Haloperidol: Uses & Side Effects

Instructor: Marisela Duque

Marisela teaches nursing courses at the college level. She also works as a unit educator, teaching experienced nurses about changes in nursing practice.

When you finish reading this lesson, you should be able to identify and describe the uses and side effects of the medication Haldoperidol. A short quiz will follow so that you can test your knowledge.

A Terrifying Scenario

Imagine for a moment that you are sipping coffee with a friend at your neighborhood cafe. Suddenly, a menacing figure appears with a knife, ready to pounce on you. You flee -- only to have him corner you in an alley. You can hear his ragged breaths as he points his knife at you and threatens to cut you into little pieces. You realize this is the end, and your heart pounds out of your chest as you feel the knife up against your throat...

While this might make for an interesting storyline in a cheesy action movie, for persons suffering from hallucinations caused by mental health disorders (such as schizophrenia), this scenario can seem very real. Luckily, modern medicine has developed lots of medications that have helped many people with mental illness control these fantasies. Haloperidol (Haldol) is one such medication.

Self-portrait of a person with schizophrenia, depicting their distorted reality.
Self portrait by a person with schizophrenia

What is Haloperidol?

Haloperidol (Haldol) is a medication used to treat psychotic disorders (such as schizophrenia) and motor/verbal tics associated with Tourette's. A tic is a repetitive action that cannot be controlled. Haloperidol is also used to treat severe behavioral and aggressive disorders and to control suicidal/homicidal thoughts.

Haldol comes in a tablet or liquid oral form and an injectable form. It is only available with a doctor's prescription. This medication works by re-balancing dopamine (the 'feel good' hormone) to improve mood and behavior. People are usually started off with a small dose that is then increased until the desired effect is achieved. You should only take the amount prescribed and should not stop taking this medication without first consulting your doctor.

The effects of Haldol may increase with the use of alcohol or other central nervous system (CNS) depressants (medications that make you sleepy) such as allergy medication or sleeping aids, so you should not take alcohol or any medications until consulting the doctor.

What are the Side Effects of Haloperidol?

Pretty much all medications, even herbal ones, have some side effects. It is up to you and your doctor to discern if the benefits outweigh the side effects. Common side effects for Haloperidol include:

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