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Thorazine (Chlorpromazine) Side Effects, Withdrawal and FAQs

Thorazine, generic chlorpromazine, is an antipsychotic medication prescribed for schizophrenia, manic episodes of bipolar disorder, and in children aged 1 to 12 years of age with severe behavioral problems.
Thorazine and other antipsychotic drugs affect chemicals in the brain.
Thorazine is a drug from the early (1950s) era of pharmaceutical discoveries and was the first medication ever to be named an “antipsychotic” drug. The brand name “Thorazine” is no longer used, but chlorpromazine is still very much in use. The drug provided a welcome change from earlier protocols for treating psychoses and schizophrenia which mainly centered on heavy sedation, medical restraints to keep the patient tied to their bed, electroconvulsive shock treatment, insulin-induced coma style “treatment”, or lobotomy and the patients were quietly kept locked away for decades in old musty buildings. (1)

In our modern age, more attention is beginning to be placed on psychosocial treatments, using non-drug treatments where possible, and a more compassionate context has developed in the overall field of mental health. With insights from modern researchers and holistic psychiatrists such as the remarkable Dr. Peter Breggin and many others, this certainly looks like a positive evolutionary step. (2)

Today chlorpromazine is sold under other trade names such as Largactil, and others around the globe.  Many more antipsychotic drugs have been developed since the 1950s, and chlorpromazine would likely not be chosen unless other drugs had been found not helpful for a patient’s symptom management.

Since the drug has been around for three-quarters of a century, a considerable body of data has accumulated on chlorpromazine. Below is an outline of various topics of information and might be considered recommended reading for anyone considering starting or stopping the drug.

What is Thorazine (Chlorpromazine) Used For?

Originally the drug chlorpromazine was FDA approved for specific uses such as psychoses and schizophrenia. The drug has a calming effect, reducing excitability and agitation, but not heavily sedating which was considered useful in these treatment contexts.

There were no clinical trials prior to FDA approval for chlorpromazine, which was not unusual for the 1950s. This perhaps left the door pretty wide open for experimental use, and a much-widened scope developed over time as far as the number of reasons for prescribing the drug.  (1)

Since coming to market, the drug has been used off-label for an ever-growing number of other purposes, including:

  • ADHD
  • Hiccups
  • Behavioral problems in children aged 1 through 12
  • As an augmentative medication in the treatment of tetanus
  • As a pre-surgical calming medication
  • To prevent nausea and vomiting
  • For treating a group of diseases called porphyria. Acute porphyria is thought to be genetic in origin, involving imbalances of red blood cells, causing blisters, rash, fever, abdominal pain, and other symptoms.


Thorazine (Chlorpromazine) Alternative Names and Slang

Thorazine (discontinued), Largactil, Megaphen, are all brand or trade names for the generic drug chlorpromazine. Sometimes antipsychotic drugs are nicknamed “drool drugs” as they can induce profuse salivation, and decrease the ability to swallow as the throat may become constricted. These effects can, unfortunately, cause the patient to become prone to this characteristic.

Thorazine, et. al,  did not develop a known street presence as a drug of recreational use, although there is never a guarantee against the possibility of diversion-sourced drugs being covertly trafficked in the illicit market.

Thorazine (Chlorpromazine) Side Effects

Thorazine, or chlorpromazine, produces a number of side effects. Weight gain is a rather notorious one for this drug, thought to be related to changes in glucose levels in the blood. However, this side effect usually reverts back to normal once the drug is stopped, though it may take several years for weight to normalize again. (1)

Other side effects for chlorpromazine include:

  • Motor movement disorders, i.e., tardive dyskinesia, tongue rolling, shuffling walk, tics, etc.
  • Swelling in body parts, face, eyes, extremities
  • Breast enlargement and discharge
  • Menstrual changes
  • Impotence, loss of libido, Anorgasmia
  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • Tachycardia
  • Allergic rash, can be fatal
  • Yellowing of the eyes or skin, indicating possible liver dysfunction
  • Itching or hives
  • Sweating profusely
  • Chills
  • Sore throat
  • Stuffy nose
  • Insomnia or disturbed sleep
  • Drowsiness
  • Vision difficulties, i.e. blurring or inability to see in dim lighting
  • Unusual bleeding or bruising
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Difficulty swallowing (constricted throat)
  • Muscle stiffness or rigidity
  • Slow motor movement


Thorazine (Chlorpromazine) Withdrawal Symptoms

The most concerning withdrawal symptoms would be the return of symptoms that were unmanageable and that preceded the choice for pharmaceutical drug treatment in the first place.

Other withdrawal effects commonly reported include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Shaking, tremors
  • Delusions
  • Hallucinations
  • Return of psychosis
  • Return of deep depression or mania, rage, excitability, aggressive or violent behavior etc.

Discontinuing/Quitting Thorazine (Chlorpromazine)

Quitting chlorpromazine should be discussed with your physician to look at other possible alternatives, but in any case, stopping chlorpromazine never be abrupt. A gradual taper would be the safer and milder approach if the decision were made to stop the long-term use of antipsychotic medications.

In today’s world of growing options for drug-free mental health treatment, there are many psycho-social and even nutritional protocols that might also be considered in overall treatment planning. (2) (3)

Thorazine (Chlorpromazine) FAQs

Thorazine and other brand name drugs have been widely researched over the decades. Following are a number of topics that are frequently researched for more information on important health matters such as drug effects, overdose, diseases linked to Thorazine, and more.

What Does Thorazine Do to You?

