Learning About Long-Acting Injectable Antipsychotic Medicines

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What are long-acting injectable antipsychotic medicines?

These are medicines that you get as a shot instead of as a pill. Doctors use them to treat certain mental health conditions, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. The medicine releases slowly when it's given as shots. This means the medicine stays in your body longer than if you take a pill.

Why are they given?

Shots may be a choice if you often forget to take pills or if you get certain side effects from pills. Or you may try shots because you relapsed while on pills. In a relapse, your symptoms return. Shots may help prevent relapse because they keep a steady amount of medicine in the body.

How are they given?

You go to your doctor's office to get a shot. It's usually given in the arm or the rear end (buttocks). How often you get a shot depends on the type of medicine. You may get it every few weeks, once a month, or every few months.

What are the side effects?

There are possible side effects with these medicines, whether they are given as a shot or as a pill. They include:

  • Movement disorders. These are body movements that are hard to control.
    • Some may happen soon after you get the shot. They include muscle spasms and trouble sitting still.
    • A movement disorder called tardive dyskinesia (TD) may happen after you've been getting the shots for a long time. It makes you repeat the same movement over and over, like lip smacking. For some people, TD doesn't go away.
  • Neuroleptic malignant syndrome. This is a rare but life-threatening condition. The first signs include a high fever and changes in heart and breathing patterns. If you have these symptoms, see your doctor right away.
  • Drowsiness.
  • Weight gain.
  • Increase in cholesterol or blood sugar levels.
  • Type 2 diabetes.
  • Heart problems.
  • Irregular menstrual cycles.
  • Problems having sex.

You may have pain or redness where you get the shot. You also may have other side effects not listed here. Talk to your doctor about the possible side effects from your medicine.

You may be asked to wait for a while in the doctor's office after you get the shot. This is to watch for possible problems with the shot.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.