Appropriate clozapine dose depends on a patient’s response to this antipsychotic medication, used primarily in the treatment of schizophrenia. People start taking this medication by titrating it, slowly increasing the dosage over time so they have an opportunity to adjust. Frequent consultations may be required in the first few months while the patient works on finding an appropriate level of medication. The goal of titration is to find the lowest possible effective dose to allow the patient to experience benefits with a limited risk of side effects.
This drug has serious side effects, including the potential to develop uncontrolled movements, dangerously low white blood cell counts, and low blood pressure. It can also cause problems with the liver and kidneys. Patients who titrate too quickly can experience sedation, where the medication makes them sleepy and sluggish. For these reasons, clozapine is only recommended for patients with treatment-resistant schizophrenia that hasn't responded to other measures, as the benefits may outweigh the risks.
The recommended initial clozapine dose is typically 12.5 milligrams, which may be taken once or twice a day. Over time, the dosage can slowly be increased, to a maximum of 900 milligrams a day. Many people find that a clozapine dose around 400 milligrams is sufficient. For the first eight weeks, patients may be asked to come in for weekly blood testing to check for adverse reactions to the medication. Once they are stable and doing well on the medication, the dosage can be held at the current level and periodically reevaluated as necessary.
Over time, patients may find that they need to increase their clozapine dose to get the same effect. They can consult with a care provider to determine if they should titrate up again to find a new base level. When patients stop taking the medication, it is important to slowly reduce the dosage to reduce the risk of complications. Abrupt cessation can expose patients to serious risks. To avoid this problem, patients may be given an extra week’s supply for emergencies when they start therapy, to ensure they won’t abruptly run out.
While adjusting to a clozapine dose, patients should be alert to side effects like extreme fatigue, nausea, and seizures. If they experience problems, they can discuss them with the appropriate medical professional to determine if the situation is serious enough to stop taking the medication. Some people find it helpful to keep a mood diary or other record of moods so they can track responses to medication and establish a baseline for future reference.