Management of acute extrapyramidal effects induced by antipsychotic drugs

Am J Health Syst Pharm. 1997 Nov 1;54(21):2461-77. doi: 10.1093/ajhp/54.21.2461.


The management of acute extrapyramidal effects (EPEs) induced by antipsychotic drugs is reviewed. EPEs associated with antipsychotics include acute dystonias, pseudoparkinsonism, and akathisia. Acute dystonias consist of abnormal muscle spasms and postures and usually occur three to five days after antipsychotic therapy begins or the dosage is increased. Acute dystonias should be treated with anticholinergic medications or benzodiazepines. Antipsychotic-induced pseudoparkinsonism has the same clinical appearance as idiopathic parkinsonism. Symptoms generally appear within the first three months. Pseudoparkinsonism is managed by lowering the anti-psychotic dosage or by adding an anticholinergic agent or a mantadine; switching to a low-potency agent or an atypical antipsychotic may also help. Akathisia is characterized by subjective feelings of restlessness and anxiety and objective signs of motor activity, such as inability to sit still. This EPE appears days to weeks after antipsychotic exposure begins and can be difficult to manage. If reduction of the antipsychotic dosage or a switch to a less potent antipsychotic is not practical or effective, an anticholinergic, beta-blocker, or benzodiazepine may be added. Lipophilic beta-blockers, especially propranolol and metoprolol, appear to be the most effective treatments. Anticholinergic agents are commonly given to prevent acute dystonias, especially in high-risk patients, but long-term prophylaxis is controversial. Atypical antipsychotics may have less potential to induce EPEs. Options in the management of antipsychotic-associated EPEs include using the lowest effective dosage of antipsychotic, treating the reactions with medications, and changing the antipsychotic to one with less potential for inducing EPEs.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adrenergic beta-Antagonists / therapeutic use*
  • Akathisia, Drug-Induced / etiology
  • Akathisia, Drug-Induced / therapy*
  • Amantadine / therapeutic use
  • Antipsychotic Agents / adverse effects*
  • Benzodiazepines / therapeutic use*
  • Cholinergic Antagonists / therapeutic use*
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Dopamine Agonists / therapeutic use*
  • Dystonia / chemically induced
  • Dystonia / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Parkinson Disease, Secondary / chemically induced
  • Parkinson Disease, Secondary / therapy*


  • Adrenergic beta-Antagonists
  • Antipsychotic Agents
  • Cholinergic Antagonists
  • Dopamine Agonists
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Amantadine