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Haldol (Haloperidol) Side Effects, Withdrawal and FAQs

Haldol (generic haloperidol) is an injectable antipsychotic medication.
Its uses include for treating schizophrenia and also to control disorders of motor movement or vocal tics as in Tourette’s syndrome. Not FDA approved for elderly patients with dementia-related psychosis.

Tardive Dyskinesia and cardiovascular adverse events are two notable concerns linked to Haldol, as stated by the FDA. (1) Elderly patients who present dementia-related psychosis should not be treated with Haldol due to the increased risk of death.

Haldol should not be combined with other medications or alcohol due to the risk of death caused by respiratory failure or other potential fatal risks. See more on this topic below, where you can find additional information concerning withdrawal symptoms and other important topics relating to Haldol.

What Haldol (Haloperidol) is Used For

Haldol comes in intramuscular injectable vials, to be administered at approximately 4 week intervals, and also in an oral liquid form designed to be taken daily. The antipsychotic medication is used for the following:

  • Tourette’s syndrome
  • Schizophrenia
  • Acute psychosis
  • Manic episodes in bipolar disorder
  • Hallucinations in alcohol withdrawal
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Agitation


Haldol (Haloperidol) Alternative Names and Slang

Haldol has not developed a known street presence as a drug of abuse. Haldol is the brand or trade name for the generic version haloperidol.

Another version of the drug named Haldol Decanoate or haloperidol decanoate is a longer-acting form of Haldol, administered intramuscularly.

In reference to its use for sedating violent patients, it is sometimes referred to as the Velvet Hammer for its profound and immediate sedative properties. (3)

Haldol (Haloperidol) Side Effects

There are some severe side effects that may significantly concern patients taking Haldol, including:

  • Tardive dyskenisia, a potentially irreversible disorder involving involuntary motor/muscle movements most often seen in the elderly female population. The tendency of the disorder to become irreversible is observably linked to the duration of treatment with Haldol and the cumulative dosages over time, but the disorder can also present after relatively brief use of Haldol in treatment. There is no known treatment for tardive dyskenisia, but the condition has sometimes been seen to remit after discontinuation of the medication. Involves facial tics, grimaces, lip smacking, tongue rolling, etc.
  • NMS or neuroleptic muscular syndrome is a potentially fatal disorder involving acute renal failure, fever, muscle rigidity, tachycardia, catatonia, stupor, immobility, cardiac dysrhythmias, blood pressure fluctuations, and other symptoms. Should these signs present, the patient should be taken off the medication immediately in a controlled medical setting such as an ICU. (1)
  • Cardiovascular events resulting in death, especially observed in elderly patients with dementia or dementia-related psychosis.
  • Falls, most often in the elderly population on Haldol, that can lead to bone fractures or other types of injuries or accidents.
  • Bronchopneumonia has been observed in cases following the use of Haldol in treatment, and some cases have been fatal.
  • Inability to walk, shuffling or unsteady gait
  • Inability to talk, slowness in speech
  • Use in pregnancy has resulted in birth defects and withdrawal symptoms in the infant post birth. Such withdrawal symptoms include agitation, tremors, feeding disorder, somnolence, difficulty breathing and others. Nursing mothers should not take Haldol as the drug is excreted into the breast milk.
  • Convulsions

Other side effects from Haldol include but not limited to:

  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Anxiety
  • Tremors
  • Akinesia (loss of or impairment of voluntary muscle control)
  • Akathisia (motor control disorder, state of inconsolable restlessness and involuntary compulsion to remain in constant motion)
  • Excess salivation
  • Sedation
  • Masked Facies (loss of ability to make facial expressions)
  • Dystonia
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Muscle rigidity
  • Muscle twitching
  • Bradykinesia (slowed movement disorder often seen in Parkinson’s patients)
  • Hyperkinesia (muscle spasms)
  • Hypokinesia (diminished muscle movement)
  • Nystagmus (rapid and involuntary movement of the eyes, i.e. swinging back and forth)
  • Rashes/itching/prickling skin/acne
  • Insomnia/disturbed sleep
  • Diarrhea/constipation
  • Dizziness/spinning or vertigo sensations
  • Drowsiness
  • Loss of libido
  • Mood swings
  • Swelling or enlarged breast tissue
  • Sore breast tissues
  • Irregularities in menstrual periods
  • Somnolence (sleeping for extended hours)
  • Dry mouth
  • Headache
  • Blurred or altered vision
  • Restlessness, agitation
  • Swelling in the face
  • Anaphylactic reactions
  • Weight loss
  • Impaired cognitive or motor control, not advisable to drive or operate machinery etc.


Haldol (Haloperidol) Withdrawal Symptoms

There may be some severe withdrawal symptoms that arise when coming off Haldol, despite claims that may seem to downplay such reactions. (1)(2)

Unless medically indicated, never stop an antipsychotic drug abruptly. Some withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Muscle spasms, tremors, shaking, unusual movements
  • Hallucination, delusional thoughts, mental confusion
  • A return of original symptoms, i.e. psychoses, mania, agitation, etc.

Discontinuing/Quitting Haldol (Haloperidol)

Perhaps surprising, the FDA reports that most patients coming off short term use of Haldol do not exhibit problems during withdrawal. (1)

However, tardive dyskenisia-like symptoms are more frequently seen when patients on maintenance level doses for a significant period of time withdraw from the drug. For patients who have been on the medication for longer duration, gradual tapering is generally recommended.

