Seroquel medication is also known by the generic name quetiapine.
Many bipolar medications are known by more than one name.
The generic name is the chemical name without any brand marketing attached. So "quetiapine" refers to the actual chemical drug - a fumaric acid salt which affects the human brain neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine.
However "Seroquel" is the brand name used by the manufacturer Astra Zeneca, who hold the drug's patent.
There is also another version known as Ketipinor made by Orion Pharma.
So what is Seroquel?
It is an atypical anti-psychotic originally developed to treat schizophrenia - not bipolar disorder.
Does it matter if Seroquel medication was not originally intended as a treatment for bipolar disorder?
yes and no! The distinction between categorizing a drug as an
"anti-psychotic" as opposed to a "mood stabilizer" can be a very fine
Some authoritative sources, for example the Mayo Clinic, dance around this distinction with statements such as:
"Quetiapine is used to treat nervous, emotional, and mental conditions."
According to Dr Jim Phelps, try Seroquel when:
"1.Depression and agitation are both severe. 2. Severe sleep problems. 3. Anxiety is a significant symptom. 4. No family history of diabetes."
Unlike almost all of the other bipolar medications, this one lends itself to abuse as a recreational drug.
Because of its calming and extreme sedative effects, quetiapine is actually a common choice for drug abuse.
For example, it is frequently snorted, crushed or taken via IV, and sometimes it is blended with cocaine.
Recreational users, especially those in the prison system, have found that it is commonly prescribed as a sedative. It is popular with administrators because of its "controlling" properties such as reducing agitation. This makes it far more easily attainable than drugs that are categorized as controlled substances.
Yes, there are the usual suspects:
Chills / sweats; Dizziness; Sedation; Confusion; Blurred vision; Tummy upsets; Uncontrolled movements; Drooling (seriously!).
However, Seroquel is particularly notorious for causing a lot of weight gain and increasing the amount of sugar in the bloodstream.
It may also increase cholesterol and fats in the blood.
According to "Defective Drugs":
"In 2004, four medical societies named Seroquel as one of six anti-psychotic drugs that promote diabetes, obesity or high cholesterol.
In February's issue of the journal, Diabetes Care, the American Diabetes Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the North American Association for the Study of Obesity, and the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists warned that Seroquel users should be watched carefully to ensure that they are not developing diabetes.
Additionally, doctors prescribing Seroquel should screen patients carefully for a history of obesity and diabetes in the patient and family, as well as the patient's weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels.
Seroquel manufacturers AstraZeneca have been requested by US regulators to include warnings about the risk of elevated blood sugar and diabetes."
Conclusion? Seroquel medication is an interesting choice for the treatment of bipolar disorder. It is primarily a treatment for schizophrenia and is only FDA approved for treating acute bipolar episodes. That is, it is NOT a classic mood stabilizer that is suitable for long-term or maintenance treatment. In fact, the FDA only approves it as a continuing treatment in conjunction with traditional mood stabilizers such as lithium.
In summary, it has serious side effects but limited efficacy, and is not an endorsed stand-alone or front line treatment under any of the recognized treatment guidelines.
Some folks get great results from Seroquel, but ask your doctor for a thorough explanation if they suggest Seroquel without, or before, trying the more recognized bipolar medications.