Adverse endocrine and metabolic effects of psychotropic drugs: selective clinical review

CNS Drugs. 2009 Dec;23(12):1003-21. doi: 10.2165/11530020-000000000-00000.


The article critically reviews selected, clinically significant, adverse endocrine and metabolic effects associated with psychotropic drug treatments, including hyperprolactinaemia, hyponatraemia, diabetes insipidus, hypothyroidism, hyperparathyroidism, sexual dysfunction and virilization, weight loss, weight gain and metabolic syndrome (type 2 diabetes mellitus, dyslipidaemia and hypertension). Such effects are prevalent and complex, but can be managed clinically when recognized. They encourage continued critical assessment of benefits versus risks of psychotropic drugs and underscore the importance of close coordination of psychiatric and general medical care to improve long-term health of psychiatric patients. Options for management of hyperprolactinaemia include lowering doses, switching to agents such as aripiprazole, clozapine or quetiapine, managing associated osteoporosis, carefully considering the use of dopamine receptor agonists and ruling out stress, oral contraceptive use and hypothyroidism as contributing factors. Disorders of water homeostasis may include syndrome of inappropriate antidiuretic hormone (SIADH), managed by water restriction or slow replacement by hypertonic saline along with drug discontinuation. Safe management of diabetes insipidus, commonly associated with lithium, involves switching mood stabilizer and consideration of potassium-sparing diuretics. Clinical hypothyroidism may be a more useful marker than absolute cut-offs of hormone values, and may be associated with quetiapine, antidepressant and lithium use, and managed by thyroxine replacement. Hyper-parathyroidism requires comprehensive medical evaluation for occult tumours. Hypocalcaemia, along with multiple other psychiatric and medical causes, may result in decreased bone density and require evaluation and management. Strategies for reducing sexual dysfunction with psychotropics remain largely unsatisfactory. Finally, management strategies for obesity and metabolic syndrome are reviewed in light of the recent expert guidelines, including risk assessment and treatments, such as monoamine transport inhibitors, anticonvulsants and cannabinoid receptor antagonists, as well as lifestyle changes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Endocrine System Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Humans
  • Metabolic Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Psychotropic Drugs / adverse effects*
  • Risk Assessment


  • Psychotropic Drugs