What Are Atypical Antipsychotics? What Do They Treat?

Atypical antipsychotics are newer drugs with different side effects

Atypical Antipsychotics
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Medications used to treat psychosis — which occurs in conditions such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia — are called antipsychotics. Antipsychotics are divided into two groups: "typical antipsychotics" and "atypical antipsychotics."

The names are misleading, since it's really a question of which group of drugs was invented first. The older, first generation antipsychotic drugs are considered "typical" and the newer, second generation drugs, which have a different chemical structure, are considered "atypical."

Atypical antipsychotics also have some different side effects when compared with the older typical antipsychotics.

All antipsychotics — regardless of whether they're in the typical or the atypical group — are designed to control hallucinations, delusions and other symptoms of psychosis. Some have other effects as well (see the individual listings for atypical antipsychotics, linked below, for their descriptions, and see typical antipsychotics for information on that group of drugs).

List of Atypical Antipsychotics

There are many different atypical antipsychotics. Not all are approved for the same conditions.

The atypical antipsychotics include:

  • Abilify (generic name: aripiprazole). Abilify has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat bipolar I disorder in people 10 years of age and older, and schizophrenia in those age 13 and older. It's also approved for several other conditions. It's often prescribed with another mood stabilizing drug.
  • Geodon (generic name: ziprasidone). Geodon is approved for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. The drug may offer less risk of weight gain than some other atypical antipsychotics, while still working effectively to control symptoms.
  • Invega (generic name: paliperidone). Invega is FDA-approved to treat schizophrenia in adults and adolescents and schizoaffective disorder in adults. It's the only oral atypical antipsychotic approved to treat schizoaffective disorder. The medication is also available as injections in one-month and three-month doses.
  • Risperdal (generic name: risperidone). Risperdal is approved to treat bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and irritability in autistic children. It's available in oral and in injectable form. The injectable form lasts two weeks.
  • Seroquel (generic name: quetiapine). Seroquel is approved to treat bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and depression (in combination with an antidepressant medication). It's sometimes used in other conditions, such as insomnia, although it doesn't hold FDA approval for those conditions. It's more likely than other atypical antipsychotics to cause sleepiness.
  • Symbyax. This is a combination of the atypical antipsychotic olanzapine (Zyprexa) plus the antidepressant fluoxetine (Prozac). Symbyax is used to treat depression caused by bipolar disorder, plus difficult-to-treat depression. As with other antidepressant medications, Symbyax may increase the risk of suicidal thoughts and acts in children, adolescents and young adults.
  • Zyprexa (generic name: olanzapine). Zyprexa is approved for those 13 and older who have bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. It also can be used for hard-to-treat depression. Weight gain is very common in people who take Zyprexa, especially teenagers.

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