What Is Risperidone?
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), chronic mental illness typically begins at a young age. About 75% of all lifetime mental illness starts by the age of twenty-four, with 50% starting as young as fourteen. The young onset of most chronic mental health conditions calls for early identification and intervention. Untreated mental illness may lead to social and developmental challenges. With psychiatric medications like risperidone, symptoms can be kept to a minimum, allowing for a better quality of life for years to come.1
Risperidone is an atypical serotonin-dopamine antagonist (SDA) antipsychotic. The word “atypical” is a classification of antipsychotics. These drugs are used primarily to treat mental illnesses like schizophrenia, causing disruptions in thought processes, mood, and social interaction. Risperidone is not a controlled substance.
What Does Risperdal Treat?
Typical antipsychotics are the first line of drugs developed to treat schizophrenia, starting in the 1950s. Atypical antipsychotics are more current antipsychotic medications. Typical antipsychotics are effective, but these drugs are also likely to cause severe side effects like tardive dyskinesia. Individuals who experience tardive dyskinesia experience involuntary movements like lips smacking and grimacing. Atypical antipsychotics like risperidone, on the other hand, are less likely to result in severe side effects.2
Other names for risperidone are:3
- Risperdal Consta
- Risperdal M-Tab (Orally disintegrating)
Risperdal Side Effects
As with all medications, Risperdal comes with side effects. Although the Risperdal side effects are less severe than the first generation typical antipsychotics like Thorazine, they can still impact someone’s daily life. Therefore, it’s essential to speak with a healthcare provider when experiencing Risperdal side effects to discuss whether the benefits of the medication outweigh the risks.
Short-Term Side Effects
A few common short-term Risperdal side effects are:4
- Weight Gain
Long-Term Side Effects
Though rare, diabetes may occur as a long-term side effect in people who take risperidone; however, this side effect can be avoided through diet changes, an exercise program, and monitoring by a health professional. People with diabetes may also see their symptoms worsen while on the medication—therefore, it’s critical for people with diabetes to regularly check their blood sugar while on Risperdal treatment.4
Other possible long-term side effects from risperidone are:
- High cholesterol
- High blood prolactin levels
- Low white cell count
Inform a healthcare provider right away if any of these rare side effects occur:4
- Muscle spasms
- Tremors or shaking
- Anxiety or restlessness
- Erratic or interrupted breathing when sleeping
- Difficulty swallowing
- Painful erection that will not go away
- Tardive Dyskinesia
- Sudden uncontrollable movements of limbs, tongue, or lips
- Neuroleptic Malignant Syndrome
- Sudden high fever
- Excessive sweating
- Muscle stiffness
- Changes in breathing and heart rate
Can You Overdose on Risperidone?
People very rarely experience a Risperdal overdose, but it does happen. Symptoms of a Risperdal overdose include a rapid heartbeat, fainting, lightheadedness, and muscle movements in the face and neck. If a risperidone overdose is suspected, emergency services or the Poison Helpline at 1-800-222-1222 should be notified.
Risperdal Dosage, Uses, and Withdrawal
An individual’s Risperdal dosage depends on the type of Risperdal medication they take. Risperidone comes in a tablet, disintegrating disc, oral liquid, and injection form. An individual’s response to the medication can differ from another, so prescribers typically use the lowest effective dose possible for each person. The Risperdal dosages below are for the tablet form of the medication.5
- Effective dose range for adults with schizophrenia: 4 mg per day to 16 mg per day orally
- Effective dose range for teens with schizophrenia: 1 mg to 6 mg per day orally
- Effective dose range for children with schizophrenia is not established by the FDA. Nonetheless, studies indicate a dose of 2 mg to 3 mg per day orally is effective.
Other Risperdal Uses
Although Risperdal is typically used for the treatment of schizophrenia, it’s also used to treat other mental health conditions and mood disorders, including:
- Bipolar mania
- Bipolar disorder
- Tourette syndrome (off-label use)
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) (off-label use)
Can Risperdal Cause Withdrawal Symptoms?
Like most antipsychotics, discontinuation from Risperdal may cause withdrawal symptoms. People taking risperidone are cautioned against abruptly stopping the medication and should consult their healthcare provider first. Symptoms of withdrawal may include:6
Drug Interactions with Risperdal
Taking note of drug interactions with Risperdal is vital because other drugs can reduce the effectiveness of the medication. One drug with a Risperdal interaction is clozapine, which can cause a toxic interaction. Most concerning are drugs that can cause drowsiness, such as pain medication and muscle relaxants, as they can affect an individual’s alertness:7
Medical problems and the drugs used to treat them may also impact the use of Risperdal. For example, blood pressure medications and cardiovascular issues may require increased monitoring.8
Risperidone Frequently Asked Questions
As individuals weigh the pros and cons of starting risperidone, questions often come up regarding how the medication might impact their life. The following are some common questions regarding Risperdal use.
Can Risperidone Cause Weight Gain?
Risperidone, like other atypical antipsychotics, can lead to weight gain, especially when used for children or adolescents; however, weight gain on Risperdal is not inevitable. Attention to diet, lifestyle changes, and close monitoring can help prevent weight gain.9
Is Risperdal Safe During Pregnancy or While Breastfeeding?
The National Pregnancy Registry for Atypical Antipsychotics exists to help healthcare workers and women track and monitor pregnancy outcomes of women who are administered atypical antipsychotics during pregnancy. Small amounts of Risperdal may transfer to the baby while breastfeeding, but adverse effects are rare. On the other hand, discontinuation of the medication during pregnancy comes with its own adverse perinatal outcomes like a risk of mood disorder relapse or suicide. Therefore, healthcare providers and pregnant women must weigh the benefits of Risperidone versus the overall risks to the infant.
Pros and Cons of Using Risperdal
Antipsychotic medication can come with adverse side effects, which should be taken into serious consideration before starting treatment. Mental illnesses like schizophrenia, PTSD, and mood disorders come with their own set of adverse outcomes. It’s important to remember that the outcomes for untreated mental illnesses are alarming.
Consider the following:
- Individuals with schizophrenia have a higher mortality rate than the general population. Men have a 5.1% higher rate, and women have a 5.6% risk for early death.10
- The risk for suicide is 10% to 13% higher for individuals with schizophrenia.10
- Roughly one hundred thousand children, adolescents, and young adults have their first psychosis experience each year.11
Risperdal, and other antipsychotics, improve an individual’s quality of life, giving them the ability to work, learn, and live independently. Understanding the risks and working closely with healthcare professionals helps to determine whether risperidone treatment is the appropriate approach.