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What are the side effects of antipsychotic drugs in people with dementia?

Sarah N. Mourra, MD
Neurology
The side effects of antipsychotic drugs used to treat people with dementia vary depending on the potency of the medication. Medications that are low potency, such as quetiapine (Seroquel), tend to have effects like sedation or oversedation and low blood pressure when going from a sitting to a standing position (orthostatic hypotension). This may manifest as the person feeling dizzy when getting out of bed in the morning or feeling lightheaded when getting up from a chair. This, at its very worst, can lead to falls or passing out, which is very important to be mindful of, especially if started recently.
 
Risperidone (Risperdal) is an example of a higher potency medication. It tends to have more effects along the lines of potentially creating Parkinson’s-like symptoms, such as affecting the ability to walk normally, with more of a shuffling gait; tremor; involuntary movements of the face or mouth; as well as stiffness and rigidity in the muscles of, usually, the upper extremities but which may occur anywhere else. The higher potency agents can cause sedation and a higher risk for falls as well.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.