Atypical Antipsychotics


Atypical antipsychotics are a range of medications that are used mainly to treat schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, and schizoaffective disorder[1]. In some cases, they are used to treat eating disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, personality disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, Tourette’s, substance use disorders, and autism - but are not approved for these uses by the FDA.

Antipsychotics work by impacting chemical messengers - neurotransmitters - used to communicate between brain cells. Dopamine is the main neurotransmitter affected by these medications. If parts of the dopamine system become overactive, neurotransmitters play a part in producing hallucinations, delusions and thought disorder. Antipsychotics block the receptors that react to dopamine. Atypical antipsychotics also act on certain serotonin receptors which is thought to be the cause of different side effects[2].

Examples include (brand name italicized):

  • Amisulpride (Solian)
  • Aripiprazole (Abilify)
  • Clozapine (Clozaril)
  • Flupenthixol decanoate (Depixol)
  • Fluphenazine decanoate (Modecate)
  • Olanzapine (Zyprexa)
  • Pipothiazine palmitate (Piportil)
  • Quetiapine (Seroquel)
  • Risperidone (Risperdal)
  • Zuclopenthixol decanoate (Clopixol)

Side Effects[3]:


  • Decreased sex drive
  • Weight gain
  • Diabetes
  • High cholesterol
  • Drowsiness
  • Sun sensitivity
  • Diabetes
  • Seizures

Less Common:

  • Tardive dyskinesia - involuntary body movements or facial tics
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Heart attack
  • Heart inflammation
  • Cataracts

[1]Maher, Alicia Ruelaz, et al. “Efficacy and Comparative Effectiveness of Atypical Antipsychotic Medications for Off-Label Uses in Adults.” Jama, vol. 306, no. 12, 2011, pp. 1359–1369., doi:10.1001/jama.2011.1360.

[2] Lacey, Michael. “Antipsychotics.” Antipsychotic Medication, Royal College of Psychiatrists, Jan. 2014,

[3] Üçok, A., & Gaebel, W. (2008). Side effects of atypical antipsychotics: a brief overview. World Psychiatry, 7(1), 58–62.

Treatment & Resources