Haloperidol is in the category of antipsychotic medications, and more specifically the category known as conventional, typical, or first-generation antipsychotics. This is the generic drug name, and haloperidol is also widely sold under the brand name Haldol. If you or a family member struggle with a psychotic disorder or certain other conditions, it’s worth learning about haloperidol and discussing it as a possible treatment option with your psychiatrist.
This medication is only available by prescription. Haloperidol is generally taken orally one to three times per day; it can, however, be administered via intramuscular injection by a healthcare provider, though this option is typically reserved for patients who can’t take the medication orally.
If you’re curious about this medication, or if your mental healthcare provider has suggested it as a treatment option for you or a loved one, here’s some introductory information about haloperidol.
What Conditions Does Haloperidol Treat?
Haloperidol is used to treat psychotic disorders, which are marked by an inability to distinguish between real and unreal things or ideas. For example, it is commonly prescribed to treat schizophrenia. Aside from psychotic disorders, haloperidol is also used to treat the motor and verbal tics of people with Tourette syndrome, as well as extreme behavioral problems in children that aren’t responsive to other medications or therapies.
How Does Haloperidol Help?
This medication helps control some of the most severe symptoms of psychotic disorders, like hallucinations, delusions, and disorganized thinking. It also helps to soothe an overexcited brain, and works to reduce or stop the tics associated with Tourette syndrome. Haloperidol achieves these effects in part by reducing the amount of the brain chemical dopamine. It’s believed to somewhat inhibit the actions of certain other brain chemicals as well.
What Side Effects can Haloperidol Cause?
Like any medication, haloperidol can cause side effects. The patient and prescribing doctor must work together to limit side effects by fine-tuning the dosage and to determine whether the benefits of the medication outweigh the adverse effects.
Discuss any side effects with your prescribing doctor right away. A number of them may indicate a serious condition. Some side effects (this is not an exhaustive list) of haloperidol may include:
- Dry mouth or increased salivation
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Nausea or vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Blurry vision
- Eye pain or discoloration
- Decreased vision
- Seeing a brown tint
- Increased heart rate
- Drop in blood pressure when standing
- Dizziness or balance problems
- Sleep disturbances
- Nervousness, restlessness, or agitation
- Blank facial expression
- Involuntary eye movements
- Abnormal or involuntary movements of other body parts
- Breast enlargement or pain
- Production of breast milk
- Menstrual changes
- Difficulty urinating
- Sexual dysfunction in men
- Increased sexual desire
- Priapism (an erection lasting at least four hours)
What Are Other Possible Concerns when Taking Haloperidol?
Other concerns about haloperidol include:
- Allergic reactions (some signs may include rash and/or hives; itching; swelling of the lips, tongue, and/or throat; difficulty swallowing and/or breathing; a drop in blood pressure)
- Overdose (some signs may include uncontrollable, irregular, or slowed movements of any part of the body; weak or stiff muscles; slowed breathing; tiredness or drowsiness; loss of consciousness)
- Increased thoughts of suicide or self-harm
- Interactions with other drugs or supplements; be sure your prescribing doctor is aware of all other medications and supplements you take (including all-natural herbs, vitamins, etc.)
- There are risks to the fetus when taking haloperidol while pregnant; tell your doctor if you are or may become pregnant
- Haloperidol is passed through breast milk
- This medication may make you drowsy; don’t drive or operate heavy machinery until you know how it affects you
- This medication may cause dizziness, lightheadedness, or fainting when standing up quickly from a lying position; transition slowly to sitting up with your feet on the floor for a minute or two, then stand slowly
- Alcohol consumption may worsen side effects
- Haloperidol should not be taken by people with Parkinson’s disease
- Tell your doctor if you or anyone in your family has had prolonged QT syndrome
- Tell your doctor if you have ever had breast cancer
- Tell your doctor if you’ve every been diagnosed with bipolar disorder
- Tell your doctor if you’ve ever had citrullinemia (a buildup of ammonia in the blood)
- Tell your doctor if you have any history of seizures, irregular heartbeat, abnormal EEG readings, low blood levels of calcium or magnesium, balance problems, thyroid disorder, or heart disease