Depot antipsychotics are long-acting formulations of antipsychotic medications administered every one to two weeks by injection. They can increase compliance when compared with daily pills, and can help patients achieve greater control over their mental health. Patients with a history of problems with oral medications may consider depot antipsychotics, or they may be mandated by court order in some cases. In some regions, a stigma surrounds the use of these medications, which may make them less popular among patients.
Medical professionals may recommend antipsychotics for a number of mental health conditions, particularly schizophrenia. These drugs can alleviate symptoms like hearing voices, feeling paranoid, and maintaining false beliefs. These symptoms can be traumatic for the patient and may make it difficult to complete tasks of daily living, participate in therapy, and interact with friends and family. A regimen of antipsychotics and other psychiatric medications could be considered to address them.
In the 1960s, researchers developed depot antipsychotics, which bind the medication in a carrier agent that releases it slowly over a period of days or weeks. The medication is given as a deep intramuscular injection, usually in the buttocks. An initial dose may be small, to see if the patient experiences a bad reaction before converting to a regular schedule for new doses. Between shots, the patient doesn’t need to remember to take an oral antipsychotic every day.
The risk of psychiatric relapse tends to be lower for patients who use depot antipsychotics. This is one reason these drugs may be mandated by court order as part of the terms of release for someone with severe mental illness. Patients who report regularly for their injections have an increased chance of staying stable, especially if they also have a support network to help them address mental health issues as they arise. This can include access to counseling, housing, and nutrition to help the patient stay healthy.
These drugs tend to be recommended after a patient has failed on oral medications. This may be because the patient had difficulty adhering to the treatment regimen due to forgetfulness, confusion, or other issues. Some research suggests that recommending the medications earlier could help patients avoid intrusive episodes of psychosis and that depot antipsychotics should be more widely adopted for patient treatment. Tackling the stigma about these medications, which some patients think are only for people with criminal histories or uncontrollable mental illness, is also an important aspect of increasing their acceptance.