Chlorpromazine is a member (derivative) of a group of chemical compounds termed “phenothiazines”. Phenothiazine drugs have the capability of influencing or acting upon the chemicals in the human brain and central nervous system. 

In the 1940s, phenothiazine and its derivatives were used as insecticides and for deworming due to their remarkably effective toxicity characteristics. As research continued, there were many derivatives produced, of which chlorpromazine (untested in clinical trials before marketing the drug) became widely used for mental health treatment.

Can You Overdose on Thorazine?

Yes. Chlorpromazine is used to treat schizophrenia and manic or mixed episodes in bipolar disorders. The drug can interact with other drugs, and also can change the metabolism of the body.

When too much of the drug is taken, either purposefully or accidentally, it can result in an overdose. Signs of overdose require immediate medical intervention, and may include the following:

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Tachycardia (racing heartbeat)
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Slowed or stopped breathing
  • Coma
  • Convulsions
  • Parkinsonism (slowed or restricted muscle movement, rigidity)
  • Severe extrapyramidal dyskinesia (motor movement compulsive and repetitive spasms)

Are there any Disease Interactions with Thorazine?

Thorazine or chlorpromazine is linked with numerous diseases or conditions. (4) Some of these are described below and include:

  • Dementia
  • AAI (acute alcohol intoxication)
  • CD or cardiovascular disease
  • CNS depression (central nervous system depression)
  • Head injury from falls
  • Breast cancer
  • Dystonic reactions, i.e. twisted spasmodic or fixed unusual body postures or motions.
  • Anticholinergic effects, where a drug aggressively blocks the neurotransmitter called acetylcholine resulting in dry mouth, dental problems, lung disease, digestive and many other systemic dysfunctions, can lead to death.
  • Hematology toxicity, toxic changes to the blood platelets etc.
  • Liver disease
  • NMS or neuroleptic malignant syndrome, a multiple number of symptoms including tremor, extreme (lead-pipe) muscle rigidity, high fever, drop in blood pressure, tachycardia, increased rate of breathing, can be fatal.
  • Parkinsonism, a drug-induced condition resembling the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease such as shuffling walk, rigid muscles, slowed or impaired movements, etc.
  • Respiratory illness or dysfunction
  • Seizures
  • Tardive dyskenisia, typically irreversible condition characterized by rolling or spasmodic muscle motions of the face, tongue, lip smacking, limbs hands feet twisting, etc.

What Does Thorazine (chlorpromazine) Do to the Brain?

Over nearly a dozen years of observation and genetic testing and analysis, we have seen an association between impaired catecholamine methyl transferase and certain conditions linked to features of low and high moods, psychosis and mania.

A possible explanation resides in the manner in which the biological pathways of certain neurotransmitters function. We know that certain catecholamines perform an excitatory response to the part of the brain called the limbic or emotional region of the brain. These natural chemicals include dopamine, norepinephrine and adrenaline.

A person with a low sense of reward may be drawn to using stimulants. Whereas, a person with an overly elevated sense of reward may appear manic.  Therefore, where a person is genetically inhibited in the breakdown of dopamine, it would seem to follow that the person could be suffering from excessive dopamine levels. Thorazine may be de-escalating the expression of dopamine or other excitatory chemicals, which will, as a result, dampen the manic symptoms.

Unfortunately, the body does have the capacity to adapt, so this may not be a permanent solution. More research needs to be done in genetics, nutrition, environmental toxins and related subjects to get a more complete understanding of psychosis, schizophrenia and other disorders and better ways to treat these conditions successfully.

Treatment for Thorazine (Chlorpromazine) Abuse and Addiction?

The treatment for schizophrenia, bipolar symptoms, etc. has mostly centered on pharmaceutical drugs to sedate the patient. While drug-based therapy may prove beneficial for some, for others, there may come a time when the decision is made to discontinue antipsychotic medications and seek other holistic drug-free therapies.

A mild and gentle taper program, supported by holistic, psycho-social and nutritional protocols may provide an excellent choice to consider. At the Alternative to Meds Center, we have helped many patients to come off medications gently and gradually, along with these types of methods, genetics testing, targeted supplementation, etc., with much success.

The center tests for and gently removes chemicals, environmental neurotoxins, heavy metals and other sources of accumulated harmful toxins as a rudimentary step. Some of the methods used include nebulized glutathione, sauna, chelation, bentonite clay packs, and many other supportive actions.

Often, clients report a significant improvement in overall wellness from these procedures, such as improved sleep and appetite, improved mood, and higher energy levels. Beginning a taper at such a point allows for a more efficacious, enjoyable and stable experience.

If you are considering a change in focus and a more natural approach to mental health treatment, we invite you to contact us for more information about the programs and protocols offered at our inpatient, retreat-style facility.

  1.  Haddad P, Kirk R, Green R, Chlorpromazine, the first antipsychotic medication: history, controversy and legacy. BAP [INTERNET] 2016 [cited March 9, 2020]

  2. Hoenders H, Bartels-Velthuis A, Vollbehr N, Bruggeman R, Knegtering H, deJong J, Natural Medicines for Psychotic Disorders. J Nerv Ment Dis [INTERNET] Feb 2018 [cited March 9, 2020]   

  3. Levine B, Anti-authoritarians and Schizophrenia: Do Rebels Who Defy Treatment Do Better? Mad In America May 4, 2012 [INTERNET] [cited March 9, 2020]

  4. FDA Label Thorazine [INTERNET] 1989 [cited March 9, 2020]

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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