Q. Seroquel (quetiapine ) was given to my father-in-law at a nursing home where he was to recover strength after a stroke to then go to a rehab hospital. The nursing home gave him Seroquel along with a host of other drugs to keep him in the bed. This is known as chemical restraint. We later found that he was trying to get out of bed because he was in pain with a urinary tract infection. My father-in-law began having trouble swallowing, immediately began loosing weight and was put on a pureed diet. He also became completely disorganized and delirious. The nursing home then wanted to surgically implant a feeding tube.

There is an FDA Black box warning on Seroquel that it should not be given to seniors because it increases the risk of death.

We had to rush him to another doctor to get an order to override the nursing home doctor and get him off the Seroquel. The new doctor gave him a low dose of Haldol (haloperidol) to deal with the side effects of withdrawal. Eventually the nursing home badgered the new doctor into increasing the dose of Haldol and adding new drugs to keep him in the bed.

I could never get anyone to treat the delirium, which I felt was the major problem. Finally, I flew out and rented a handicapped van to take may father-in-law to another doctor who admitted him to a hospital to get him off the Haldol/Ativan that had been prescribed to help with the withdrawal of the Seroquel. Amazingly in the new hospital the doctor requested a psych consult and the psychiatrist prescribed a low dose of Seroquel to help with side effects of Haldol/Ativan withdrawal. Even though it was a very low dosage, my father-in-law immediately began choking, being unable to swallow.

They again did barium studies and wanted to put in a feeding tube. After many calls to the psychiatrist, we had to fax him the black box warning with a letter saying that the family did not want him on Seroquel under any circumstances, and wanted the drug discontinued immediately. Once he was off Seroquel the swallowing was no longer a problem. He recovered a great deal and was able to receive a major award from the University were he had been a professor and administrator.

At the award ceremony he knew everyone and enjoyed it. Eventually the multiple urinary tract infections he acquired in the nursing home or hospitals took a toll and he was hospitalized multiple times with urinary tract infections caused by MRSA [methicillin-resistant staph aureus]. Each time the hospital would prescribe Ativan [lorazepam] or some other drug that would kick up delirium again. He hung on this way for about a year and recently passed away.

I feel that the use Seroquel by the nursing home not only compromised his chance of recovering from the stroke, but robbed him of his clarity of mind in the last year of his life. It is too often used by nursing homes that solve staffing issues by drugging patients. If the nursing home had bothered do a urine test instead of prescribing Seroquel, my father-in-law could have avoided much suffering.

A. What a tragic story. We are so sorry to learn about your father-in-law’s experience with Seroquel. It should have been avoided.

As you point out with the link above, the FDA has a clear warning about the dangers of anti-psychotic drugs like Seroquel, especially in older people. Difficulty swallowing [dysphagia] is a recognized side effect of Seroquel. There is a special warning about swallowing problems in the official prescribing information:

“Esophageal dysmotility [difficulty swallowing] and aspiration have been associated with antipsychotic drug use. Aspiration pneumonia is a common cause of morbidity and mortality in elderly patients, in particular those with advanced Alzheimer’s dementia. SEROQUEL and other antipsychotic drugs should be used cautiously in patients at risk for aspiration pneumonia.”

Seroquel has a very long list of serious side effects. We find it astonishing that your father-in-law was given this drug in the first place following a stroke. It likely made his recovery more difficult. Here are some other side effects to be aware of:


  • Sleepiness, fatigue, drowsiness
  • Dry mouth
  • Dizziness, unsteadiness
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Constipation, digestive upset, heartburn, stomachache, nausea
  • Weight gain, increased appetite
  • Tremor, shaky hands
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Uncontrollable muscle movements
  • Visual disturbances
  • Anemia, blood disturbances
  • High cholesterol, elevated triglycerides
  • Back pain
  • Headache
  • Liver enzyme elevation
  • Rash, serious skin reactions (requires immediate medical oversight!)
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Fever (requires immediate medical attention!)
  • Diabetes
  • Irregular heart rhythms
  • Worsened depression, suicidal thoughts

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  1. Elena
    Greenville sc

    They did this to my mom in hospital. I asked no to be druged.She had serious side effects her only after one night. They druged them to keep them in bed.
    This sound like Dr Mengele treatment.
    They are killing our parents in these nursing home./hospitals.
    Call them concentration camp.

  2. Darlene
    Sarasota, FL

    Thank you all for sharing your stories and information. I was very lucky – mother lives with me (vascular dementia, stroke, Afib) – and her doctor prescribed Risperidone (another anti-psychotic) for her sundowners.

    When I went to the pharmacy to pick it up, the pharmacist asked me if I REALLY wanted my mother on the drug. She indicated that it’s NOT recommended for elderly with vascular/stroke issues and there was a Black Box warning. I thanked her, took it home anyway and did my own online research. I almost FELL OVER when I read about the detrimental effects Risperidone can have on the elderly. Under the ‘right’ circumstances, it CAN KILL THEM, and in SHORT ORDER. I called her doctor who said he’d had no such problem with the drug and it was safe for mom to take, ignoring the pharmacist’s warning, and my research. His tone of voice indicated he was rolling his eyes about the whole thing.

    Needless to say, I threw the drug out and just upped her dosage of Lorazepam. The increased dosage does seem to take the edge off of her moderate agitation. I went back to the pharmacist and gave her a hearty ‘thank you’ for calling the Black Box warning to my attention.

  3. Georganne

    My father had night terrors after WWII. He was in the hospital being treated for dehydration and he had a night terror. He was given Seroquel as a chemical restraint. He never regained consciousness and died two days later. The doctor who prescribed the Seroquel was unaware of the FDA Black Box warning. This is a dangerous drug.

    • Elena
      Greenville SC

      Has anybody start a legal action against Physician and pharmaceutical company?

  4. natalie

    Hello to those that have suffered side effects from the doctor’s approval of such a nefarious drug called QUETIAPINE, SEROQUEL. I recently returned from a 3 month stint in rehab, (alcohol ). I’m ok. BUT the side effects of Quetiapine are now out-weighing the benefits: I have a dreadful rash. I’ve become diabetic. Cholesterol is through the roof. Massive breasts. Oddly enough though, never gained weight. Soon to be weaned off. I’m on 150mg at night

  5. Miya

    I have been on seroquel for awhile now and i have severe dificulty swallowing at night it scares the hell out of me because I cant breathe and I panic.

  6. cheryl

    Many of the stories indicate the exact same situation I had with my 84 yr old father. His prescribed medication that I asked them to take him off Seriquill they did not. My complaints only resulted in his death.

    These professionals write up the reports, indicate all is ok, and when something does go wrong, they simply blame it on the age, heart failure, and there is nothing they could have done.

    When you disagree with the professionals, you are looked at as if you are crazy, or ignorant, and they cover their “butt” by writing reports the indicate otherwise.

    • tiffany

      I know the scary feeling of not being sble to swallow from serquel it sucks

  7. Missy

    I took Seroquel for a couple years and have been off it for 8 months. My dose was very low, as it was effective for sleep and mood stabilizing at a lower dose for me.

    The kicker was that the side effects started to hit at the low dose as well. Some people on higher dosages consider themselves physically disfigured by this medication – I can see why, and my dose wasn’t very high at all.

    The withdrawal shouldn’t have been bad at my dosage, but I can’t say it was easy either! I should have had next to no withdrawal symptoms – I had two weeks of withdrawal symptoms that made school (and exams weeks at that!) Much more difficult to get through than they should’ve been, stretching on for another 2 weeks (decreasing over time).

    Since I’ve been off Seroquel (and back on trazodone, which works just as well for sleep without those nasty side effects) I’ve stabilized my sleep, sleeping 6-9 hrs/night and being not only functional, but thriving on it! The weight gain and slowed metabolism have, alas, stuck it seems. I shouldn’t have been gaining weight when on the lowest dose od Seroquel AND highest of Adderall and barely eating! But I digress.

    While you’re on this medication it’s “nice”, so long as ur not getting ur butt handed to u by the side effects, but if u plan to START this medication I’d advise that u exhaust every other resource and medication first. If you’re trying to go OFF the medication; good luck, it’ll take commitment, lots of support, and taking a lot of time for yourself. Listen to your bodies, people – they’re trying to tell us something!

  8. AT

    My 87 y.o. Mom is experiencing withdrawal from Seroquel. She does not want to take it, and has been refusing it from the med dispensers at her assisted living. The withdrawal is so severe (very agitated, can’t eat/says things that don’t make sense) I’m worried this will do her in.

    While she was on it consistently, she was lucid with excellent memory, though zombified and too drowsy to do anything. This pattern has happened each time we have unsuccessfully tried to gradually reduce the dose. The dangerous effect for her seems to be starvation. The facility is oblivious to the withdrawal effects from not taking it and lumps her in to the elderly dementia category. I blame the fact that there is no initial warning of the drug’s life threatening addictive effects to consent to.

  9. Misty bailey
    West virginia

    My father is 67 been in nursing home a lil over a yr. in winter he got depressed and started showing irritable behavior towards staff at times. They failed to treat him properly and after 3 mths put him on seroquel to pretty much keep him sleeping or out of it. He was on it a month till I complained enough to take him off of it.

    It’s been a month and he has jerking can’t hold his drinks and his mind is so messed up. He dosent know much and is very confused. On top of this he was a person who has congestive heart failure, low working heart kidney problems theyoid problems diabetes and blood pressure problems and he is bipolar. Drs r saying this med didn’t hurt him but I totally disagree. What is ur opinion? We re fighting to get him back to normal!!!

  10. Georganne

    My 87 year old father was admitted to the hospital with dehydration. During the night he was woken by a nurse to check his vitals. She said he was uncooperative so she elected to give him Seroquel. (It’s important to note that he was on on other medications.) He fell into a vegetative state and never woke up. He died a day and half later. No one at the hospital, the doctors, the neurologist, or the nursing staff knew about the FDA black box warning that Seroquel carries. My father passed away because of someone’s lack of knowledge about a drug they administered off label.

  11. Annonymous
    United States

    In my recent experience with family members in nursing homes, Seroquel is routinely “prescribed” to the elderly. Nursing homes give all sorts of drugs to residents and are loathe to tell family members, and it was an uphill battle getting them to take people off the meds. Family members also had bad reactions to this drug.

    A friend has a mentally ill family member who was hospitalized and needed medication. But the psychiatric staff would not medicate the patient because the patient would not consent so medicating was then deemed ILLEGAL. Why, then, is it legal to overmedicate nursing home residents with NO familial consent when the families are paying exorbitant fees for proper care? It feels like whole families give up their rights when they send their relatives to for-profit nursing homes. If medicating against one’s will is ILLEGAL in a psych hospital, why is it business as usual in a nursing home?

  12. Kat S.

    This is happening to my 88 year old mother right now. I’m going to the nursing home tomorrow to discuss the use of seroquil and ativan.

    • john

      I am a 58 year old who was diagnosed as bipolar after I came out of the sike hospital from a nervous breakdown. the 2nd shrink said this and had me on quitiapine and Ativan for 14 months till I said its time to stop or taper. ofcourse my shrink said its a life long drug. I had so much problems at work I had a breakdown and I was the shrink meal ticket. the first day without quitiapine I began to hear this excruciating noise in my ears that made me very anxious and just wanting to end my existence.5 weeks later the tinnitus is still their ,my life is ruinded and intolerable.shrink says he never heard any thing like this before but I know better because I read testomonials about this drug on some sites.

