Antipsychotic medications were developed for treating severe mental illness, in particular schizophrenia. Older antipsychotics such as Thorazine, Mellaril and Haldol have a number of serious side effects including weight gain, diabetes, skin reactions, hormonal disruption, seizures and uncontrollable muscle movements. When a new generation of medications called atypical antipsychotics came along, physicians were excited about the potential for safer and more effective treatment of mental illness. In recent years, however, drugs such as Abilify, Risperdal, Seroquel and Zyprexa have not been shown to be substantially more effective. They have also been found to cause weight gain and diabetes along with a number of other serious side effects.
A recent study suggests that these drugs are being overused. They are frequently prescribed for conditions other than schizophrenia including autism, bipolar disorder, depression and dementia. The number of prescriptions for such medications has nearly tripled over the last 15 years. Some experts believe that some manufacturers have been inappropriately promoting off-label uses. Overuse of these drugs in children may be especially problematic.
[Pharmacoepidemiology and Drug Safety, Jan. 2011]