Haldol (Haloperidol) FAQs

Before a person begins a regimen that includes antipsychotic medication, it is recommended that a thorough study and adequate research is done to answer some of the most frequent questions that arise concerning this class of drug. The following information may help in such research.

Is Haloperidol a Sedative?

Haloperidol does have profound sedation effects, but is classed as an antipsychotic medication, used in the treatment of schizophrenia, psychoses, mania, etc.

Does Haldol Help with Anxiety?

Haldol is not generally prescribed to treat general or relatively mild anxiety disorders. It does have a profound sedating effect when used to treat acute cases of psychosis, mania or agitation.

There are less harmful medications and other treatments available to help alleviate stress and anxiety where antipsychotic medications would not generally be used.

How Long Does Haldol Stay in Your System?

Haldol (haloperidol) or Haldol Decanoate is a long-acting antipsychotic medication. The drug is prepared in sesame oil, to provide slow and sustained release of the drug over a 4 week period. The half-life of the drug is approximately 3 weeks. Plasma levels are seen to peak at about 6 days and then gradually begin to fall. After the third to fourth dose the plasma levels remain steady. These are approximations that can vary due to age, weight, general health and other factors that can affect metabolization.

Based on the down regulation of synaptic receptors, the time it takes to recalibrate back to pre-medicated states may be quite difficult to calculate.

It is just as difficult to answer the question, “How long will these adverse reactions last?”  However, we find that safe withdrawal techniques combined with neurotransmitter precursors can considerably speed up this process.

Is Haldol a Benzodiazepine?

No. Haldol is not a benzodiazepine. Benzodiazepines are thought to primarily influence a neurotransmitter called GABA. Haldol is a dopamine blocker but the precise mechanism of how it works is as yet not fully understood.

Why and When is Haldol (Haloperidol) Given Intravenously (IV)?

Haldol (haloperidol) is most often administered as a deep intramuscular injection, as in the buttocks. The FDA has not approved IV or intravenous injection of the drug, but if it is given in this way, special monitoring must be provided for QT prolongation and the possibility of arrhythmias or heart failure.

In certain instances, such as a violent arrest, or other agitated person that requires rapid sedation for public safety, for example, IV use of Haldol is not uncommon.

Haldol is most often given when a person is in the middle of a crisis. Antipsychotic medications are able to control certain extreme episodes. Unfortunately, the person may be left on a high dose, because their condition has been, perhaps in error, considered permanent.

It is easier to find a doctor to give Haldol than to find one who knows how to get a patient off the drug safely. The recommended course of action is to find a physician who understands and is familiar with the dynamics of this situation and can help you deal with it properly.

The Dangers of Haloperidol IV

The FDA has issued warnings concerning the intravenous use of Haldol, and though the practice is not approved, there is evidence that the practice of intravenous injection is somewhat common in certain clinical or incarceration applications.

The practice of intravenous injection can have fatal consequences and heart monitoring should be done where the patient may be at risk of heart failure or other complications from IV use of haloperidol or Haldol. (4)

Treatment for Haldol (Haloperidol) Abuse and Addiction?

At the center, ATMC welcomes persons who are looking for relief from symptoms that were not adequately resolved with drug-based treatments.

We know that an individual will have their own unique history and treatment needs that only a personalized treatment program can address.

Often, where it is medically feasible to do so, treatment plans may include assisting with Haldol withdrawal.

Haldol has the effect of blocking the “reward” neurotransmitter, dopamine. It is thought that by deflecting dopamine, this causes a build-up in the synapses, and as a result, manic behaviors may become lessened. The restriction of dopamine, as the chemical associated with reward, may have a dampening effect on one’s passion and ability to experience pleasure in life.

This effect may not have provided a desired quality of life, and a person may desire other means to achieve improvements in health without prescription drugs. At the Alternative to Meds Center, we include many therapeutic, drug-free means to help a person move toward these valuable improvements to their quality of life.

We also know it is possible to exhaustively investigate root causes for the symptoms that may have led to medication in the first place. With such investigations, lab testing and other methods can determine areas such as emotional or mental health issues that can be greatly assisted through non harmful, drug-free protocols.

Heavy metal removal, deep cleanses, nutritional support through clean diet, food-grade supplements, and many other protocols can significantly help a person achieve their goals toward achieving natural mental health, supported through tapering off prescription drugs, or safely reducing drugs to the very smallest dosages that will allow for a satisfying quality of life.

Very often, a drug such as Haldol is given when a person is mid-crisis, i.e., to manage extreme episodes. But unfortunately, less attention is placed on determining whether the crisis was a temporary situation, often leaving the person in an erroneously fixed diagnosis.

It may be easier to find a doctor to prescribe Haldol, than to find one who will help get you off the drug. The Alternative to Meds Center may be helpful in this regard, and have helped many thousands of clients who were stuck in a similar undesirable predicament.

Through holistic methods we can obtain a high rate of return in aiming to improve overall health and wellness, and recovering from medications that did not adequately resolve these types of issues. Please ask us for more information on our programs and treatments at the Alternative to Meds Center which we are happy to furnish on request.

This content has been reviewed and approved by a licensed physician.

Dr. John Motl, M.D.

Dr. Motl is currently certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology in Psychiatry, and Board eligible in Neurology and licensed in the state of Arizona.  He holds a Bachelor of Science degree with a major in biology and minors in chemistry and philosophy. He graduated from Creighton University School of Medicine with a Doctor of Medicine.  Dr. Motl has studied Medical Acupuncture at the Colorado School of Traditional Chinese Medicine and at U.C.L.A.

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