As a prescription medication used to treat serious mental illnesses like bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, Seroquel is a potent drug that can cause side effects even in people who take it as directed. Since the substance is a strong sedative, Seroquel (generic name: quetiapine) has also become a substance of abuse.
As with other drugs, Seroquel is more likely to cause side effects in people who abuse the substance because the dose is not supervised and adjusted by a medical professional. Instead, a person who abuses Seroquel may take the drug despite the side effects and may even take more and more of the substance as their body develops both a tolerance to and dependence on the drug.
Abusing Seroquel can cause chronic effects in the body and mind. While it is possible to overdose on quetiapine, it is also likely that someone who consumes the substance in large doses for a long time will develop long-term psychological and physical side effects.
Side Effects of Seroquel
General, short-term side effects from Seroquel may include:
- Dry mouth
- Weight gain
- Intoxication or euphoria
- Physical weakness
- Irritability and mood swings
- Unusual dreams
Over time, especially if abused, Seroquel can cause long-lasting side effects that can become harmful.
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Chronic Physical Problems from Abusing Seroquel
One of the most commonly reported side effects is weight gain. While many people take Seroquel as prescribed and gain weight, they can remain within a healthy weight for their body by listening to their doctor and developing an appropriate exercise and diet plan.
People who abuse Seroquel may gain a lot of weight because they become sluggish or fatigued due to consistently being intoxicated. Excess weight can harm the heart, lungs, stomach, liver, pancreas, and other organs. Being overweight puts one at risk of developing diabetes, arthritis, and hypertension. Hyperglycemia, or high blood sugar, has various symptoms, including:
- Extreme thirst
- Severe hunger
- Frequent, excessive urination
- Weakness or tiredness
- Upset stomach
- Mental confusion
- Fruity-smelling breath
High cholesterol can also be harmful, increasing the risk of strokes or heart attacks. Having high cholesterol and blood pressure is often associated with being overweight or having an unhealthy life style. Abusing Seroquel puts one at risk of developing these conditions related to weight gain.
Other long-term physical side effects associated with Seroquel include:
Orthostatic hypotension: Essentially, this condition is low blood pressure that can cause dizziness or vertigo if a person stands up too quickly. In extreme cases, it may cause fainting.
Low white blood cell count: This harms the immune system, making it harder to fight infection. People who abuse Seroquel may show symptoms of the common cold, flu, or even pneumonia more often than others.
Cataracts: These involve blurry vision or lost spots in vision. Cataracts are caused by clouding the lens of the eye, making vision difficult. Surgery can reverse cataracts in some cases but continuing to abuse Seroquel after removing cataracts means they will just come back.
Tardive dyskinesia: These are movements in the face, jaw, tongue, lips, or mouth that are uncontrolled. A person with TD may appear to chew or ruminate constantly. They may grind their teeth, leading to dental issues.
Increased blood prolactin levels: This causes breast development in men or milky discharge from the nipple in women. It can cause women to miss their periods or have irregular menstrual cycles.
Increased body temperature: If this occurs consistently over time, the kidneys and other internal organs can be damaged by the persistently higher internal temperature. Kidney failure is the most common side effect.
Seizures: Abusing Seroquel changes brain chemistry, which can trigger seizures. This may be a withdrawal symptom, too, because of the areas of the brain affected by Seroquel.
Brain volume loss: Evidence suggests that many antipsychotics lead to brain volume decreases, and Seroquel is no exception. Abusing this drug for nonmedical reasons can lead to brain damage.
Psychological Damage from Seroquel Abuse
Addiction, tolerance, and dependence are all risks when taking Seroquel for nonmedical reasons. Even prescribing the drug for off-label treatments can be risky. The substance was considered as a treatment for insomnia, for example, but other sedatives have been shown to be safer and more effective. When prescribed for many off-label treatments, especially psychiatric treatments, Seroquel is only prescribed for a month or less. Like benzodiazepines, which quetiapine is related to, this drug can quickly build up in the body and lead to physical tolerance, along with psychiatric dependence on the drug to feel normal.
Another mental health-related side effect is a potential, dramatic rise in depression symptoms, especially suicidal ideation or attempts. Thoughts of suicide are a symptom that there is a serious chemical imbalance in the brain; if it is not caused by a condition like depression, then it may be triggered by an inappropriate dose of Seroquel. Unfortunately, someone who abuses Seroquel for recreational reasons is not likely to have a physician or therapist to report these symptoms to, and complications are more likely.
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Withdrawal Should Be Supervised by Addiction Specialists
Withdrawing from Seroquel without medical supervision can also be harmful. The symptoms of Seroquel withdrawal can be life-threatening and may include:
- Sleep disorders
- Nausea and vomiting
- Anxiety and depression
Abusing Seroquel is very harmful because it can cause an overdose. Long-term abuse leads to serious, chronic health issues. It is important to get help to overcome abuse of this psychiatric medication. Speak with an addiction specialist for medical supervision to safely detox and then enter an evidence-based rehabilitation program.