Many people are prescribed antipsychotic drugs even if they do not have conditions that necessarily warrant their use. The most commonly treated conditions with antipsychotic medications include: schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, schizoaffective disorder, and psychotic depression. If you have a condition like schizophrenia that results in auditory hallucinations, feelings of paranoia, and various types of delusions, the antipsychotic class of medications can be a lifesaver.
It is this class of medications that is found to be most effective at treating the positive symptoms of schizophrenia. They also work pretty darn well for bipolar disorder if a patient isn’t having success with a mood stabilizer like Lithium. Any other condition in which a person may experience psychosis is typically treated with an antipsychotic medication. A lot of people wonder though, whether antipsychotics could actually make them psychotic.
Can taking antipsychotics make you psychotic? Not usually.
The entire reason for being put on antipsychotics is to actually control or reduce psychotic symptoms. Even if you are taking antipsychotics when you’re not psychotic (e.g. for bipolar disorder), the likelihood of experiencing psychosis is pretty slim. Is it possible that taking one of these medications could actually trigger a psychotic episode? Yes, with any powerful drug like the antipsychotic class, this possibility cannot be dismissed.
What about during withdrawal? There is evidence that withdrawal from antipsychotics causes psychosis in some cases. Usually cases of experiencing psychosis during withdrawal are considered “isolated incidents” by psychiatric professionals. With proper withdrawal and tapering, it should not be as common to experience psychosis unless you have a condition like schizophrenia – in which psychosis is an actual symptom of the illness.
However, once you have made it through the withdrawal process, your brain will have likely reset itself back to “homeostasis.” When the drug is finally cleared from the body, you may experience psychological withdrawal effects for awhile, but these will subside and you should eventually return to your normal state of functioning. It is very unlikely that antipsychotics will have made you become “psychotic.”
Ask yourself: Why are you on an antipsychotic medication?
These are very powerful medications and their effectiveness is highly debated. Some would suggest that this class of drugs has done more harm than good. Although some individuals have good responses to them in regards to managing schizophrenia and psychotic symptoms, the side effects are often overwhelming. Even in the newer class called “atypical” antipsychotics, there tends to be significant side effects including: weight gain, diabetes, and motor problems.
If you have a severe mental illness such as schizophrenia or are unable to treat your bipolar disorder with just a mood stabilizer, antipsychotics may be your only other option to help you manage symptoms. However, if you are on an antipsychotic for something like depression, you may want to consider an alternative augmentation strategy. This is a powerful class of medications that have a profound effect on the brain and neurochemistry over the long term.
In reference to the headline, antipsychotics are not likely to cause psychosis. In other words, there is decreased likelihood that you will experience any hallucinations, paranoia, and/or other delusions while on these medications. This has to do with the fact that they tend to reduce dopamine receptor activity; increases in this activity is linked to psychotic symptoms. Some would argue that being on this class of medications makes it significantly less likely that you’d experience psychosis.