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Prochlorperazine: Uses, Side Effects, and Dangers of Prochlorperazine Abuse

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Prochlorperazine is the generic medication available as the brand names, Compro and Procomp. It is a phenothiazine antipsychotic drug that is used to treat the symptoms of schizophrenia. Prochlorperazine has been found to be effective for treating generalized non-psychotic anxiety as well. It can also be effective in treating severe nausea and vomiting, and several other conditions. Like many other prescription medications, prochlorperazine can be abused and may even lead to addiction. 

How is Prochlorperazine Abused? 

While prochlorperazine doesn’t deliver the same euphoric high that many abused drugs do, it is still abused. It does alter mood and perception, which has increased its misuse among recreational users. Taken in large doses outside of medical instructions can lead to accidental overdose, and prochlorperazine overdose can be life-threatening. When it is taken over a long period of time, even when it’s taken as directed, it can be damaging to body organs. Additionally, prochlorperazine use can lead someone to develop a physical tolerance to the drug, and drive them to use more, take it more often than prescribed, and ultimately, to seek more of the drug or other drugs as a substitute. 

What Are Side Effects of Prochlorperazine?

While it is quite effective when taken as directed for the conditions it is designed to treat, prochlorperazine does have some side effects that may occur. Those side effects include: 

  • Anxiety
  • Drowsiness or dizziness
  • Insomnia
  • Headache
  • Dry mouth
  • Strange, vivid dreams
  • Blurred vision
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Constipation
  • Breast swelling
  • Weight gain
  • Swelling of feet or hands
  • Itching, skin rash
  • Missed menstrual periods
  • Impotence
  • Low blood pressure

More serious side effects occur from prolonged use or high doses of prochlorperazine, and they include a severe movement disorder that may be permanent. The longer someone uses prochlorperazine, the more likely they are to develop this condition, especially women and older adults. Serious symptoms include: 

  • Uncontrollable muscle movements in the arms and legs, or the face (lip smacking, tongue movement, chewing, frowning, eye movement, or blinking)
  • Tremors, or other abnormal muscle movement that are uncontrollable
  • Trouble swallowing or speaking 
  • Neck stiffness or muscle spasms
  • Jaundice
  • Restlessness and agitation
  • Little or no urination
  • Extreme fatigue or lightheadedness
  • Severe stomach pain, bloating, and constipation
  • Low blood cell counts – sore throat, cough, fever, chills, mouth sores, skin sores, trouble breathing, pale skin, easy bruising or bleeding
  • Lupus-like symptoms – joint and muscle pain, chest pain, rash, patchy skin color, flu symptoms
  • Severe nervous system reaction – extremely stiff muscles, sweating, high fever, increased heart rate, high fever, confusion

Who Should Not Take Prochlorperazine?

Prochlorperazine is considered fairly safe when prescribed for the conditions it is intended to treat. It can be taken by adults and children that are at least one year old. However, there are some individuals who should not take prochlorperazine. Those for whom this medication is not suitable for, include individuals who: 

  • have glaucoma
  • have liver problems
  • have heart failure
  • have high blood pressure
  • have epilepsy or other conditions that cause seizures
  • have Crohn’s disease, hernia, colon cancer, diverticulitis, or other conditions than may cause bowel blockages
  • have phaeochromocytoma (high blood pressure related to a tumor near the kidney)
  • have a history of blot clots or who are at risk of developing blood clots

What Drug Interactions Are Dangerous with Prochlorperazine?

Prochlorperazine can lead to dangerous situations when it is taken in combination with other medications that cause drowsiness or slow breathing. Opioid painkillers, sleeping pills, anxiety medicine, and muscle relaxers shouldn’t be taken with prochlorperazine. 

Other drugs that can cause adverse reactions when taken with prochlorperazine include: 

  • Propranolol
  • Lithium
  • Diuretics
  • Blood thinners
  • Seizure medication

There are other medications that may affect prochlorperazine, including some over the counter medications, prescriptions, vitamins, supplements, and herbal products. It’s important to consult with a doctor before taking any medications with prochlorperazine. 

Withdrawal from Prochlorperazine

Like some other medications, when prochlorperazine is taken in high doses or for a prolonged period of time, it can lead to tolerance, which can become physical dependence. At that point, if the drug is stopped abruptly, the individual will experience withdrawal symptoms, including but not limited to: 

  • Anxiety
  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Tremors or shaking
  • Schizophrenia-like symptoms, including delusions and hallucinations

Is There Treatment for Prochlorperazine Addiction?

Prochlorperazine is not usually addictive, however, individuals can become physically dependent on the medication, and it can be abused. Psychological addiction can happen with prochlorperazine, which means abusers may show addictive behaviors like obsessing about getting and using the drug, not taking part in activities and relationships that used to be pleasurable, and seeking more of the drug from one or more doctors. 

There is treatment for prochlorperazine dependence and addiction. It’s recommended that individuals who have been using the medication in high doses or for a prolonged period should seek medical help to stop using it. It may be recommended that individuals attend a medically supervised detox program to rid their bodies of prochlorperazine safely and comfortably.