      • danusha

        I use seroquel for my bipolar 25mg nightime at this dose its calming helps sleep plus im on anti depressant and mood stabilizers epilum. Is your father on other meds for bi polar. I have had no issues at 25mg or 50mg

  13. cicatricekodeia

    I suffer with a condition called Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder (I still don’t know whether my severe depression is a symptom of this or a separate illness altogether) and I’m prescribed 300mg of quetiapine – 150mg twice daily – and, although I have had to deal with some side effects eg feeling more depressed and suicidal for the first 2-3 weeks & continuing problems with muscle weakness (for a couple of hours after taking it); dry mouth; some difficulty swallowing; drowsiness etc – I would rather be with, than without, it. I’m guessing from what I’ve read on here that this is a predominantly American website (I’m in the UK) & I’ve noticed that some of the side effects I’ve read about on here aren’t mentioned in the information leaflet I receive with my prescription – I’ve even seen differences between different generic “brands” of quetiapine produced in different parts of Europe. I truly sympathise with your ordeal & I hope that you will, one day, reach a point were memories of him bring joy rather than pain.
    (I’d just like to point out that some words are spelt differently in the UK to the US.)

  14. RC

    I am bipolar, am 67 years old, and take a very low dosage of seroquel prescribed by my psychiatrist, along with two other psychiatric medications. It is essential for controlling my condition. The only side effect I can think of is occasional hand tremors. My mother’s assisted living physician prescribed it for her to sleep, and it helped her, but it is really a very powerful psychotropic drug and it is not recommended for a sleeping aid.

    • danusha

      Seroquel i find is dose dependent re side effects,25mg is fine 50mg can make me a bit slow.i take small dose of lexapro a tidepressant and 1400mg epilum mood stabilizer. This combo siuts me best after 15 years of combinations.My experience with Ativan which is a benzodiazepam was shocking it completely wiped out my anti depressant was not on mood stabilizers at time.Ended up booking myself into rehab to get off Ativan.Benzos are shocking seroquel is much better

  15. JK

    Marie, please try counseling or behavioral treatment. Panic, agoraphobia and depression –if those are indeed your only problems–are NOT thought to respond to antipsychotics. People with anxiety disorders KNOW their fears are out of proportion—and that awareness means they are not psychotic. Seroquel is intended for psychosis. That means people who have delusions or thought disorders–not just mood disorders. Unless you have mania and Schizophrenia, could you look into whether you may be over-medicating yourself?
    (a concerned psychology student)

  16. sam

    I’m so sorry this happened. Good for you for advocating for him though. I work in mental health and we get a lot of seniors with no psych history whatsoever that become delirious and psychotic… and uti. With seniors having a uti can make them become psychotic. So take care of the uti, they return to normal.

  17. L. W.

    I am 66. I am a male survivor of childhood sexual abuse. After difficulty with bad dreams, my M.D. prescribed escitalipram (aka Cipralex) 20 mg. in the day and Quetiapine (aka Seroquel) 65 mg. at night for PTSD symptoms of bad dreams. Initially I had quite a few of the listed side effects including dry mouth, dehydration, profuse sweating, and perhaps one or two others. What Quetiapine DID DO is relieve my nightmares. And then after two weeks the sweating abated and I am no longer as dehydrated because in the night I drink water (simple solution). In my experience Seroquel/Quetiapine has dramatically improved my quality of life. If the day comes when I need to enter a nursing facility, and I develop UTI and have agitation, restlessness, and a need to leave the bed, hopefully the facility will diagnose the UTI and treat it while keeping me on my Quetiapine.

