Free Consultation
1 (800) 301-3753

Seroquel (Quetiapine) Alternatives, Side Effects, Withdrawal and FAQs

Seroquel (quetiapine) is an atypical antipsychotic medication FDA approved for the treatment of schizophrenia and mixed bipolar episodes in adults or used off-label for children over the age of 12. Bipolar may include acute manic and major depressive episodes. Extended release Seroquel XR is for adults only.
Seroquel belongs to a relatively new family of drugs called atypical antipsychotic medications. When severe symptoms of either mania or depression occur, there may not be a lot of time to research available treatments that are offered.

Also, when a drug such as quetiapine has been prescribed, there may come a time that a person may decide to go a different direction in treatment.

Never abruptly stop a medication such as this one as the shock to the body could be overwhelming.

In both of these cases, research is advisable so you can be sure of the options that will most favor health and recovery.

Frequently, Seroquel is prescribed at the time a person is in a mental health crisis. Too little attention may be given to understanding whether the crisis was a temporary situation, leading to unfortunate outcomes potentially experienced by a person staying on a high dose of Seroquel or other medications for a very long time. A diagnosis may need to be adjusted, which may mean a change in the prescription. However, it is not always easy to find a physician who is adequately versed in how to safely reduce medications once a person starts taking them. A workable strategy is to align with a trusted doctor. Often, a patient may need to inform their physician about methods of tapering medications such as strategies, time lines, and other points which their doctor may not have been aware of.

Below is a collection of such information that may aid in acquiring the information you need on Seroquel.

What Is Seroquel (Quetiapine) Used for?

Seroquel is used in the treatment of schizophrenia in adults and in children who are over the age of 12. It is also used for episodes of acute mania, depression disorders in adults and in children 10 years old and up. It is often used as an augmenter with antidepressant medications for treating depressive disorders.

There are several off-label uses for Seroquel which are being explored but remain outside of FDA approval, such as for insomnia, the treatment of dementia, addiction, delirium, and personality disorders.

At present, these off-label uses are being cautiously examined due to a lack of established dosing parameters and their effects on metabolic side effects, extrapyramidal adverse effects and potential safety concerns.⁴

Seroquel (Quetiapine) Alternative Names and Slang

Seroquel is a trade name for quetiapine, the generic drug name.

There have been reported uses of the drug by crushing and snorting, or used intravenously, sometimes in combination with cocaine. When used in these ways, the drug is colloquially referred to as a “Q-ball”.

Other slang names that are known when not used with cocaine include “quell”, snoozeberries”, or “Suzie-Q”.⁵

Seroquel (Quetiapine) Side Effects

There can be a wide range of side effects from this medication, from mild to moderate to severe. Not everyone experiences significant side effects such as the ones listed here. Always discuss changes that occur while on Seroquel with your prescribing physician.

Side effects can include these common ones:

  • Sudden drop in blood pressure, especially after rising from sitting or lying position, may also feel like fainting momentarily
    Vertigo/dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Constipation
  • Swollen throat or sinuses, stuffy nose
  • An increased appetite
  • Weight gain
  • Drowsiness/fatigue/exhaustion
  • Dryness of the mouth
  • Stomach or abdominal pain
  • Muscle pain
  • Inability to urinate, painful urination
  • Low sodium levels
  • Nightmares
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Rashes
  • Lightheadedness

Less common, but more severe adverse effects should be carefully monitored and could include:

  • Suicidality (ideation and behavior) especially noted in younger patients under age 25
  • Tardive Dyskinesia
  • Tachycardia, pounding heart
  • Movement disorders, involuntary repeating movements of limbs, face, tongue, etc.
  • Intense pain in abdomen
  • Tremors, shaking, uncontrollable
  • Severe headache, sudden headache
  • Painful persistent erection
  • Cataracts in eyes
  • Stevens – Johnson Syndrome: potentially life-threatening severe rash, allergic-like reaction, including fever, unconsciousness, raised welts, loss of consciousness, difficulty speaking, coma, sores in mouth and mucous tissue, requires emergency transport to ICU or burn unit
  • Slowed heartbeat
  • Sleep apnea
  • Diabetes
  • Unusual or rapid mood or behavior changes
  • Low white blood cell count
  • Breast inflammation, enlarged breasts, either sex
  • Breast discharge in either sex
  • Liver failure
  • Seizures
  • Stroke
  • Pancreatitis
  • Painful or irregular menses
  • Amnesia
  • Hepatitis
  • Swelling of the hands/feet/legs etc. fluid retention
  • Hypothyroidism, low thyroid function

Neuroleptic Malignant Syndrome
DRESS syndrome (drug rash eosinophilia/increased white blood cells/systemic) a potentially fatal drug reaction that needs immediate attention if rash appears with fever or other flu-like symptoms

Parkinsonism, i.e., drug induced symptoms that resemble Parkinson’s Disease such as unusually slowed movement, shuffling walk, slowed motor controls

Enlargement of heart muscle tissue
Another set of side effects to be aware of, and which may require monitoring during the night-time:

Sleep walking or other normal activities during sleep, i.e. sleep driving, sleep shopping, etc. of which the person has no memory.

