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What is Seroquel?
Also known in its generic form (quetiapine), Seroquel belongs to a powerful class of medications called atypical antipsychotics or second-generation antipsychotics (SGA). Seroquel is not a controlled substance, although Seroquel withdrawal and abuse do occur. Seroquel’s abuse risk is heightened when the drug is taken off a prescription in ways other than as prescribed, or in combination with other substances.1
What Does Seroquel Treat?
As an atypical antipsychotic, Seroquel works by rebalancing dopamine and serotonin levels in the brain to help lift mood, create clear thinking, and prompt more helpful behaviors.
Seroquel is most frequently prescribed for treating schizophrenia. Seroquel is also approved for acute treatment of manic and depressive episodes of bipolar disorder, long-term bipolar disorder treatment, and as a supplement to ongoing therapy for major depressive disorder (MDD)2. Seroquel dosages typically come in 25 mg, 50 mg, 100 mg, 200 mg, and 300 mg.
Many physicians prescribe Seroquel for off-label use, including for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), delusional parasitosis, and delirium while in intensive care.2
Quetiapine Side Effects
Regardless of the size of Seroquel dosage, several side effects accompany short and long-term use.3
- Changes in mood
- Stomach pain
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Sleep issues
- Sore throat
- Dry mouth
- Shifts in appetite
- Weight gain
- Tenderness or discharge from breasts
- Missed menstrual cycles
- Extrapyramidal symptoms (restlessness, tremors, stiffness)
- Tardive dyskinesia (uncontrollable, jerky, and often slow movements that frequently begin at the mouth with chewing motions or tongue rolling.)
While not life-threatening, quetiapine side effects can cause significant discomfort. If you are looking for relief from Seroquel side effects, consulting with your primary care provider can help.
While rare, Seroquel overdoses can occur and present life-threatening symptoms. The most significant areas of risk with a Seroquel overdose are respiratory depression, swift drops in blood pressure, profound drowsiness, and becoming comatose. For this reason, if you believe you or someone you know is experiencing a Seroquel overdose, seek emergency medical services immediately.
Again, a Seroquel overdose is rare and has occurred in only a handful of instances where the dosage was above 800 mg (the maximum recommended dose for humans). Clinical trials have reported survival in cases of acute overdose with doses up to 30 grams (30,000 mg), with one case of reported mortality at the Seroquel dosage of 13.6 g (13,600 g).4 The risk of overdose can increase when taken in combination with other substances such as alcohol or opioids. A long as you take Seroquel as prescribed, overdose is unlikely to occur.
Seroquel Withdrawal Symptoms
While addiction to Seroquel is uncommon, it is relatively easy to develop a Seroquel dependence. As people attempt to limit their use, many find the path through withdrawal can include side effects.
- Irritability, restlessness, and agitation
- Nausea and/or vo
- Trouble sleeping
- Increased sweating
- Stomach or GI pain
- Muscle tension
- Increased heart rate
In rare circumstances, some individuals may experience “withdrawal dyskinesia.” Withdrawal dyskinesia features involuntary and abnormal movements, mainly of facial muscles and the upper body.
How Long Does Withdrawal Last?
The length of time someone might experience Seroquel withdrawal generally begins within hours and can last a few weeks. If symptoms last longer than six weeks, they are relabeled as “persistent post-withdrawal symptoms.”
Factors that Impact Withdrawal Severity
The severity and length of time of withdrawal from Seroquel are highly individualized and depend on several factors.
- Seroquel dosage
- Length of use
- Frequency of use
- Genetic predisposition towards dependence
- Method of withdrawal (tapering vs. cold turkey)
One study examining the nature of antipsychotic withdrawal found that 48% of people experienced some form of symptoms.5 The percentage of people who experience Seroquel withdrawal symptoms is thought to be even lower. However, Seroquel’s minimal history of misuse makes it difficult to determine how widespread withdrawal symptoms are.
