What Is Thorazine?
Thorazine, generic chlorpromazine, is classified as 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 is a drug from 1951 and was the first medication ever to be named an “antipsychotic” drug. Today it is described as a “low-potency cholinergic” medication.7 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 or subduing symptoms of 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
Even today, drugmakers and regulators clearly state they have no clear understanding of the mechanism of action of antipsychotic drugs, but a widely discussed theory is that all antipsychotic medications bind to certain dopamine receptors. Unfortunately, over the long-term, constant blockade of these receptors causes a deterioration of the patient’s health.15
In a practical sense, these drugs do have the capacity to effectively subdue or dampen violence or other behaviors that are difficult to manage. In our modern age, more attention is beginning to be placed on psychosocial treatments, using non-drug treatments where possible, and shorter treatment with neuroleptics 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. 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 that might be considered recommended reading for anyone considering starting or stopping Thorazine or similar drugs.
What Is Thorazine (chlorpromazine) Used For?
Over the years and decades, there have been various uses and brand names of chlorpromazine approved by the FDA. Chlorpromazine was a derivative of drugs used in insecticide and deworming research, for their toxic effects. At its inception, chlorpromazine was mostly considered a candidate for anesthesia for surgical use. Psychiatrists however took a keen interest in experimenting with it on psychiatric patients, and the subject of psychopharmacology was born. Now we see the thousands of drugs that this branch of “medicine” has birthed because of an ongoing infatuation with drug-therapy-based mental health treatment.13
In 1989 an oral suspension version of chlorpromazine called Versacloz© was FDA approved for 2 specific uses: “treatment-resistive” schizophrenia, and reducing suicidal behavior in schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder. A tablet form of chlorpromazine and its injectable counterpart gained FDA approval in 2013 as a major tranquilizer for short-term use to manage violent, overexcited, or dangerous behavior. It also gained approval to treat persisting hiccups, and for managing nausea and vomiting in terminal illnesses if no other drugs could be found to work. Chlorpromazine also gained approval to treat childhood autism and childhood schizophrenia. There were no clinical trials prior to FDA’s initial approval for chlorpromazine, which was not unusual for the 1950s. This perhaps left the door pretty wide open for experimental use and the number of reasons for prescribing it “off-label”. Off-label uses do not require testing, or clinical or safety trials before implementation.4,8,9
Off-label uses for chlorpromazine include:
- Bipolar episodes of mania
- Behavioral problems in children aged 1 through 12
- As an augmentative medication in the treatment of tetanus
- As an adjunct treatment for serotonin syndrome
- To prevent migraine-related nausea
- As a pre-surgical tranquilizer
- To prevent nausea and vomiting during surgery
- 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©, Omazine©, Thorazine Spansule©, and others 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. Drug-based therapy, especially long-term, 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 or non-medical market. Freedom of Information materials released in 1977 and reported in the 1977 Washington Post, revealed that CIA-led experiments of the 50s and 50s used chlorpromazine reportedly under the brand name “Chlorapromise” and other drugs on students in top-secret operations at an estimated 80 private and public universities and schools in the United States.10
Despite its cloudy history, chlorpromazine remains on the WHO’s list of “essential” medications today.11
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 of 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
- Dry mouth
- An allergic rash that can be fatal
- Yellowing of the eyes or skin, indicating possible liver dysfunction
- Itching or hives
- Sweating profusely
- Sore throat
- Stuffy nose
- Insomnia or disturbed sleep
- 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
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 a 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