Antipsychotic Medications Used in Treating Co-Occurring Disorders

How Are Antipsychotic Medications Used to Treat Co-Occurring Disorders?

Antipsychotic medications are often used to treat mental disorders such as depression, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder (e.g., manic depressive), and Schizophrenia. Medication can treat but cannot cure the disorder. Side effects from antipsychotic medications vary with the individual and the medication.

Co-occurring disorders are identified as dual diagnosis because the illness involves a mental disorder (e.g., depression and anxiety) and a substance abuse problem (e.g., drugs, alcohol, or both). Each addiction poses a unique set of issues in and of itself, which when combined creates a complex problem best handled by an addiction specialist trained in dual diagnosis and pharmacology.

Drug Interactions with Antipsychotic Medications

In choosing antipsychotic medications, the patient should be carefully assessed for preferences, possible side effects, and drug interactions with known substances. For co-occurring disorders of Schizophrenia and alcohol/narcotics abuse, patients are at increased risk for liver toxicity, severe seizures, and cardiac irregularities. Most antipsychotic medication will lower the seizure threshold, thus creating a higher level of risk for those that are already at risk. Inhalation of tobacco smoke substantially reduces blood levels of Clozapine and Olanzapine. The use of injectionable antipsychotic medication can greatly increase the risk of addiction. Other atypical antipsychotic medications such as Quetiapine and Risperidone have been shown to significantly reduce drug craving and improve manic/depressive symptoms.


Typical antipsychotic medications such as Chlorpromazine (Thorazine), Haloperidol (Haldol), Perphenazine (Trilafon), and Fluphenazine (Permitil, Prolixin) have been used since the 1950s to treat mental disorders such as Schizophrenia.

Atypical Antipsychotic Medications

New, atypical antipsychotic medications are developed later in the 1990s to treat specific psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations and delusions. The more common atypical antipsychotics include Risperidone (Risperdal), Olanzapine (Zyprexa), Quetiapine (Seroquel), Ziprasidone (Geodon), Aripiprazole (Abilify), and Paliperidone (Invega).

Clozapine is reported to cause a significant drop in white blood cell count, resulting in a serious condition called agranulocytosis. For this reason, persons using Clozapine must have their white blood cell count checked often, making use of this drug less desirable for people to use.

What Are Common Side Effects of Antipsychotic Medications?

Side effects that accompany the usage of antipsychotic medications usually appear at the onset of usage and subside quickly after a few days.

Of the many known side effects of antipsychotic medication, the following are the most common:

  • Sleepiness during waking hours
  • Loss of balance and dizziness
  • Reduced clarity of vision
  • Tachycardia (rapid heart rate)
  • Sun sensitivity
  • Frequent and painful allergic skin reactions
  • Menstrual disturbances
  • Rapid weight gain
  • Metabolic changes that adversely impact health

Burning Tree Can Help Patients with Co-Occurring Disorders

If you or someone you care about is suffering from co-occurring disorders, Burning Tree has a solution for you. Our staff of highly trained addiction specialists utilizes a dual diagnosis approach to treating chemical/alcohol behavior and mental disorders, so you can receive treatment found only in the top drug and alcohol rehabilitation treatment centers in the country. With two locations in Dallas and Austin to choose from, our long-term, residential treatment facility is fully staffed with on-site personnel to safely monitor all phases of detoxification. When detoxification is complete, treatment for patients with co-occurring disorders continues with Twelve Step study and discussion groups, life skills training, private and group counseling, nutritional counseling, yoga classes, community service, and much more. Come to Burning Tree and discover how a journey in healing can change your life. Call or visit your nearest drug and alcohol rehabilitation program today.


We are here for you and your family. You don't have to suffer any longer, find recovery today!

We are in-network with 15+ health insurance providers.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *