Seroquel (Quetiapine) is a short-acting atypical anitpsychotic drug that is primarily used to treat schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. In some cases it is also used as an antidepressant augmentation strategy to treat major depression. It is sometimes used to help manage Alzheimer’s disease and is used at low doses for the treatment of insomnia. Despite the fact that this medication has a variety of uses, it should really only be used for its intended purpose – to treat schizophrenia and possibly bipolar disorder.
Many people take it and it works great to help people manage the positive symptoms of schizophrenia. It also helps prevent major mood swings among individuals with bipolar disorder. With that said, not everyone responds well to this drug – in some cases the side effects become unbearable. Additionally, for some individuals this drug doesn’t work well enough to justify continued usage.
Although this is a drug that can be beneficial for some people, the long term effects are not very promising. In many cases, this drug actually worsens intellectual functioning – especially in elderly with dementia. It also tends to elicit a variety of unpleasant side effects for the person taking it including: weight gain, sexual dysfunction, drowsiness, and worsened motor functioning.
Factors that influence Seroquel withdrawal include…
When you withdraw from any medication, there are important factors that will influence your withdrawal. These factors include: time span, dosage, your physiology, and whether you tapered off of the drug or quit cold turkey.
1. Time Span
How long were you taking Seroquel? If you were taking it for an extended period of time (e.g. over a year), you are likely going to have a tougher time coming off of the drug than someone who only took it for a few months. If you were on this drug for many years, it may be extremely difficult to quit.
2. Dosage (150 mg to 800 mg)
What dosage were you taking? In general, it is hypothesized that the higher the dosage you take, the more it alters your brain functioning. If you take a high dose for a long term, it is going to take your brain a much longer time to normalize in regards to neurotransmitter functioning. The drug comes in doses ranging from 25 mg, 50 mg, 100 mg, 200 mg, 300 mg, and 400 mg.
For treatment of schizophrenia, most people take between 150 mg and 800 mg per day. If you are on the 800 mg dose, it may take longer for you to withdraw. Fortunately the dosing is nice if you need to conduct a gradual taper – you can keep cutting your dose in half.
3. Individual Physiology
A lot of withdrawal symptoms will be influence by your individual physiology. Despite the fact that many people experience the same symptoms when they quit taking this drug, some people don’t experience as many symptoms, while others experience more symptoms. Another thing to consider is whether you have a mental illness like schizophrenia or bipolar. Withdrawal can trigger symptoms or a relapse of symptoms related to the illness for which you were taking it.
4. Cold Turkey vs. Tapering
How should you quit taking Seroquel? For most people, it is highly recommended to conduct a gradual taper. If you are on a higher dose and you quit cold turkey, you will likely be unable to function. By conducting a gradual taper (e.g. slowly reducing the dosage over time), you are allowing your body and brain to slowly adjust to changes.
If you have been on the drug for a long period of time, even tapering may be difficult. If you are someone that quit cold turkey and aren’t looking back, prepare yourself for a long recovery period and symptoms that feel as if they are never going to go away. If you haven’t yet quit this medication and want to taper, slowly reduce your dosage every few weeks. It may take months to taper off of your medication, but it will minimize the withdrawal symptoms.
Seroquel Withdrawal Symptoms: List of Possibilities
Below are a list of common symptoms that have been reported during Seroquel withdrawal. Keep these symptoms in mind when you come off of the medication so that you know what to expect. Although you may not experience every symptom on the list, it is likely that you will experience something when you quit taking this drug.
- Agitation: If you feel especially agitated, it’s because you’re brain is no longer receiving the drug. This drug helps many people stay calm and reduces agitation. When a person quits taking it, they may become increasingly agitated and it may last for awhile.
- Anxiety: In many cases this drug helps people with anxiety. When you stop taking it, your anxiety may skyrocket. Everything you do may provoke nervousness and intense anxiety. Try to realize that it is just from withdrawal and that you will recover.
- Concentration problems: Although this drug can cause concentration problems while you take it, you may also experience poor concentration when you stop it. Some people call this “brain fog” or foggy thinking – it is due to the fact that your brain is trying to readjust itself.
- Depression: When withdrawing from this antipsychotic you may spiral into deep depression. Any medication that affects neurotransmitters can result in depression when you withdraw – especially if it had a subtle antidepressant effect when you took it.
- Dizziness: A common withdrawal symptom from any psychiatric medication is dizziness. This may be extreme when you quit taking Seroquel, but shouldn’t last longer than a few months. For most people, this sensation goes away after a few weeks, but for some, the dizziness persists for a long time. Don’t freak out if the dizziness lasts longer than you anticipated – realize that it is a result of post-acute withdrawal.
- Fatigue: Feeling excessively lethargic, tired, and fatigued is common when quitting an antipsychotic. Although this medication tends to be sedating while you take it, the withdrawal takes a toll on overall energy levels. When your brain is trying to readjust, you may become extremely tired and feel like sleeping all day.
- Headaches: It is common to experience headaches when you quit taking Seroquel. The headaches may be minor or may feel like full blown migraines. These will subside eventually, but may last weeks before they go away.
- Heart rate changes: You may notice that your heart rate becomes excessive when you quit this drug. Some people notice that their heart beats excessively fast when they withdraw. You may also notice heart palpitations – these are caused by both withdrawal and anxiety.
- Hypersensitivity: A person may become hypersensitive to sights and sounds when they come off of this medication. The person may not realize that it is from drug withdrawal and their neurotransmitters are not functioning properly. Therefore normal sounds may sound excessively loud and normal sights may appear excessively bright.
- Insomnia: It is common to experience insomnia when you quit this drug. Insomnia is usually caused by anxiety and/or sleep disruptions. Your entire sleep cycle may be thrown off when you quit this drug and you may experience increased anxiety.
- Irritability: Don’t be surprised if you become increasingly irritable and difficult when you stop this drug. In general the medication tends to calm people down almost to the point of a stupor. If you feel excessively irritable, know that it’s likely a result of withdrawal.
- Itching: Some people notice when they quit this drug that they become itchy all over. If you are experiencing excessive itchiness when you stop Seroquel, just know that it’s a result of withdrawal. If it becomes too unbearable, you may want to conduct a slower taper.
- Mood swings: It is common to experience mood swings when you quit this drug – even if you are not bipolar. The mood swings may be more pronounced and uncontrollable if you are bipolar, but even individuals that aren’t will notice that they may feel angry one minute and hopeful the next.
- Nausea: One of the most common symptoms associated with withdrawal from Seroquel is that of nausea. You may feel nauseated for an extended period of time until your body becomes used to functioning without the drug.
- Psychosis: It has been discovered that withdrawal from antipsychotics can cause psychosis. In other words, you may experience hallucinations, delusions, etc. when you are coming off of this medication. Most people don’t experience psychosis when they withdraw unless they have pre-existing schizophrenia – but it is still a possibility.
- Sleep problems: A person may notice major changes in their sleep patterns and length when they quit taking this medication. One minute the person may have bouts of extreme insomnia and the next minute they may feel extremely tired.
- Suicidal thoughts: Many people take this medication to help with suicidal thoughts and depression. When you quit taking it, you may feel more suicidal than you have ever felt. This is due to the fact that your neurotransmitter levels are out of balance and you are no longer receiving the drug to help.
- Sweating: A very common symptom is that of profuse sweating when you stop taking Seroquel. This may be prevalent throughout the day and/or may occur while you are sleeping. You may wake up from sleep in a pool of sweat. Just know that this is your body’s response to withdrawing from the drug.
- Vision changes: Some people experience pain in the eye and visual disturbances as a result of taking this medication. It has been hypothesized that this and other antipsychotics could lead a person to experience blurred vision even when withdrawing. Some even hypothesize potential “eye damage” as a result of taking this medication.
- Vomiting: Unfortunately you may vomit a lot when you stop taking Seroquel. This can be a result of intense nausea and/or your body’s way of detoxifying itself. If you feel like vomiting, just know that many people experience this during withdrawal.
Note: It is documented that Seroquel stays in your system for around 1.6 days after you stop taking it. Once the drug is out of your system, it can take a long time for your neurophysiology to recalibrate itself back to homeostatic functioning.
Seroquel Withdrawal Timeline: How long does it take?
The withdrawal process tends to affect everyone differently – therefore there is no predictable timeline for withdrawal. Some people may fully recover from symptoms within a month or two, while others may struggle with symptoms for months after they take their last dose. There is really no telling how long you will experience symptoms, but as a general rule of thumb, I recommend waiting 90 days before expecting any sort of recovery.
If you have been taking a powerful psychiatric antipsychotic drug for an extended period of time, it is going to take your brain and body quite some time before they fully recover back to homeostatic functioning. Your neurotransmitters and receptors have been altered by the long term drug usage, and your brain will need some time to reset its functioning.
In order to ensure the fastest possible recovery, you can make sure that you are eating healthy, getting plenty of sleep, staying productive, and getting some exercise throughout the day. Exercise helps stimulate functioning in the brain and rids toxins from the body. If you are getting some exercise (even if its light), it will go a long way towards helping you cope with recovery symptoms and recover quicker.
If you have been on Seroquel and would like to share your experience, feel free to do so in the comments section below. By sharing your experience, it helps other people realize that they are not alone and not going crazy.