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What to Know about Quetiapine (Seroquel)

In this post, we’ll answer the most frequently asked questions about the medication quetiapine (also known as Seroquel).

Often known by the brand name Seroquel, quetiapine is one common medication often used to treat schizophrenia. In this post, we outline some important information about this treatment.

Schizophrenia can be a debilitating condition, especially if you don’t have access to the right type of treatment. For many people with this condition, taking medication is a significant step in allowing them to improve their mental health.

What is quetiapine (Seroquel)?

What is quetiapine? How does it work?

Quetiapine is an approved medication to treat schizophrenia. Additionally, it may sometimes be used off-label to treat substance abuse, depression, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), personality disorders, Bipolar Disorder and other conditions.

Quetiapine belongs to a class of medications called antipsychotics. This class of medications work by regulating the effects of certain chemical messengers in the brain called neurotransmitters. An adequate balance of neurotransmitters in the brain correlates with improved mental health.

How is quetiapine typically used?

A typical adult maintenance dose of quetiapine for schizophrenia or mania is from 400mg to a maximum of 800mg per day, taken orally.  For depression or Bipolar Disorder the dose may be similar or somewhat lower.  However, doses differ from person to person depending on their condition and how they react to the medication. Quetiapine should usually be taken in the evening, as it can cause drowsiness.

It may take some time to experience the full benefits of this medication. Thus, to help ensure that your prescription is effective, take your medication consistently and follow your doctor’s instructions. 

Do not stop taking quetiapine without talking to your doctor, as stopping medication abruptly can cause negative effects. If your doctor sees that you are ready to stop taking quetiapine, they will help you gradually reduce the dose over several weeks until it is safe to stop taking the medication altogether.

What are some possible side effects?

Some common side effects of quetiapine include:

  • Constipation
  • Stomach pain
  • Increased appetite
  • Weight gain
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Elevated triglycerides
  • Metabolic syndrome

Some serious (but uncommon) side effects include:

  • Seizures
  • Unusual bruising or bleeding
  • Difficult or painful urination
  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • Confusion
  • Abnormal involuntary movement disorders such as tremors, EPS and tardive dyskinesia
  • Neuroleptic malignant syndrome

Call 911 or seek emergency care if you notice any severe side effects. Also, you can find a more comprehensive list of quetiapine side effects here

Why do these side effects occur? 

Any medication can potentially lead to side effects. A person’s likelihood of having side effects depends on many factors, including genetics, age, lifestyle, and the type of medication itself. Side effects may occur because drugs often have broad or poorly targeted effects, or the drug target itself may have many downstream effects on the body. 

Quetiapine affects the effects of neurotransmitter levels in the brain. In addition to affecting our mental wellbeing, these neurotransmitters are also responsible for the regulation of several activities of the body such as movement, breathing, mood, digestion, concentration, etc. Some of the side effects observed with quetiapine happen because neurotransmitter levels affect more than just our mental health. 

Many non-serious side effects of mental health medications like quetiapine go away after a few weeks as your body adjusts to the medication. However, if a side effect persists, is intolerable, or severely hinders your ability to go about your daily life, talk to your doctor, because this might indicate that the medication is not a good fit. 

How do your genes relate to quetiapine? 

Genetics can affect your body’s response to medication. Quetiapine is mainly metabolized by the enzyme CYP3A4. Some people with a certain variation of CYP3A4 might be slow metabolizers for quetiapine. Being a slow metabolizer means your body will break down the medication more slowly than others, which means the drug sticks around in your body for longer than average and may lead to side effects. For slow metabolizers, a doctor might opt to prescribe a different medication or prescribe a lower dosage. 

One way to predict whether you’ll have a positive outcome while taking quetiapine is by taking a genetic test to determine what genetic variations you have and how they affect medication metabolism. Your DNA test results can help your doctor avoid less suitable medications and make more informed decisions so that you can get better, faster.

Take this free quiz about genetic testing benefits

Special Precautions

  • Quetiapine can have effects on the eyes. It is important to check your vision routinely when taking the medication to prevent any serious complications when taking the medication. You should also inform
  • Quetiapine can have effects on the eyes. It is important to check your vision routinely when taking the medication to prevent any serious complications when taking the medication. You should also inform your doctor if you notice any changes to your vision. 
  • If you have any thoughts about hurting yourself or are feeling more depressed after taking quetiapine, you should inform your doctor immediately. 
  • Quetiapine can make you feel drowsy and light-headed, so avoid driving or handling heavy machinery after taking the medication. 
  • Inform your doctor if you or anyone in your family have had diabetes, because quetiapine can affect your blood sugar levels. 

If you show signs of an allergic reaction to quetiapine (hives, difficulty breathing, rash, swelling), call 911 or go to the nearest emergency department.

Furthermore, some medications, vitamins, and herbs may interfere with how quetiapine works. Make sure to tell your doctor about all other medications you are taking before starting quetiapine to avoid negative interactions. For full details, see the FDA’s full list of precautions

Looking to find the right medication for your mental health? Join Prairie today to connect to expert providers and affordable medication options. 

Fri Dec 03 2021

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