Zyprexa (olanzapine) is one of a group of medications called atypical antipsychotics. Zyprexa is used to control delusional thinking, apathy, strong emotions, and other symptoms that may accompany schizophrenia experienced by adults and teenagers over the age of 13. This medication may also be used to treat episodes of mania and depression for people (over the age of 13) diagnosed with bipolar. This medication can help control behaviors that accompany schizophrenia or bipolar, but it will not cure these conditions. Zyprexa has also been prescribed to some people to control nausea and vomiting as a result of chemotherapy.
- What are some ways to get the most out of my treatment with this medication?
Antipsychotic medication paired with a type of psychotherapy may help you yield a longer lasting, better mental health outcome than treating your condition with medication alone. While medication can be great for controlling associated symptoms, it fails to address behaviors and emotions, and does little to teach a person about what he or she is experiencing. Finding a qualified therapist or counselor, however, may allow you to explore your experiences in a safe place where you can gain a better understanding of triggers and learn what you can do to cope in healthy ways when symptoms arise. Many therapists also offer training in yoga, meditation, breathing exercises, and other ways to naturally lower anxiety levels and stress that may also accompany some mental health conditions.
- What is the safest way to take this medication?
Zyprexa may come in the form of a tablet to be swallowed or as an orally disintegrating tablet. This medication is generally administered once per day, and may be taken with or without food. Take this prescription only as directed by your doctor. You may begin taking a low dosage, and your doctor may increase your dosage in order to find the ideal amount medication for you. You may need to take this medication for a few weeks before you feel its full therapeutic effects.
- What should I do if I miss a dose?
Find a Therapist
- What should I do if I overdose on this medication?
Call your doctor or contact a poison control center immediately. Do not induce vomiting unless advised to do so by a trained medical professional. Symptoms of overdose may include drowsiness, slurred or slowed speech, and seizures.
Warnings Before Use
This medication is not recommended for use by older adults experiencing dementia as it may increase the possibility of death during treatment. According to this medication’s black box warning, elderly people with dementia-related psychosis are at a heightened risk for high levels of fat in the blood, high blood sugar, obesity, strokes, and mini strokes.
Some teens who take this medication report weight gain, high levels of fat in the blood, liver problems, breast enlargement, and breast discharge. For best results, teens taking Zyprexa should consider using this medication as part of an overall treatment plan that includes therapy. Teens are more likely to experience side effects from this medication than adults.
If you have a history of heart disease, heart failure, irregular heartbeat, high or low blood pressure, stroke, or seizures you should talk to your doctor before you take this medication. Tell your doctor if you or anyone in your family currently has or has ever had diabetes. In 2005, the manufacturer of this medication paid over $690 million in order to settle over 8000 claims that this medication may cause life-threatening diabetes.
If you currently have, or have had any problems in the past with addictive drugs, including street drugs and medication, you should talk with your doctor before you take this medication. You should also mention any serious reactions you may have had to other similar medications. If you are taking other prescription drugs or supplements, you should check with your doctor or pharmacist before taking this drug. Zyprexa may interact with other medications or supplements, including antihistamines, antidepressants, antacids, antifungal medications, sleeping pills, antipsychotics, high blood pressure medications, vitamins, minerals, herbal products, and more.
The longer you use this medication, the greater the possibility that you will develop tardive dyskinesia and neuroleptic malignant syndrome. Tardive dyskinesia is a severe movement condition that affects the lips, tongue, face, torso, and extremities. Neuroleptic malignant syndrome is a rare but deadly condition characterized by high fever, muscle rigidity, and autonomic dysfunction.
Zyprexa, like many antipsychotic drugs, carries significant risk factors. If you are prescribed this drug, your doctor and/or pharmacist should discuss the following information with you:
- This medication may cause problems in newborns if taken during pregnancy or while breastfeeding. If you are pregnant or become pregnant while taking this medication, you should talk to your doctor about other possible treatments for your condition.
- This medication may make you extremely drowsy. Avoid driving, operating heavy machinery, climbing, or other potentially dangerous activities until you find out how this medication affects you.
- People who take this drug may experience fainting if they stand up too quickly from a lying or sitting position. This is a condition known as orthostatic hypotension and is a common side effect among antipsychotic medications. To reduce the possibility of injury, put both feet on the floor and stand up slowly.
- Avoid using alcohol with this medication. Alcohol may increase the intensity and frequency of side effects.
- Tell your surgeon or anesthesiologist that you are taking this medication if you plan to have any type of surgery, including oral surgery.
- Avoid smoking cigarettes and using tobacco products as they may interfere with the effectiveness of this drug.
- Do not eat grapefruit, drink grapefruit juice, or consume any grapefruit-based products as they may interact with this medication.
- Zyprexa may cause an increase in blood sugar, particularly when you first start taking this medication. If you begin showing signs of ketoacidosis, a serious condition related to your blood sugar levels, you should call your doctor right away. Symptoms of ketoacidosis include increased thirst or hunger, blurred vision, sweet or fruity smelling breath, weakness, increased urination, and coma. This condition may be fatal.
- People taking this medication may overheat more easily and may have trouble cooling down after strenuous physical activity. Avoid dehydration, especially during hot weather or when exercising.
Possible Side Effects
If you experience serious or severe side effects from this medication, you should call your doctor immediately. Serious side effects may include:
- Irregular or fast heartbeat
- Difficulty swallowing or breathing
- Hives or rash
- Swelling of face, eyes, or extremities
- Muscle stiffness
- Fever or sweating
- Unusual, uncontrollable facial or body movements
- Vision changes
Less serious side effects may include:
- Drowsiness, dizziness, or weakness
- Insomnia or difficulty staying asleep
- Dry mouth
- Weight gain
- Restlessness or agitation
- Difficulty moving around or walking
- Pain in the joints, arms, or legs
- Breast discharge or enlargement
- Missed or late menstrual periods
- Decreased sexual ability
How to Safely Withdraw
Do not reduce or stop this medication unless advised to do so by your doctor. To reduce the intensity of possible withdrawal symptoms, gradually taper off of this medication rather than stopping abruptly. Symptoms of withdrawal may include:
- Return of mental health issues
- Suicidal ideation
- Excessive sweating
- Loss of appetite
- Drugs.com. (2014). Zyprexa. Retrieved from http://www.drugs.com/zyprexa.html
- Medline Plus. (2013). Olanzapine. Retrieved from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/meds/a601213.html
- RxList. (2013). Zyprexa. Retrieved from http://www.rxlist.com/zyprexa-drug.htm
- United States Food and Drug Administration. (2009). Medication guide: Zyprexa. Retrieved from http://www.fda.gov/downloads/drugs/drugsafety/ucm134700.pdf
Page content reviewed by James Pendleton, ND.