  18. Bg

    As a former RN I thought, when antidepressants were first introduced, that they were miraculous, and may still be for patients who have problems with severe depression. But now they are often prescribed off label for many other physical ailments as well as for sleep etc. You name it. This is when IMHO they become dangerous and I became a victim myself.
    All started when I went to a psychologist, both my husband and I, after he had survived a very serious illness having been hospitalized two+ months, then back in several more times r/t complications. I must say here that she and I did not click as a warning to others to seek out therapists as critically as one seeks out primary care docs, specialists etc.
    She suggested that I MAY be depressed so I went to my primary care doc, whom I trust dearly, and she put me on Lexapro but first asking me if I thought I was depressed. I told her my therapist thought I was and she was more qualified than I was. That was 2001. It did seem to help for quite a while. As time passed my husband was put on lots more meds, which he still takes but has always been a pill popper and a hypochondriac.
    Next the therapist thought I should visit a friend of hers, a psychiatrist, who could prescribe more meds. She was making the diagnosis but could not prescribe as a psychologist. I cried a lot at visits with her and I think it made her overreact. Anyway it was downhill from there and by then I was starting to believe I was becoming seriously depressed.
    Her MD friend, over time, put me on all kinds of other drugs, ranging from upping Lexapro, adding and upping Ambien etc., until I was feeling and acting like a robot. Believe it or not the reason I went to the first doc because I thought my husband was on too many meds and it was changing his personality!!! And I had started to drink too much in an effort to self medicate.
    Now he was back to work and I was spending half my life in one therapists office or the other. I decided it was in my best interest to stop seeing both of them as he announced he was leaving the state. For a while after my primary care doc put me on Cymbalta but I didn’t like it so I went back on Lexapro. In her defense I must say I think she is a true believer in using these meds as many docs are.
    Finally I went to a social worker who was my age for what had now become marital problems. She worked in conjunction with a psychiatrist she thought I should see and, at her suggestion, he prescribed Seroque (25-50mgs)l for sleep, which did work beautifully for a long time until all I ever wanted to do was sleep, all day, all night. Did not have any energy, became lethargic. For the past year, all I was taking was Seroquel but was losing interest in everything else.
    Finally, in much pain I went to my primary care doc who dxd. me with fibromyalgia and prescribed Cymbalta. She gave me samples that would last one month and a script. My husband was thrilled telling me how well it works for him. I don’t know why but after taking it for a month and not feeling any better, in fact, was feeling similar to s/e of Seroquel I decided to go on the web and do some investigating. I went off Seroquel cold turkey but was taking Trazadone, which did not work so I stopped taking that also.
    My husband kept saying it took 4-5 weeks for it to work. I stopped anyway because I had taken it for 4 weeks. I don’t know why it took me so long because I was getting hot flashes, brain zaps, tinnitus, heat prostration, coordination problems, balance problems, vision problems and overall thinking it had to be r/t aging and all the stresses my husband and I had been thru, which probably did agitate things but my health seemed to be deteriorating at a pretty rapid pace and I was becoming more depressed than ever.
    I do not keep track of the days I’ve been off in a journal but I am definitely in the withdrawal phase and only hoping it won’t last a long time. Tried Benadryl for sleep but that seems to stay in my system and makes me groggy. Last night I had two small glasses of white wine, one with dinner and one an hour before bedtime. I am not recommending this but if it gets me over the hump I will continue until I can finally miraculously hopefully sleep on my own again.
    This has been one if the worst experiences of my life and mostly because I was naive enough to trust someone with some problems that I could have solved on my own a lot better than this roller coaster ride I ended up on. My husband goes to a geriatric doctor who has prescribed lots of his meds. He is still on Cymbalta and has no empathy, can be quite mean but I know he will never go off if it.
    I am not sure which drug/drugs this writing sh/be listed under. I wrote under Seroquel but it also applies to Cymbalta, Lexapro, Trazodone etc. Good luck to anyone else whose is struggling with withdrawal. I may never be the same physically or emotionally but it can’t be much worse than the damage the off label use of these powerful drugs are causing.

  19. Marie

    I have had depression, panic attacks, claustrophobia and agoraphobia since I was 16 years old. Genetic link Grandmother with paranoid schizophrenia with periods of deep depression, also a very dysfunctional upbringing with mental and physical abuse.
    Four years ago I was put on 50 mgs of seroquel which has given me my life back! I am now sixty but what a great age to be alive as I do not suffer depression etc anymore. I sleep well and have packed so much into the last four years I possible could!
    The only side effects I have are sore bones in my hands and knees and some visual disturbances. I take only 50 mgs a night.
    Small price to pay for a life. I certainly agree that we use these drugs too freely and not always ethically!

  20. J J

    Follow the money. The doctors and facilities were reimbursed for this man’s medications and procedures, so they kept giving him medications and procedures and kept him in a nursing home bed.
    I’ve heard about a similar situation, from a friend in Nevada who had the presence of mind and medical experience to wrench his loved one from the grasp of the system and take her home (against medical advice). She was sitting up in bed and reading the newspaper within days and eventually returned to some of her old activities. She continued to receive regular medical care but he never allowed them to put her in a nursing home again.

  21. Judith P.

    Yes, what a sad tale. Seroquel should only be used in patients that are truely mentally ill. For them it may be the difference between life at home and life in an institution. These powerful antipsychotics drugs are casually advetised on TV that those with minor or situational problems think these drugs are the answer.
    The nursing home example is all too common and there are states that have specific patient protection laws for drugs, just like those for phyical restraints.

  22. anonymous

    I was a nurse for 14 years, having my children, taking care of my family. But I became depressed and for 20 years. I had ECT, one medication after another, and living as a zombie. I finally found a Dr. that helped me. But it was with seroquel.
    It raised my depression. I had stayed away from people for years but I started going out in public. It’s not a drug for everyone and it shouldn’t be used as a chemical restraint. But I have been given my life back.
    It’s not without side effects. I move my hands constantly. I lost almost 20 years of my life, seeing my kids growing up with no memory of most of it. I live with memory and thought problems. I would only recommend Seroquel as a last resort. There is sometimes a use for a very strong drug. It hasn’t quit working for 8 years. I hide my bipolar from everybody. Because no one understands it. Mentally ill people scare most people.

  23. Denise

    Amen, Abigail.

  24. Angela M. R.

    Fifty years ago, my father suffered a stroke and had to go to County hospital. He and other elderly gentlemen were immobile in their beds. My father’s next bed neighbor died and no one knew it until hours later. Overdose? My father hallucinated; that told us that these unfortunate patients were drugged beyond belief. At that time, people like us thought doctors were a step below God; whatever they said was accepted. Now that I’m 83,it’s a big concern of mine.

  25. abigail

    Thank you to the person who told her story so that others may be able to avoid the horrible misuse of this prescription drug. I am deeply moved by her helplessness in the face of authorities that are too busy to pay careful attention to what is going on.
    We cannot rely on being able to do our own research when we are ill.

  26. MarthaD

    This is very sad – an almost identical situtation occured with my aunt. She lasted about 6 months in the nursing home, with me begging them to stop the Seroquel. They said they had stopped it but they didn’t.
    I read where there was a congressional investigation but have heard nothing more. My aunt had three problems that were totally ignored by doctors, but would have required more individual attention and I assume that is not likely to happen in nursing homes.
    I do hope others are more successful at helping their loved ones survive while being “cared” for than I was. I still feel very guilty that I didn’t do more to help her.

  27. crandreww

    I am so deeply sorry to hear of your/your family’s experience. Too often health care providers doctors, nurses, Nurse Practitioners and Physician assistants are only educated regarding a new drug, solely by the Drug company, which stands to make money off of the use of their drug. I am ashamed to admit, as a former RN, I was an unknowing part, ignorant if you will, regarding this complete brainwashing, that is done by our Pharma industry, that tells health care providers of the positive side of the drugs, without divulging too much of the actual clinical data discovered during clinical trials…May I suggest if you would like more info on how this is done, you pick up a copy of “Confessions of an Rx Drug Pusher” by Gwen OLson, who was a very successful Pharma Rep…
    Again, my heart is broken to hear of the travesty which has deeply scarred you and your family.

  28. texasbyrd

    With all those side effects, I don’t see that this drug would benefit any human. We have become ‘lab rats’ for the pharmacuetical world.
    I read the Peoples Pharmacy and still do web searches on some topics and really do not trust many prescriptions without my own research.
    Thanks for all you do.

  29. Denise

    This is so sad that it has brought me to tears. That poor, poor man. Even with his daughter-in-law acting as an exemplary advocate, he suffered greatly and probably died prematurely at the mercy of idiots.
    I, for one, would like to know the names of the nursing home and the doctors involved in this tragedy. Perhaps this woman will post her story at Angie’s List and save someone else from being victimized like this.

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