How do antipsychotic drugs treat schizophrenia?

Mark Moronell, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
A psychiatrist often prescribes antipsychotic medications to treat patients with schizophrenia. Antipsychotic medications are often very effective in decreasing troubling symptoms of schizophrenia, like psychotic thoughts and bizarre behaviors. These medicines reduce the symptoms of the illness by affecting certain chemicals in the brain called dopamine and serotonin. Sometimes, antipsychotic drugs are given along with antidepressant and anti-anxiety medications, which also affect one's brain chemicals. Usually, a person's symptoms will be reduced within several weeks after starting the medication. Unfortunately, these drugs all cause side effects, and some of the side effects can be serious. To keep side effects to a minimum, a psychiatrist will try to give a patient the lowest dose possible. People may react differently to certain medications, and psychiatrists will often see their patients on a regular basis to reduce side effects from the antipsychotics. Regular visits also allow a psychiatrist to observe and manage the patient's symptoms.

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