OCD and Atypical Antipsychotics

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This post originally appeared in October 2013. Since that time, more antipsychotics have appeared on the market and more studies have shown the harm they can cause……

Medication had a significant impact on my son Dan’s journey through severe OCD. While certain drugs appear to be helpful for some people with OCD, they only seemed to make things worse for Dan. Part of the problem stemmed from his being overmedicated, as well as the fact that he was prescribed drugs that we now know can exacerbate obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Atypical antipsychotics (also known as second generation antipsychotics) are sometimes given to people with OCD to “enhance” the effects of an SSRI. This was the explanation given to us twice, when Dan was prescribed two different antipsychotics. I’ve written previously about some of the side effects he experienced so I won’t go into that here, but suffice it to say no good (and quite a lot of bad) came out of his taking these drugs.

Seth Gillihan, PhD discusses a study conducted by researchers at Columbia University and The University of Pennsylvania. Participants already taking an SSRI to treat their OCD were separated into three groups. One group was given seventeen sessions of exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy, one group was given an atypical antipsychotic, and the final group was given a placebo.

Dr. Gillihan said:

The results after 8 weeks were striking. Individuals in the ERP condition on average had a 52% reduction in their OCD severity scores, whereas those in the risperidone (13% reduction) and placebo (11% reduction) conditions were virtually indistinguishable.

It’s clear. Exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy is effective. The atypical antipsychotic however, did not provide any statistically significant benefit over that of a placebo. Given this information, I would think long and hard before taking such a heavy-duty medication for the treatment of OCD. Certainly I hope doctors will think long and hard before prescribing it.

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2 Responses to OCD and Atypical Antipsychotics

  1. My psychiatrist added Buspar (busparone hydrochloride) to my Prozac dose. He says it increases the anti-OCD effects of the SSRI without increasing the side effects. It works for me! It gives me the effect of taking a higher dose of Prozac than the legal maximum. I would not be concerned about this med, other than the fact that it can make you care less about things you usually care too much about, which is the goal of good OCD medication. The only difficulty I ran into was that during the 1st week on the new med, I drove a little carelessly…I wandered over the dotted line almost into the next lane going the same direction on a 4-lane road. I was pulled over by a patrol car. He asked me “Are you on drugs?” Yes, I answered, I just started the prescribed Buspar this week for my OCD. He understood, and said that it was ok, just be aware of what it does to you before you do a lot of driving.

    • Hi Warren, Thank you for sharing. I’m glad you found something that works for you and of course each person should work with his or her health care provider to figure out the best treatment options. Hope you’re doing well!

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