Seroquel is the brand name for the generic drug quetiapine, which is prescribed for the treatment of symptoms associated with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
The drug, which belongs to the antipsychotic class of medications, works by adjusting levels of neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine in the brain in an effort to restore their natural balance. By stabilizing these chemicals in the brain, Seroquel users can experience mood stabilization.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Seroquel as an antipsychotic medication in 1997. While it is not legal for pharmaceutical companies to market Seroquel for any uses other than as approved by FDA, doctors can legally prescribe Seroquel for reasons other than schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
Additional off-label uses of Seroquel include treatment for:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Persistent depression
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
Both positive and negative side effects are commonly observed with Seroquel use. There are various intended benefits of Seroquel, which include:
- Improved concentration
- Decreased hallucinations
- Increased energy
- Increased positive mood
- Decreased occurrence and severity of dramatic mood swings
Common negative side effects of Seroquel include:
- Low blood pressure
- Increased heart rate
- Dry mouth
- Increased appetite
It is rare to experience side effects that are more serious than the ones listed above, but it is possible. Though uncommon, these serious side effects are possible with long-term use of Seroquel:
- Loss of period in females
- Erectile dysfunction in men
- Decrease in sex drive
- Restlessness, tremors, and muscle stiffness
- Uncontrollable slow or jerky muscle movements
- Weight gain
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
Some of symptoms listed above can increase your chances of cardiac problems, stroke, and death, so it is important to keep your doctor informed of the development of any concerning side effects. Your doctor can determine whether the intended benefits of Seroquel continue to outweigh any side effects you may be experiencing and if it’s appropriate to keep you on the mediation.
Why Do People Use Seroquel Recreationally?
People report using Seroquel recreationally for the high it can produce. When taken in high enough doses, some people can experience a relaxing high that helps them slow down. Some people even use it for the extreme drowsiness it can cause.
It can be taken orally, intranasally, or intravenously.
People who report recreational use of atypical antipsychotic medications like Seroquel say the drug helps them enhance the effects of other substances or recover from the adverse side effects of drinking alcohol. Pure experimentation is a reason some people use Seroquel recreationally and with other substances.
While Seroquel can be legally be obtained through a doctor’s prescription, it is not difficult for people to get the drug for recreational purposes. People may convince a doctor that they need it, receive multiple prescriptions at once from different doctors, get the drug from family or friends who were legally prescribed it, or buy it illegally off the street.
Potential Dangers of Recreational Use
Recreational use of Seroquel is risky, as there are potential dangers associated with experimenting with it. Seroquel use is considered to be especially dangerous for people who crush and snort the drug.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) explains that the FDA has given at least two black box warnings to Seroquel. One warning is for elderly patients who are already diagnosed with dementia-related psychosis. Antipsychotic medications like Seroquel are associated with increased rates of death for this population.
The second black box warning discusses the potential for suicidal thoughts or attempts in children and adults taking Seroquel. People with a history of mental illness, particularly depression, have reported experiencing an increase in the severity of their depression as well as the occurrence of suicidal ideation.
Those with a history of substance misuse often present with co-occurring mental health issues. Anyone experimenting with Seroquel for recreational reasons must be very cautious and aware of the development of any thoughts of suicide or worsening depression. Such thoughts need to be addressed right away by medical professionals to ensure symptoms do not worsen or become fatal.
In addition to the risk of ignoring the black box warnings of Seroquel, recreational Seroquel users are likely to be polysubstance users. Polysubstance abuse refers to using at least three different types of substances, which is a practice that is very dangerous for physical and mental health. It is difficult to anticipate how substances will interact with one another.
In the case of mixing Seroquel with other drugs, studies have found that most people who abuse antipsychotic medications misuse other drugs, as well. Atypical antipsychotics are most commonly reported to be mixed with alcohol, opioids, and cocaine. Often, many of these substances are used in combination.
Is Seroquel Addictive?
Seroquel is not considered to be addictive because it does not have the same effects on a person that addictive drugs do. Some people may abuse Seroquel for its sedative effects or in hopes of managing other symptoms, but it does not produce the euphoric high that people become addicted to. No clear behavioral reward encourages use.
In general, antipsychotic medications are not addictive. They do not produce a euphoric high, create a desire in people to continuing using the drug, or foster a need to consume increasingly greater quantities of the drug. Despite this, people do use the drug recreationally.
While antipsychotic medications are generally accepted to not be addictive, withdrawal symptoms can appear when you stop taking them.
The occurrence of withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking a drug does not equate to addiction, though it does indicate that your body has developed a physical dependence on the drug. In the case of antipsychotic medications, you may experience nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, dizziness, and shakiness when you stop using them.
To avoid uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms, doctors do not recommend quitting Seroquel all at once. They will help you make a plan to slowly reduce your intake of the drug over some weeks.
If you have been taking Seroquel for medical reasons, quitting all at once puts you at risk for psychotic symptoms returning or getting worse.
How to Use Seroquel Without Abusing It
The best way to use Seroquel without abusing it is by limiting your use to purely medical purposes and only as directed by your doctor. While antipsychotic medications are not addictive, recreational use of any substance is still risky.
Particularly if you are mixing Seroquel with other substances, you are exposing yourself to potentially severe and dangerous side effects. As with all prescription medications, there is no safe way to use Seroquel recreationally.