Seroquel is a prescription medication that’s useful in treating disorders that cause psychosis like schizophrenia. It’s a second-generation antipsychotic drug, which means it’s even more effective than other typical antipsychotic drugs. It can also be used to treat mood disorders that cause some psychotic features. Though it’s a useful medication, it may be potentially dangerous when it’s misused or abused.
Seroquel is not a controlled substance, and it’s not on the top of the list of prescriptions that are commonly associated with misuse and abuse. Recreational drug users may not seek out Seroquel when they’re looking for a euphoric high, but some people with substance use disorders may try the drug if other options aren’t available. But what happens if you misuse Seroquel, and can it cause addiction? Learn more about Seroquel addiction and its symptoms.
What is Seroquel?
Seroquel is a prescription drug brand name that contains an active ingredient called quetiapine fumarate. The Food and Drug Administration first approved the drug for use in the United States in 1997. It’s in a group of drugs called atypical antipsychotics, which are second-generation antipsychotics that work differently from first-generation drugs like chlorpromazine. Seroquel is approved for the treatment of schizophrenia, bipolar I disorder, and bipolar II disorder. It may also be used to treat major depressive disorder that’s severe enough to have psychotic symptoms.
Schizophrenia is a mental health disorder that causes symptoms like psychosis and delusions, among other common symptoms, like flat affect. Doctors may prescribe Seroquel to adults or children with psychotic symptoms, which are common in schizophrenia.
Bipolar disorder is another mental health disorder that can cause some psychotic symptoms. It’s a mood disorder, which is in a different class of mental health issues than schizophrenia. But bipolar I can cause extreme mania, which can cause paranoid delusions, delusions of grandeur, and other psychotic symptoms. Seroquel can be used to treat psychotic features of these extreme moods. It may also be used for the long-term management of bipolar disorders.
Both major depression and bipolar disorder can cause extremely low moods that cause delusional thinking and psychosis. Seroquel isn’t a first-line drug for treating depression, but it may be useful in treating severe cases.
Second-generation antipsychotics work in the brain in a way that’s different from first-generation drugs. Schizophrenia can come with two types of symptoms: positive symptoms and negative symptoms. “Positive” refers to symptoms that add something to your normal functioning, like delusions and hallucinations. “Negative” refers to symptoms that take away from your normal experience, like flat affect, speech problems, and the inability to feel pleasure.
Typical, first-generation antipsychotics were effective in treating positive symptoms, but they could make negative symptoms worse. They could also cause shaking, tremors, and other symptoms that were similar to Parkinson’s disease. Atypical, second-generation antipsychotics can effectively treat both positive and negative symptoms with fewer side effects.
How Addictive is Seroquel?
Seroquel, and other antipsychotic drugs, aren’t commonly used as recreational drugs, and they’re unlikely to cause a substance use disorder. The drug is not a federally controlled substance and only needs a prescription to purchase it. However, there has not been a systematic review of Seroquel concerning abuse potential, tolerance, or physical dependence. Still, according to the FDA, the drug’s clinical trials didn’t reveal any drug abuse tendencies.
But many prescription drugs can be misused and abused for different reasons, even if they aren’t commonly sought for recreational use. People with substance use disorders may try drugs like Seroquel when other options aren’t available, which can be dangerous. The FDA warns that doctors should screen patients for substance use problems before prescribing Seroquel and then monitor them for misuse as they use the prescription.
Seroquel’s Potential for Abuse
Prescription drugs used for recreational purposes usually have a few things in common. Typically, drugs with a high potential for abuse affect chemicals in the brain that are related to positive feelings. Feel-good chemicals include endorphins, dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin. Opioids mimic endorphins in the brain, stimulants, increase dopamine levels, and depressants relax you and release dopamine.
Seroquel works with serotonin and dopamine receptors, but it works as an antagonist. That means that Seroquel is able to bind to these receptors and block their activity. However, there are specific serotonin receptors that Seroquel can bind to act as a partial agonist, which means that it can partially activate some of its effects. Also, as it binds to some specific dopamine receptors in the brain, it blocks dopamine from taking effect, but then Seroquel rapidly detaches from these receptors, which can cause a surge of dopamine. However, this is often associated with a return of normal functioning in this part of the brain and may help prevent Parkinson’s-like symptoms.
People that use the drug aren’t likely to experience powerful euphoric effects.
Seroquel can also cause some uncomfortable side effects like constipation, drowsiness, upset stomach, tiredness, and weight gain. With little to no euphoric effects, Seroquel’s side effects may deter most people that aren’t using it to treat serious mental health issues.
Will Seroquel Cause You to Develop Dependence?
Dependence and addiction are related problems, but they are two different things. Chemical dependence is a process that affects the chemical balance in your brain. As you use a drug regularly, your brain will start to adapt to it, causing you to rely on it to feel normal. If you become dependent on a drug, you’ll start to experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms when you quit or cut back. Many prescription drugs can cause chemical dependence and withdrawal symptoms when you try to quit. This is often called discontinuation syndrome.
Seroquel can cause some uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking the drug. As with many prescriptions, you may experience a rebound of the symptoms you took the drug to treat. However, other Seroquel withdrawal symptoms have been reported, including insomnia, nausea, and vomiting. These symptoms may be more likely if you quit abruptly. For that reason, you should always consult your doctor before quitting a prescription cold-turkey or adjusting your dose.
Dependence does not necessarily mean that you have become addicted. But dependence can worsen addiction or increase your risk factors for addiction. Addiction is a disease that affects your brain’s reward center and causes you to crave drugs, even if it’s causing problems in your life. Dependence can make it even harder to stop using the drug since cravings are combined with uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.
What Are the Signs of Seroquel Misuse?
If someone decides to misuse or abuse Seroquel, it may cause some signs and symptoms, and it may be potentially dangerous. Misusing Seroquel may increase your risk of experiencing the drug’s common side effects. Common side effects of Seroquel include:
- Weight gain
- Blurred vision
- Dry mouth
Seroquel is also associated with some less common symptoms that can be more severe. In elderly patients with dementia or other cognitive issues like Alzheimer’s disease, Seroquel can be deadly, and it’s generally not used to treat such patients. Seroquel is also associated with rare but serious psychological issues like:
- Suicidal thoughts
- Suicidal actions
- New or worsening depression
- New or worsening anxiety
- Panic attacks
- New or worsening irritability
- Violent outbursts
If you experience any of these side effects, it’s important to notify your doctor right away. You may need to adjust your medication or change doses. If you’re misusing the medication, you should still speak to your doctor if you’re experiencing these concerning symptoms. If you experience deep depression, despair, or suicidal thoughts, it’s important to know that you can feel better with help.
Other general signs of prescription drug abuse are doctor shopping, hiding medications, lying about drug use, changes in sleep patterns, unexplained health problems, unexplained financial issues, problems at work or school, and strained relationships.
Can Seroquel Cause an Overdose?
Like many prescription drugs, taking high doses of Seroquel can be potentially dangerous. Very high doses of Seroquel can cause a potentially life-threatening overdose, along with some uncomfortable symptoms. According to the FDA, an overdose of 30 grams survived during clinical trials. A typical dose is no higher than 800 milligrams, which means the dose was more than 37 times the recommended maximum. However, another overdose of 13.6 grams was fatal during clinical trials. A dangerous dose may be much lower in some people, and taking the drug in any dose that’s higher than recommended is potentially dangerous.
Seroquel overdoses may be even more dangerous in patients with cardiovascular conditions. High doses can cause symptoms like tachycardia and hypotension, which can lead to heart failure in people that are vulnerable.