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Haloperidol: what it is and how it acts

Haloperidol is a first generation antipsychotic drug useful in the treatment of certain mental disorders in which the concentrations of certain neurotransmitters are altered. This is the case of schizophrenia or psychosis.

Currently, the use of more than 30 antipsychotic drugs is widespread. We can differentiate within them two groups: the first generation or typical antipsychotics (among which are chlorpromazine or haloperidol) and the most recent, known as second generation or atypical and that include clozapine and risperidone, among others.

What are antipsychotic drugs?

Haloperidol: what it is and how it acts

We understand as antipsychotic drugs those that serve for the treatment of psychosis, schizophrenia, hallucinations or aggressive behavior. Schizophrenia is one of its most repeated indications but it has also proven its effectiveness in disorders such as mania or dementia.

Schizophrenia is more frequent than other pathologies such as Alzheimer’s or multiple sclerosis, being its approach complex.

This type of drugs affect the transmission of information in the brain. In particular, its action is related to dopamine because this mediator is elevated in people with schizophrenia.

In this way, antipsychotic drugs perform their action by interacting with dopamine receptors, blocking them and preventing their over-activation.

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Haloperidol as an antipsychotic

Haloperidol: what it is and how it acts

As we have seen, haloperidol is an antipsychotic drug that is included in the first generation. Worldwide it is one of the most used. It is often required to treat psychotic disorders, tics or various types of syndromes such as Tourette’s syndrome .

Its mechanism of action is to block dopamine receptors in the brain. This is very useful because the action of this substance is excessive in cases of schizophrenia or psychosis.

Despite the help offered by pharmacotherapy, the percentage of patients who do not follow the guidelines described is high. The adverse effects also sometimes promote the abandonment of treatment and non-compliance with the posology.

Although the disease has been stabilized, the patient should never stop taking this medication without consulting his doctor. It may resolve to reduce the dose little by little but never abruptly because it can lead to the appearance of undesirable side effects.

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Adverse effects of haloperidol

Haloperidol: what it is and how it acts

Like the rest of the antipsychotics, treatment with haloperidol leads to the appearance of some adverse effects of interest. These are associated with the already mentioned blockade of dopamine receptors and among which are the following:

  • Pyramidal syndrome . It is a disorder similar to Parkinson’s disease, so care must be taken in patients who present this disease in an underlying manner.
  • Acatisia . This disorder is characterized by the inability to remain still and calm.
  • Neuroleptic malignant syndrome . It is a very serious adverse reaction that occurs with hyperthermia, muscle and respiratory disorders. Its control is very important because it can even lead to the death of the patient.
  • Dyskinesias Involuntary movements of the face and limbs, which appear after the start of treatment with haloperidol.
  • Hormonal imbalances These include hyperprolactinemia (exaggerated secretion of prolactin).
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms such as loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting.
  • Effects on the cardiovascular system . These include the appearance of tachycardias or arrhythmias.
  • Effects on the central nervous system , among which are depression, confusion or insomnia. These symptoms mean that the patient must be careful when driving or performing daily tasks that require a certain level of attention.

Likewise, sexual dysfunction, drowsiness and sedation may also appear. These latter effects tend to decrease as treatment progresses.

Haloperidol: what it is and how it acts