Seroquel is the brand name of the generic drug quetiapine.1 Seroquel is a second generation, atypical antipsychotic medication. Second generation refers to the newer class of antipsychotics that have different pharmacological profiles than earlier types of the drug. Compared to typical antipsychotics, the newer atypical class, like Seroquel, is more effective in treatment-resistant individuals and those who suffer from negative symptoms like the abnormal thoughts, actions and feelings associated with conditions like schizophrenia.
Seroquel and Mental Illness
Seroquel is used in the treatment of specific psychiatric conditions like schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder, but it is also used in combination with antidepressants to treat major depressive disorder in adults.2 Seroquel works by rebalancing serotonin and dopamine, the neurotransmitters that control pleasure responses and other behaviors in the brain. The result is an improvement in mood and thinking.
According to the Psychopharmacology Institute, quetiapine is also used “off-label” to treat the following additional mental health disorders:
- Generalized anxiety disorder
- Monotherapy treatment of major depressive disorder
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- For psychosis in patients with Parkinson’s disease
Seroquel is available by prescription only. Oral tablets are prescribed in 25 mg, 100 mg, 200 mg and 300 mg doses. Seroquel XR is an extended-release formula available in 50 mg, 150 mg, 200 mg, 300 mg and 400 mg doses. Dosages vary based on several factors specific to the individual, including the severity of the mental illness present.3
Certain mental health disorders, such as bipolar disorder, feature delusions and/or psychosis. When in a clinically delusional state, the person believes things to be true that have little or no evidentiary support or basis in reality. During a psychotic episode, he or she may experience visual, audio and/or tactile hallucinations. The experience of delusions and psychosis can put him at risk of hurting himself and others. For this reason, the use of an antipsychotic such as Seroquel may be a necessary intervention to stabilize the delusional or psychotic person.
Seroquel Side Effects
Because Seroquel acts on different parts of the brain – a common feature of newer generation atypical antipsychotics – there are a variety of side effects associated with its use. Some of the most common include:
- Weight gain
- Blurred vision
- Dry mouth
- Upset stomach
- Dizziness, lightheadedness
- Low blood pressure
Seroquel is not a controlled substance. However, since Seroquel was FDA approved, studies have shown there is a risk of psychological dependence on the drug. Different from the physical addiction seen in narcotics or alcohol, those who are psychologically dependent on a drug become addicted to the feelings the drug produces. Seroquel works by restoring balance to serotonin and dopamine. Any time a drug interacts with these two neurotransmitters, the risk of developing dependence on the drug increases.4
Abuse of Seroquel
Studies have shown that there is some danger of a person using Seroquel for recreational purposes. Reports of crushing and snorting the drug to create a “high” or to experience the drowsiness the drug causes are becoming more common.5 Most emergency room visits associated with the drug are related to patient’s trying to self-medicate anxiety and sleep deprivation.6 As with any prescription medication, using Seroquel in ways other than prescribed by a physician can be dangerous and life-threatening. Those struggling with mental illness are at an increased risk for developing addiction to habit-forming substances and drugs that can calm their symptoms and make them feel better. If you or a loved one uses Seroquel to treat a form of mental illness, look for these signs of psychological dependence on the drug:
- Needing more of the drug before the next dose is due
- Becoming preoccupied with getting and using the drug
- “Doctor shopping” for new prescriptions for the drug
- Stealing to pay for more of the drug
- Using the drug during risky activities like driving
- Changes in mood or behavior not generally associated with treatment
- Becoming more involved in the drug culture
- The appearance of withdrawal symptoms when the drug is stopped7
If you or a loved one has even one of these symptoms of addiction, it’s time to get help.
Help for Co-occurring Disorders
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1 “Seroquel Oral : Uses, Side Effects, Interactions, Pictures, Warnings & Dosing.” WebMD, WebMD. Accessed Jan. 29, 2012.
2 “Seroquel: Drug Uses, Dosage & Side Effects.” Drugs.com, Drugs.com, 28 Feb. 2017.
3 Guzmán, MD Flavio. “Quetiapine Indications: FDA-Approved and Off-Label Uses.” Psychopharmacology Institute, 25 Sept. 2017.
4 Cha, Hye Jin, et al. “Dependence Potential of Quetiapine: Behavioral Pharmacology in Rodents.” Biomolecules & Therapeutics, The Korean Society of Applied Pharmacology, 30 July 2013.
5 Iliades, MD Chris. “Seroquel (Quetiapine) – Side Effects, Dosage, Interactions – Drugs.” EverydayHealth.com, 28 Apr. 2014.
6 Kim, Sean, et al. “Quetiapine Misuse and Abuse: Is it an Atypical Paradigm of Drug Seeking Behavior?“
Journal of Research in Pharmacy Practice, Medknow Publications & Media Pvt Ltd, Mar. 2017.
7 The MNT Editorial Team. “Signs and Symptoms of Addiction.” Medical News Today, MediLexicon International, 5 Jan. 2016.