Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Neuroleptic Definition:

Anti-psychotic, tranquilizing pharmaceutical products used in the treatment of some mental illnesses such as, but not limited to, schizophrenia.

Related Terms: Anti-psychotic Drugs

In Fleming, Justice Robins of the Ontario Court of Appeal wrote:

"It may be helpful to refer briefly to the nature and effects of neuroleptics.

"These anti-psychotic drugs, psychotropic drugs or major tranquillizers, as they are sometimes called, are the most common form of treatment for schizophrenia and related mental illnesses. Their medical efficacy stems from their ability to minimize or control psychotic episodes or the symptoms associated with schizophrenia.

"Not all patients are responsive to the drugs and some improve without them....

"In general, anti-psychotic drugs influence chemical transmissions to the brain, affecting both activatory and inhibitory functions. Because the therapeutic effect of the drugs is to reduce the level of psychotic thinking, it is virtually undisputed that they are mind-altering.

"Although neuroleptics are the drug of choice for treatment of patients diagnosed as schizophrenic, they are not a cure for the disorder but are said to work so as to a have beneficial effect on thought processes and the brain's ability to sort out and integrate perceptions and memory.

"The use of neuroleptics in the treatment of various psychoses is generally effective in improving the mental condition of the patient by alleviating the symptoms of mental disorder. It is clear, however, that they may not be helpful in every case.

"Moreover the efficacy of the drugs is complicated by a number of serious side effects which are associated with their use. These include a number of muscular side effects known as extra-pyramidal reactions: dystonia (muscle spasms, particularly in the face and arms, irregular flexing, writhing or grimacing and protrusion of the tongue); akathesia (internal restlessness or agitation, an inability to sit still); akinesia (physical immobility and lack of spontaneity); and Parkinsonisms (mask-like facial expression, drooling, muscle stiffness, tremors, shuffling gait). The drugs can also cause a number of non-muscular side effects, such as blurred vision, dry mouth and throat, weight gain, dizziness, fainting depression, low blood pressure and, less frequently, cardiovascular changes and, on occasion, sudden death.

"The most potentially serious side effect of anti-psychotic drug is a condition known as tardive dyskinesia. This is a generally irreversible neurological disorder characterized by involuntary rhythmic and grotesque movement of the face, mouth, tongue, am jaw. The patient's extremities, neck, back and torso can also, become involved....

"In short, it appears that although these drugs apparently operate so as to benefit many patients by alleviating their psychotic symptoms, they also carry with them significant, and often unpredictable, short term and long term risks of harmful side effects."

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