Seroquel (Quetiapine) Withdrawal Symptoms

As is the case for most prescription psychoactive medications, using them for some extended period of time, i.e. several months or longer may lead to physical dependence. If the decision to come off the drug is made, stopping should never be done abruptly. Always seek medical oversight and guidance for safety.

Even when slowing the tapering off a drug, there can still be some significant withdrawals, which may be more severe if the prescription was for a very long time, such as years.

When withdrawing from Seroquel, the following symptoms may occur:

  • Suicidal ideation or behavior
  • Psychoses
  • Mania
  • Insomnia
  • Hypersensitivity to light, sound, temperature, all sensory perceptions
  • Vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Racing heart, tachycardia
  • Unusual mood swings, can change rapidly
  • Slowed heartbeat
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Loss of concentration, can’t focus
  • Depression

Discontinuing/Quitting Seroquel (Quetiapine)

Stopping a prescription of Seroquel should never be done abruptly, but is best done under the careful monitoring of trained medical personnel who are familiar with safe withdrawing from the prescription drug and are aware of things to watch for that might require swift and precise medical intervention.

There is one exception to the above where abrupt cessation should be done. In the rare case where certain life-threatening reactions to the drug need to be brought under control quickly, abruptly stopping the drug may be able to save the person’s life.

In all other cases, tapering off the drug should be gradual and attended with as much support as possible to help ease the person through to a successful outcome. It can be a difficult task, and a difficult challenge requires planning, strategy and, hopefully, many compassionate and caring helpers.

It is widely held that Seroquel acts to block dopamine from binding at the D2 receptor and that this is how it manages manic symptoms. The body, however, will tend to compensate for this change by building new receptors for dopamine. Hence, withdrawal from Seroquel can be especially challenging, perhaps even more so than coming off benzodiazepine drugs.

When Seroquel is reduced, the dopamine expression is now potentially greatly enhanced, and the symptoms of mania may also return, bringing in an increased sense of reward. The patient at this point may become resistant to losing this state, and therefore resistant to following directions. In extreme cases, where the patient becomes unmanageable, a workable strategy is to align with a trusted doctor who has hospital admission privileges so the patient can be stabilized in a safe and humane way. Once stabilized, it may be possible to resume the process of tapering at a slower pace and help the patient achieve their goal of being either medication free or at the lowest dose possible that still allows for maximum quality of life.

Seroquel (Quetiapine) FAQs

Seroquel is not a drug that is completely understood, like many other prescription medications. Research is well-advised, especially before starting or stopping such medication. We have assembled information pertaining to some of the most frequently asked questions about topics regarding Seroquel below. If you have further questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to us.

How does Seroquel (Quetiapine) Work?

Even though many medications have been developed and marketed for the treatment of various psychoses, depression disorders, manic episodes and schizophrenia, little is yet known about how antipsychotic medications actually work.

Research on neurotransmitters tells us that these natural hormones or “transmitters” are responsible for transmitting messages or impulses that travel between the nerve cells, which is how the body regulates our mood, breathing, reactions needed for the heart to beat, emotions, perspiration, digestion, and thousands more.

Disturbances in the ebb and flow of neurotransmitters appear to be linked somehow with psychosis, schizophrenia, etc. For example, an over-activity of dopamine is linked to hallucinations and delusions. Those are symptoms of psychotic illnesses such as schizophrenia.
What an antipsychotic medication seems to do is block this over-stimulating dopaminergic activity, thought to prevent the expression of dopamine and thereby controlling or quieting these types of symptoms. Taking a drug such as quetiapine (Seroquel) typically will have the effect of lessening these symptoms and the patient may feel less depressed, or less anxious, not as hostile, not as suspicious, and not as troubled by these types of unwanted feelings. Not all patients respond the same way to medications, and some respond better than others. More research is needed on these debilitating mental health conditions so that compassionate and more predictably effective treatments can continue to be developed.¹

In the past, psychoses were dealt with various treatments, some of which were quite humane, as in music therapy, better diet, prayer, solitude, compassionate therapeutic attitude, and intestinal cleanses, as was the style of medicine in Hippocratic times. Later, treatments became somewhat mired, perhaps in desperation and punishment, and involved much harsher techniques such as spinning the patient around in a chair-like device, or ECT to shock the person into a better frame of mind.

Thankfully, research continues and we are committed in the search for knowledge that can transpose into better, safer, more efficacious mental health therapies.

Are Seroquel and Ambien the Same Thing?

Seroquel and Ambien have different chemical structures, and the two drugs are categorized in different families or classes of drugs; Seroquel is an antipsychotic, and Ambien is a sedative/hypnotic sleep aid more akin to the benzodiazepine class.

However, some effects of both drugs do overlap, as both are sedating and calming. Ambien is FDA approved for use as a sleep aid, whereas treating insomnia with Seroquel would be an “off-label” use for the drug.

Both drugs can react badly with other drugs, including alcohol and over the counter cold medications, and many others.

In young people, suicidality is a known side effect especially when this drug is used as an antidepressant either alone or with other prescribed antidepressants, and most markedly in younger patients under the age of 25.⁵

Always coordinate closely with your prescribing physician before adding another substance to your regimen to avoid such complications.³

Is Seroquel a Controlled Substance?

Seroquel is not a controlled substance in the US, meaning that it is not illegal to possess some pills. However, Seroquel is prone to substance abuse addiction and dependence and as such, consideration for its current legal status may be justified.

Before traveling with a prescription of Seroquel, check with the appropriate officials, should a border crossing be required, to find out if it is a controlled substance in the destination country.

What Does Seroquel Do to the Brain?

This question is still under study. We have performed genetic studies and noticed what appears to be an association between psychosis / mania / bipolar mood swings, and genetic polymorphism among the catecholamines (hormones) methyl transferase (enzymes).

The catecholamines, i.e. dopamine, as well as norepinephrine and adrenaline, act as excitatory agents along the neuronal pathways in the limbic (emotion) part of the brain.

A theory that seems congruent with this observation is that a person with a low sense of reward may seek stimulants and, further, that a person with an enhanced sense of reward may exhibit symptoms of mania.

Based on the fact that these COMT enzymes have the capacity to degrade catecholamines, it could reasonably follow that where these genetic markers of impairment are seen to exist, that a state of mania or psychosis could be seen, and that an excessive expression of dopamine exists.

According to NIMH published studies,

“The methionine variant results in a more sluggish COMT enzyme; it methylates dopamine at only about 25% the rate of the COMT enzyme containing valine. Thus, the methionine variant of the COMT gene leaves dopamine around longer in prefrontal cortex.” ⁶ ⁷

More research and study on these subjects is needed, especially in regards to other regions of the brain such as the striatum structures, i.e. the caudate, mesocorticolimbic and putamen regions.

How Long Does Seroquel Stay in Your System?

After stopping Seroquel, it will take approximately seven hours to clear 50 percent of the active drug from the system. That is the half-life. Theoretically, the drug would totally clear somewhere between 24 and 48 hours.

However, the body adapts to the presence of medications, and the longer it was taken the more adaptations developed. As a result, it may take a considerably longer period of time to recalibrate back to pre-medication states.

Apart from the half-life estimates, a person may continue to be plagued by these changing neuroadaptive states, often called “withdrawal symptoms” for weeks, months, or even years.

The time line for these after-effects can be considerably shortened with a diet and supplements designed to provide the essential neurotransmitter precursors needed to repair and normalize.

Treatment for Seroquel (Quetiapine) Abuse and Addiction

If you or a loved are considering a treatment program designed to help taper medications safely, the protocols used at the Alternative to Meds Center may be an option to learn about, and how these may be exactly what is needed to serve your health goals in recovery.

Each client’s program is designed within a holistic scientific context, to carefully investigate root causes that may have contributed to your need for prescription medication in the first place. Our superlative doctors, nurses, and skilled staff members look after each detail, step by step.

Heavy metal toxicity testing and removal is a key that may have been missed in earlier treatments, as it is likely for many that toxicity certainly played a role in symptomology that had no other reason found for neurotransmitter imbalances. Once the offending pollutants, chemical residues, food preservatives, industrial exposures, etc. have been isolated and gently purged, clients typically experience resurgence in quality of sleep, appetite, energy and mood.

A comprehensive series of tailored steps form a foundation of better health as a client moves through the program at the Alternative to Meds Center. You may never have been introduced to nebulized glutathione treatments, clay packs, infra-red sauna, chelation, and many other gentle yet effective treatments we provide. All the while, health improvements are further supported by clean diet and supplements that testing indicated are needed. You may be surprised how beneficial these types of therapies can be. These are only some of the examples of protocols used before, during and after the taper is complete. Please contact us to find out more about our program and get answers to any specific questions you may have. Perhaps now is the time to look at a science-based, health-oriented program to assist you in your restorative health goals. We invite you to learn more about our comfortable, inpatient, retreat-styled facility and how we may be able to help you move confidently toward sustainable and natural mental health.


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’s of Science degree with a major in biology and minors in chemistry and philosophy. He graduated 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.

View Bio

Holistic Mental Health and Addiction Treatment Articles

News, media and up to date information on medications, symptoms and side effect, addiction and treatment for substance abuse from our expert staff.