Emergency Treatment of Psychotic Symptoms: Pharmacokinetic Considerations for Antipsychotic Drugs

Grace V. Milton, Michael W. Jann

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Psychotic symptoms related to mental and medical disorders can pose a medical emergency. Selecting an appropriate antipsychotic medication to treat this emergency is based on the clinical situation, preferred route of administration, pharmacokinetic profile of the antipsychotic and the medications currently being taken by the patient. Intramuscular preparations are usually preferred over oral medication when the patients are not co-operative and require drugs with a faster onset of action and good bioavailability. High potency antipsychotics such as haloperidol and fluphenazine are effective in stabilising patients with psychotic symptoms quickly. Loxapine is an alternative when sedation is necessary and molindone is useful if a short-acting antipsychotic is required. Rapid neuroleptisation with intramuscular preparations of antipsychotic achieves therapeutic drug concentrations more rapidly, and also provides optimal control of psychotic symptoms. If the patient is cooperative, liquid oral preparations can be used; they are as effective as intramuscular formulations. If long term treatment with an antipsychotic is necessary and the patients are stabilised, they can be switched from intramuscular to oral preparations. The oral dose is usually 1.5 to 5 times the total intramuscular dose per day, based on the bioavailability of the antipsychotic medication. If the patient is currently taking antipsychotic medication when the emergency situation occurs, it is usually adequate to increase the dose of antipsychotic drug. Appropriate dose adjustment or antipsychotic selection is necessary when drug interactions are expected. An in-depth knowledge of the pharmacokinetic profile and drug interaction profile of antipsychotic is necessary for the selection of the appropriate antipsychotic for any given emergency situation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)494-504
Number of pages11
JournalClinical Pharmacokinetics
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1 Jan 1995


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