Understanding Antipsychotic Drug Mechanisms Helps Predict Side Effects—and How to Respond

Decades ago, the field of psychiatry presumed that patients with psychotic disorders needed enough medication to produce physical effects called “parkinsonism”—the tremors, rigidity, and shuffling seen in the actual disease—because that meant the therapy was working.

Fortunately, according to Peter Weiden, MD, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Illinois Medical Center in Chicago, it is now understood that “no side effect is required for efficacy in antipsychotics.” That said, side effects are common and psychiatrists must take them seriously, because otherwise patients may “communicate” by going off their medication,

Weiden said. He presented Thursday’s talk, “Reducing the Burden of Antipsychotic Medications: An Integrated Approach to Addressing Adverse Effects,” at the 28th US Psychiatric and Mental Health Congress, being held in San Diego, California. Weiden reminded his fellow clinicians that the burden of treatment never ends for patients on antipsychotics medication. “Our patients never get a day off.” The good news, he said, is the ability to deal with side effects is vastly improved from 10 years ago

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