A Simplified Guide to Oral Antipsychotic Medications – Mechanism of Action, Side Effects and Need to Know Points

Posted on:April 29, 2018
Last Updated: November 10, 2023
Time to read: 10 minutes

Antipsychotic medications were discovered serendipitously in the 1950’s, when Chlorpromazine, which has antihistaminic properties was also observed to have antipsychotic effects when prescribed in patients with schizophrenia.

Antipsychotic medications were predominantly used in the treatment of schizophrenia, however, nowadays they are used in a range of disorders and are evidence-based in the treatment of bipolar disorder, schizoaffective disorder and are used off-label for other disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder and eating disorders.

Antipsychotic medications are broadly divided into typical and atypical antipsychotics although this distinction does not necessarily take into account the individuality in receptor profiles of the individual antipsychotic medications.

In this particular summary, we focus on the commonly used oral atypical antipsychotic medications that are used in schizophrenia and highlight the key receptor profiles. It is important to note there may be several other receptors involved. However, we focus on the most important ones that are responsible for efficacy and tolerability.

Each antipsychotic has a link to the full product information from the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) for products available in Australia.