Chlorpromazine

Chlorpromazine is prescribed for a variety of unrelated problems. Ask your doctor if you are unsure why it has been prescribed for you.

The most common side-effects are feeling drowsy or dizzy, blurred vision and dry mouth.

Chlorpromazine may cause your skin to become more sensitive to sunlight than normal. Protect your skin from bright sunlight and do not use sunbeds.

Type of medicine A phenothiazine antipsychotic medicine
Used for Schizophrenia and other psychoses; to ease agitation and severe restlessness; persistent hiccups; for sickness in palliative care
Available as Tablets and oral liquid medicine

Chlorpromazine belongs to a group of medicines called 'phenothiazines'. It is prescribed for a variety of conditions, many of which are unrelated.

It is prescribed for:

  • The symptoms of schizophrenia and other similar mental health problems which affect thoughts, feelings and behaviours. These problems are called psychoses.
  • The short-term treatment of severe anxiety, agitation, or sudden dangerous behaviour.
  • Children with autism.
  • Sickness associated with advanced or terminal illnesses.
  • For hiccups which cannot be otherwise stopped.

Some medicines are not suitable for people with certain conditions, and sometimes a medicine may only be used if extra care is taken. For these reasons, before you start taking chlorpromazine it is important that your doctor knows:

  • If you are pregnant or breast-feeding.
  • If you have a heart condition or blood vessel disease.
  • If you have liver, kidney, thyroid, or prostate problems.
  • If you have breathing problems.
  • If you have any of the following: epilepsy, diabetes, depression, Parkinson's disease, glaucoma (raised pressure in your eye) or myasthenia gravis (this is a condition which causes muscle weakness).
  • If you have ever had jaundice (yellowing of your skin or the whites of your eyes) or a blood disorder.
  • If you have a tumour on your adrenal gland (a condition called phaeochromocytoma).
  • If you have ever had an allergic reaction to a medicine.
  • If you are taking or using any other medicines. This includes any medicines you are taking which are available to buy without a prescription, such as herbal and complementary medicines.
  • Before you start the treatment, read the manufacturer's printed information leaflet from inside your pack. It will give you more information about chlorpromazine, and will also provide a full list of the side-effects which you may experience from taking it.
  • Your dose will depend upon the reason you have been prescribed it, so take chlorpromazine exactly as your doctor tells you to. As a guide, it is often prescribed to be taken three or four times daily. Try to get into the habit of taking your doses at the same times each day, as this will help you to avoid missing any. You can take chlorpromazine before or after meals.
  • Swallow the tablets whole with a drink of water - do not break or crush the tablets. If you have any difficulties swallowing the tablets, let your doctor know so that you can be prescribed liquid medicine instead.
  • If you forget to take a dose, take it as soon as you remember unless it is nearly time for your next dose, in which case leave out the missed dose. Do not take two doses together to make up for a missed dose.
  • Keep your regular doctor's appointments so your progress can be checked. If you are taking chlorpromazine long-term, you may need to have some tests from time to time.
  • If you drink alcohol, ask your doctor for advice about drinking while you are on chlorpromazine. Alcohol will increase the chance that you experience side-effects and is unlikely to be recommended for you.
  • Chlorpromazine may cause your skin to become more sensitive to sunlight than normal. Use a sunscreen that protects against UVA light and has a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15, especially in strong sunlight or until you know how your skin reacts. Do not use sunbeds.
  • If you are having an operation, tell the person carrying out the treatment which medicines you are taking. This is important because chlorpromazine may interfere with the anaesthetic you receive.
  • If you buy or take any 'over-the-counter' medicines, check with a pharmacist that they are suitable to take with chlorpromazine. Antacid remedies should not be taken at the same time, as they reduce the amount of chlorpromazine absorbed by your body.
  • If you have diabetes check your blood glucose levels regularly, as chlorpromazine can affect the levels of sugar in your blood.
  • Smoking may affect the amount of chlorpromazine in your body. Let your doctor know if you start or stop smoking while you are taking chlorpromazine.
  • When chlorpromazine has been taken for a while, stopping treatment suddenly can cause problems. If you have been taking it regularly your doctor will probably want you to reduce your dose gradually if this becomes necessary.

Along with their useful effects, most medicines can cause unwanted side-effects although not everyone experiences them. The table below contains some of the most common ones associated with chlorpromazine. You will find a full list in the manufacturer's information leaflet supplied with your medicine. The unwanted effects often improve as your body adjusts to the new medicine, but speak with your doctor or pharmacist if any of the following continue or become troublesome.

Common chlorpromazine side-effects What can I do if I experience this?
Feeling dizzy or sleepy, blurred vision, slowed reaction time If this happens, do not drive or use tools or machines. Do not drink alcohol
Dry mouth Try chewing sugar-free gum or sugar-free sweets
Headache Ask your pharmacist to recommend a suitable painkiller
Feeling shaky or restless, unusual or uncontrollable muscle movements Speak with your doctor as soon as possible about any of these. Your treatment may need adjusting
Changes in weight, difficulty sleeping, mood changes, reduced sex drive, feeling sick, breast enlargement, production of breast milk, menstrual problems, fast heartbeats, constipation or diarrhoea, difficulty passing urine Discuss these with your doctor if any become troublesome

Important: if you experience symptoms such as muscle stiffness, a very high temperature, feeling confused, a fast heartbeat and sweating, you should contact your doctor immediately. These may be signs of a rare but serious condition known as neuroleptic malignant syndrome.

If you experience any other symptoms which you think may be due to this medicine, speak with your doctor or pharmacist.

  • Keep all medicines out of the reach and sight of children.
  • Store in a cool, dry place, away from direct heat and light.

Never take more than the prescribed dose. If you suspect that you or someone else might have taken an overdose of this medicine, go to the accident and emergency department of your local hospital. Take the container with you, even if it is empty.

This medicine is for you. Never give it to other people even if their condition appears to be the same as yours.

Do not keep out-of-date or unwanted medicines. Take them to your local pharmacy which will dispose of them for you.

If you have any questions about this medicine ask your pharmacist.

Further reading & references

  • British National Formulary; 67th Edition (March 2014) British Medical Association and Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, London

Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. EMIS has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.

Original Author:
Helen Allen
Current Version:
Peer Reviewer:
Dr John Cox
Document ID:
3496 (v23)
Last Checked:
17/04/2014
Next Review:
16/04/2017
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