Antipsychotic Drugs: Can they treat fibromyalgia?

What are Antipsychotic Drugs?

Antipsychotics are used to help control the symptoms of certain mental health conditions, such as psychosis or bipolar disorder. Other conditions include schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, and depression. In addition to treating mental health conditions, antipsychotics can also be used to help treat severe anxiety and physical conditions including intractable hiccups.

Different Kinds of Antipsychotics

There are two types of antipsychotic drugs, including first generation and second generation antipsychotics. The first generation antipsychotic drugs are older than the second generation antipsychotic drugs. First generation antipsychotics were first developed around the 1950’s and can have different side effects. The second generation antipsychotic drugs are newer and developed around the 1990’s. Second generation antipsychotics are sometimes known as atypicals.

There are several antipsychotics to choose from. The more common antipsychotic drugs are:

  • Amisulpride
  • Aripiprazole
  • Clozapine
  • Olanzapine
  • Paliperidone
  • Quetiapine
  • Risperidone

How do Antipsychotics Work?

Antipsychotic drugs are part of the psychiatric drug group, which can be prescribed to you by your doctor. Basically, they work by increasing or reducing the effect of neurotransmitters in the brain. They can help regulate and bring balance to the brain chemical levels.

The neurotransmitters affected include: dopamine, noradrenaline, and serotonin. However, the main neurotransmitter that is affected by antipsychotics is dopamine. Too much or high levels of dopamine can lead to psychotic experiences. Because neurotransmitters are responsible for transferring information within the brain, it is important to maintain balanced levels. Otherwise, it can lead to symptoms, such as hallucinations, delusions, anxiety, agitation, confusion, incoherent speech, or mania. Antipsychotic drugs can help control these symptoms, though they do not cure psychosis.

Warnings

Before taking this medication, inform your doctor of other medications you are using. Contact your doctor if you have any questions or concerns before taking antipsychotic drugs. Let your doctor know if you have had any allergic reactions to this or other medications. Additionally, make sure to tell your doctor if you have any health conditions, including but not limited to:

  • liver disease
  • kidney disease
  • cardiovascular disease (or heart problems)
  • diabetes
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • epilepsy
  • certain blood disorders

In addition to the warnings listed above, there are other warnings. If you are pregnant, plan on becoming pregnant, or are breastfeeding, you should avoid taking antipsychotic drugs. However, if you and your doctor believe the overall benefits outweigh the risks, then your doctor may recommend a medication. Also, if you are older than 65 years, your doctor may recommend to avoid taking this medication.

Side Effects

Side effects can vary depending on the drug and the individual. However, there are some serious side effects that can occur, including:

  • antimuscarinic or anticholinergic effects
  • blood disorders
  • heart problems
  • liver problems
  • neuromuscular effects
  • seizures
  • sexual or hormonal problems
  • skin problems
  • tardive psychosis
  • tiredness
  • weight gain

Please note: if you experience any severe side effects that appear to be life threatening, call 911 immediately. Inform your doctor of any side effects you may be experiencing.

In Relation to Fibromyalgia

Atypical Antipsychotics and Fibromyalgia

In addition to mental conditions, such as psychosis and bipolar disorder, certain antipsychotic drugs can also help treat fibromyalgia. Atypical antipsychotic drugs can help treat the symptoms of fibromyalgia, including depression and pain. As previously mentioned, atypical antipsychotic drugs are from the second generation type (newer drugs).

There are a few atypical antipsychotics that have been studied for the treatment of fibromyalgia: oral olanzapine, quetiapine, and ziprasidone. The study portrayed several different results. The outcomes differed from one antipsychotic to another. However, each demonstrated some improvement in patients. We will be looking more closely at one atypical antipsychotic for fibromyalgia treatment: quetiapine.

Quetiapine

Quetiapine is a short-acting antipsychotic drug that can help treat schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. If combine with other drugs, it can also help treat depression. In addition to these conditions, quetiapine may also help treat symptoms of fibromyalgia. Symptoms can include depression as well as pain. Atypical antipsychotic drugs can help with depression or anxiety in fibromyalgia patients by balancing the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain.

A study shows the effects of quetiapine in fibromyalgia patients, which resulted in unclear benefits. However, there are some other studies surrounding the possible benefits of atypical antipsychotic drugs. Quetiapine can also reduce pain in fibromyalgia patients by increasing serotonin and dopamine levels while reducing sympathetic nervous system functioning.

In Conclusion…

The role of antipsychotics for the treatment of fibromyalgia is unclear. Although there may be several benefits of atypical antipsychotics for fibromyalgia, there are not enough conclusive studies to confidently assert that the medication works to treat pain or depression in fibromyalgia patients. Talk to your doctor about what treatment options may work best for you.

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