What Are the Most Common Neuroleptic Side Effects?

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  • Written By: Meshell Powell
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 06 November 2018
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Neuroleptic medications are prescribed to treat a variety of psychotic symptoms associated with mental illness. Some of the most commonly reported neuroleptic side effects include dizziness, weight gain, and excessive drowsiness. More serious side effects may include a worsening of psychotic behaviors, blood pressure fluctuations, and uncontrollable muscle movements. Potentially fatal neuroleptic side effects may include heart attack, liver failure, or allergic reactions. Any persistent or bothersome symptoms that develop after beginning treatment with these medications should be reported to a doctor for further evaluation.

Most neuroleptic side effects are relatively mild and do not pose any significant health risks. If dizziness or drowsiness occur, caution should be used when operating machinery or performing tasks that require focus or concentration. These symptoms usually lessen as the body adjusts to the medication. If they persist, the supervising physician may be able to adjust the dosage so that the side effects are a bit more tolerable.

Weight gain and insomnia are possible neuroleptic side effects. Headaches, nausea, and muscle weakness may also occur. Severe headaches or persistent vomiting should be reported to a doctor in order to rule out the development of more severe complications. Muscle weakness, stiffness, or tremors should also be evaluated by a physician. Uncontrollable muscle movements have been known to occur when taking neuroleptic medications, sometimes requiring discontinuation of the drugs.


Cardiac problems are potential neuroleptic side effects. Blood pressure fluctuations, clotting disorders, and irregular heart rates may occur as a result of taking these medications. Heart failure and cardiac arrest are also possible, sometimes leading to the sudden death of the patient. Symptoms such as chest pain, excessive bleeding, or heart palpitations should be reported to a doctor immediately.

Mood or personality changes sometimes develop as a result of using neuroleptic drugs. Confusion, agitation, or nervousness should be evaluated by a doctor. Aggressive or violent behavior should be reported to the nearest police department so the caregiver can obtain assistance in transporting the patient to a medical facility for treatment.

Liver failure, inflammation of the pancreas, and allergic reactions are potentially fatal neuroleptic side effects. Yellowing of the eyes or skin, severe abdominal pain, or fever may indicate the presence of serious complications and should prompt a visit to the nearest hospital. Allergic reactions may involve the development of hives, difficulty breathing, and swelling of the tongue or throat. Anaphylaxis is a medical term used to describe this life-threatening type of allergic reaction. Emergency medical care is essential, as swollen airways can lead to brain damage or death within a matter of minutes.



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