Phases of Seroquel Withdrawal
While Seroquel withdrawal will look and feel different for each person, symptoms tend to remain fairly consistent and fit into three main categories.
New Withdrawal often sets in almost immediately upon stopping Seroquel use, typically within the first four days and lasts for about a week. Some symptoms may persist for up to six weeks, after which point the symptoms are reclassified as persistent post-withdrawal.
New withdrawal symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, insomnia, abdominal pain, and the withdrawal symptoms mentioned above.
Symptoms of rebound withdrawal can occur within the same period as new withdrawal symptoms. It is important to note that these may not be true withdrawal symptoms, but rather the re-emergence of symptoms previously being treated by Seroquel. The re-emergence of these symptoms may feel more severe than they did originally.
Symptoms of withdrawal are relabeled as persistent post-withdrawal when they extend past six weeks after last use. The drug types most associated with persistent post-withdrawal are antipsychotics, SSRIs, and SNRIs.6
Coping and Relief
If you are worried about Seroquel dependence and considering stopping use, there are several steps you can take to ease withdrawal symptoms. While quetiapine side effects are considered relatively minimal compared to other commonly prescribed drugs, Seroquel withdrawal can trigger the onset of antipsychotic withdrawal symptoms.
Dangers of Stopping Abruptly
It is critical to talk with your physician before discontinuing Seroquel. You need to have a plan in place to ease the mental health symptoms behind why you were taking Seroquel in the first place. Additionally, working alongside medical professionals helps ensure you protect your health and minimize discomfort while recovering.
To prevent the recurrence of mental health disorder symptoms and keep antipsychotic withdrawal symptoms at bay, many physicians choose to taper Seroquel dosage. Instead of going “cold turkey,” tapering allows an individual to slowly lower their dosage and help their body gradually become accustomed to operating without the drug’s help.
Tapering may or may not be recommended by your physician, depending on your length of use and dosage. If you took Seroquel for under twelve weeks at a low dose, you might not need tapering. But if you took the drug for under twelve weeks in high quantities or over twelve weeks at moderate levels – tapering can prove essential.
How Long Does it Take to Clear Seroquel from the System?
Seroquel has a half-life of roughly seven hours, meaning it often takes about one and a half days to clear all traces of the drug from the system.7 Several factors can impact whether it takes more or less time to eliminate the drug, including Seroquel dosage, length of use, frequency of use, and individual health factors.
Seroquel Withdrawal Treatment
Numerous pathways can provide relief while working through antipsychotic withdrawal. Treatment plans often include physician-assisted detox, therapies, and inpatient and outpatient programs.
Although Seroquel dependence is not the same as drug addiction, detox can still help you put your best foot forward in stopping or lessening dependence. Most care providers prefer to begin with detox to provide their patients with the strongest start on their path to recovery. While there are no current medications approved to help with Seroquel withdrawal, the detoxification process is made more comfortable by tapering.
When we use substances for long periods, our bodies and minds grow to rely on them. While detox helps heal the physical symptoms of withdrawal and dependence, therapy is more effective for addressing the habits that cause us psychological distress. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a widely used therapy that focuses on identifying unhelpful thought patterns to create more beneficial behaviors and habits.
For those who have just experienced an overdose, are struggling with overlapping drug addictions or mental health disorders, or feel their environment is not conducive to recovery – inpatient care can be a great option. With twenty-four-hour access to resources to help reinforce sobriety and keep you on the path to recovery, inpatient care provides a reliable support system and environment to keep you on track.
Outpatient care provides an attractive alternative for people who crave additional support in decreasing Seroquel use but are unable to take extended time off work or away from home. Outpatient care is typically best suited for individuals who already have robust support systems and an environment that will reinforce the work they do in recovery.
Looking for support as you discontinue Seroquel use? We at Brooks Healing Center are ready to help. Reach out today to connect with one of our compassionate care providers.