Side Effects of Seroquel (Quetiapine)

Seroquel (quetiapine)

Seroquel is the brand name for the drug quetiapine, which is FDA-approved to treat symptoms caused by schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. While it can have many therapeutic benefits, its side effects can be unpleasant or even dangerous. 

Is Seroquel Dangerous?

When taken as approved by the FDA, Seroquel should pose minimal risk. However, some clinicians prescribe the atypical antipsychotic for other conditions including anxiety, substance abuse, and post-traumatic stress disorder. This off-label prescription can lead to adverse side effects. In addition, Seroquel has the potential for abuse, which poses the risk of overdose. These risks can be minimized by closely following doctor recommendations about how to use the drug. 

Short-Term Side Effects of Seroquel

Seroquel has several common short-term side effects that include1,2:

  • Indigestion
  • Constipation
  • Dry mouth
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Headache
  • Muscle weakness
  • Irritability and mood swings
  • Increased heart rate
  • Problems thinking or speaking
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Serious Side Effects of Seroquel

In addition to these common unpleasant side effects, Seroquel use is sometimes associated with more serious and rare side effects. These include3:

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Trouble breathing
  • Uncontrollable bodily movements in the arms, legs, or face
  • Confusion
  • Abnormal vision

Seroquel Abuse

Seroquel is not classified as a controlled substance because it is not considered to have a high potential for addiction, though there are reports of dependence4. Abuse, which can occur independently of addiction, is still common. The drug may be abused by those who take a higher dosage than prescribed or who take the drug without a prescription at all. The drug can be administered orally, intravenously, or by snorting5. Those who abuse Seroquel may feign symptoms or visit multiple clinicians in order to obtain prescriptions.

Long-Term Effects of Seroquel Abuse

Chronic or long-term effects of Seroquel can be serious and permanent in some cases. Long-term effects include6:

  • Weight gain

As a long-term side effect of Seroquel, weight gain can lead to other serious health problems including heart, lung, and other organ damage.

  • High cholesterol

High cholesterol and blood pressure as a result of Seroquel use can increase the risk of heart attacks.

  • Tardive Dyskinesia

Tardive dyskinesia is a condition that affects the nervous system and results in jerky uncontrollable bodily movements that resemble Parkinson’s. 

  • Cataracs

Blurring and clouding of the vision is a rare long-term side effect of Seroquel. 

  • Thyroid problems

Thyroid problems, namely a decrease in thyroid hormones, can result from Seroquel use. This may worsen with longer drug use.

  • Hyperglycemia

Seroquel can create metabolic issues like increased blood sugar which can be linked to diabetes. The blood sugar change can be so extreme, it can lead to coma or death.

  • Seizures

The risk of seizure when taking Seroquel is higher among those who already suffer from seizures.

  • Increase body temperature and dehydration

Seroquel impairs the body’s natural mechanism for regulating body temperature. Risk of dehydration is possible especially for those who regularly exercise or live in hot climates.

Seroquel Long Term Effects

Is Seroquel Safe for the Elderly?

Seroquel and other antipsychotic drugs carry an FDA black box warning for use with elderly patients with dementia-related psychosis7. As a result, Seroquel is only recommended for use with elderly patients as a last resort when other options for treatment have been exhausted.

Seroquel Overdose

Seroquel overdose is not common but it is possible, especially when the drug is combined with other medications8. Symptoms of an overdose may include:

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Severe sedation or drowsiness
  • Abnormal heart rate
  • Low blood pressure
  • Coma
  • Death

Seroquel overdose should be managed by health care professionals that will ensure the airways are open and the gastrointestinal tract is free of traces of the drug. This may be accomplished using gastric lavage (stomach pumping), activated charcoal, or laxatives.

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Psychological Effects of Seroquel

Though Seroquel is used to treat psychological distress to improve mental health, it can also have a negative impact on mental health. The drug can lead to psychological impairment, which is why it is not recommended for use when driving or operating heavy machinery.

The drug is also associated with increased depressive symptoms and suicidal ideation, which can lead to suicide. This negative effect is especially marked in those younger than 24. Patients with depressive symptoms who take Seroquel should be monitored closely to reduce the likelihood of worsening symptoms.

Does Seroquel Cause Withdrawal Symptoms?

Discontinuation of Seroquel and other antipsychotics can lead to withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms may persist for days or weeks and may be worse if the dose was eliminated suddenly. Withdrawal symptoms include:

  •  Dizziness
  •  Headache
  • Irritability
  • Diarrhea
  •  Nausea and vomiting
  • Trouble sleeping

These symptoms are a common part of the detox process. To reduce their severity, Seroquel users should slowly lower the dose over a period of time determined by a doctor. It is not recommended to quit suddenly.

When to Seek Help for Seroquel Addiction

Emergency treatment for Seroquel abuse and addiction should be sought if you experience serious or potentially long-term effects of Seroquel. Inpatient treatment may be recommended in cases where Seroquel abuse and subsequent withdrawal requires round-the-clock care. A trained clinician can help determine the best treatment plan in order to detox and reduce withdrawal symptoms. Replacement antipsychotics might be required to manage symptoms Seroquel was prescribed for.
  1. U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus. (2018). Quetiapine.
  2. S. Department of Health and Human Services; U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)—FDA Approved Drug Products. (2013). SEROQUEL XR® (quetiapine fumarate) tablets.
  3. U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus. (2018). Quetiapine.
  4. Brett J. Concerns about quetiapine. Aust Prescr. 2015; 38(3): 95-97. 
  5. Sansone RA, Sansone LA. Is seroquel developing an illicit reputation for misuse/abuse?Psychiatry (Edgmont). 2010; 7(1): 13-16.
  8. U.S. National Library of Medicine: DailyMed. (2017). Seroquel.