headaches and found there was CO2 being released into the room from broke furnace. Could this have something to do with this?
    Could the build up of CO2 from overweight, asthma, sleep apnea?
    allergies cause these movements. There was a time when it was
    so bad, that I jackknifed. My arms and legs flew up into the air.
    Antipsychotics, antidepressants make it worse. Valium relaxes
    of course, but when off it, they are worse. I took little of it in my life. I do not want to take these psych drugs or if I can help it,
    anything at all. I am hoping the Albuterol continues to work.
    It is indeed a breath from heaven, as is sleeping. I don’t want
    to exacerbate it. Could this be Tourettes? atypical Tourettes.
    I was treated for endometriosis with a drug called Danocrine.
    Short term. I find no change in my sexuality, I mean I am totally
    female, everything is the same. Past menopause. Twice. Could it be Tourettes? Could it be all of it together, and the Albuterol helps the Tourettes/or ADD?and respiratory problems? I do have to watch my diet, sugar especially. I concentrate much better off sugar. and with
    extreme stress, I must work harder to concentrate. I get lost easily.
    “Turned around” with stress.
    I have always been a good student, very studious, but problems
    make it harder, must commit to long term memory because
    my short term memory is affected, not destroyed, just not quite as well. Make a lot of notes, memos. The more interesting the subject
    is the better I do, of course. I have no health insurance. No job.
    I lost my job partly, large part, due to this- although I was doing my
    job well. They thought I had Huntingtons or something worse.
    No longer a nurse either. I didn’t lose that, gave it up. Again,
    I cannot get diagnoses. I lost my health insurance, and I am
    not going the mental institution (free or not) route. I have had
    a lot of charity care in past two years, but no diagnosis.
    I know you cannot diagnose, but you can make suggestions.
    This article above was very helpful. By the way, can you now
    do brain surgery for me? over the internet. LOL. Thank you.

  2. Jennifer
    September 30, 2008 at 5:58 am

    I was doped on neuroleptics because of problems I was told lithium wasn’t causing. On haldol my legs felt weird with akathisia and I would even go to the nurse’s office because I thought I was about to fall asleep. (I absolutely wasn’t the type to fall asleep in class.) On Risperdal I became a compulsive worrier and for some reason I had a mild problem with heart palpitations. Since I believed the lies I was told I just thought it was part of my so-called illness.

  3. rich
    October 4, 2008 at 5:28 pm

    neuroleptics are poison have the worst side and after effects of any medication they should be banned.there maybe some cause for short term use,but should never be used long term(more than a few days).

  4. jen
    March 8, 2009 at 3:42 am

    you might consider at least looking in any pharmacological reference. many of the meds you have listed aren’t antipsychotics. ambien is a sleep med. neurontin is an antiseizure med often used for neuropathic pain experienced by many diabetics. depakote is a mood stabilizer and antiseizure medication. topamax is an anticonvulsant as well and commonly used to prevent migraines. if you want to brainwash people you might as well at least have some of the basic scientific data correct. hopefully, tom cruise didn’t use this webpage as a reference when he learned the “history of psychiatry” as he so glibly stated he knows in his interview with matt lauer. i don’t see many scientologists offering up their homes to house unmedicated schizophrenics.

  5. Sue
    February 19, 2010 at 10:12 pm

    Topiramate/Topamax is a neuroleptic medication in the same drug class as Depakote and Neurontin, which are also prescribed for Migraine prevention. Standard protocol with these medications is to start at a low dosage, tapering up to the target dosage. If a patient discontinues these medications, that also should be accomplished by tapering, taking it down gradually, by steps, from the current dosage. This should always be accomplished with the assistance of a physician.

    Just an FYI

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