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Seroquel is a commonly prescribed drug for people with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. As an antipsychotic, this substance contains a chemical called quetiapine that effectively helps individuals manage their psychotic symptoms. Despite its popularity in the medical community, Seroquel is becoming notoriously famous because of its off-label use and addiction. Long-term misuse of this drug has been associated with multiple health problems; however, one of the most significant risks it poses is that of an overdose.
What Kind of Drug is Seroquel? An Overview
Generically known as quetiapine, Seroquel is a member of a drug class called antipsychotics or neuroleptics. Just like opioids treat pain and stimulants manage issues like ADHD, antipsychotics like Seroquel help people keep the symptoms of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia under control. The drug particularly works well for symptoms like paranoia, hallucinations, frantic thoughts, and delusions.
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Within the brain, neuroleptics like Seroquel directly affect the dopamine neurotransmitters and serotonin secretion and synthesis. These two chemicals regulate many aspects of the human body, such as reward response, appetite, and mood. While attempting to reduce these chemicals may seem counterproductive, it is beneficial for those with psychotic symptoms as such people have a neurotransmitter overbalance. This means that the method of action that Seroquel adopts can provide a balancing effect on their central nervous systems to treat individual symptoms.
What Happens When You Overdose on Seroquel?
A Seroquel overdose is a life-threatening issue that may easily progress to mortality if you do not seek treatment. Hence, it becomes imperative to understand its symptoms and learn how to recognize them in time. In this way, you can seek a quick cure for this overdose which may be necessary to save a life and reduce the extent of damage it triggers.
Following are some of the possible symptoms that may appear in an individual overdosing on Seroquel:
- Rapid heartbeat
A lot of people are curious to know the exact dose of Seroquel that is capable of triggering the overdose symptoms mentioned above. The truth is that this dose depends on various personal factors, such as sex, age, weight, and body size. To minimize the risk of an overdose, most doctors begin with a minimal initial dose of Seroquel and gradually increase it over time until they find the most appropriate dose for you. Most people take 150 to 800 milligrams of Seroquel daily, depending on the personal factors mentioned above and why they take it.
As per the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, people have survived a dose of Seroquel as high as 30 grams without developing any life-threatening risks in clinical trials. At the same time, death has also been reported due to ingesting only 13.6 grams of this medication. These variations make it clear how variable the effects of Seroquel can be on different people. Hence, it is crucial to take care as long as you use it. There are multiple factors that may further increase the risk of a fatal overdose in Seroquel users, such as mixing it with other drugs like alcohol, opioids, and benzodiazepines. Such combinations can intensify the sedative effects of Seroquel, pushing the body into an overdose.
What are the Dangers of a Seroquel Overdose?
Seroquel overdose is very much possible whether you take the medication alone or in combination with other drugs. When this happens, the user’s body is unable to handle the high levels of the drug that enters the system, eventually leading to the typical overdose symptoms. At the same time, such people may also develop other dangerous issues secondary to this overdose. These include:
At very high levels, Seroquel is likely to induce coma in its users. When this happens, it may become impossible to predict if a user will ever wake up from this state. Many people who do come out of this induced coma develop additional complications.
Respiratory depression is more common in people who overdose on Seroquel than those abusing other medications. Characterized by ineffective or slow breathing, this symptom is extremely dangerous and may cause complete stoppage of breathing, leading to death.
Seizures are one of the most dangerous symptoms of Seroquel overdose. These seizures may last between 30 to 120 seconds and force the drug user to fall and sustain an injury. These injuries often include a direct blow to the head, severe lacerations, or even broken bones.
Low Blood Pressure
Low blood pressure may decrease the efficiency with which the heart pumps blood through different body parts. When this issue presents itself, a simultaneous shock risk appears, indicating that the body’s organs are not receiving enough oxygen. This lack of oxygen may lead to a wide array of problems, such as confusion and loss of consciousness.
Hyperglycemia is when a person’s blood sugar levels become too high. If this problem persists for a long time without management, it starts affecting the individual’s nerves, blood vessels, and other organs like the kidneys. Further prolongation with no management also raises the risk of a hyperglycemic hyperosmolar state, known as ketoacidosis. These complications are more common in people with a history of diabetes but can also occur in others and lead to adverse treatment outcomes.
Seroquel Overdose Treatment: How to Help Someone?
If someone around you takes a Seroquel OD, keep in mind that they need urgent medical attention, so call 911 at once. As you are talking to the emergency dispatcher, make sure to provide them with as much information about the victim and the current situation as possible. The following points are essential to mention as you tell them about the emergency:
- The victim’s age and overall body size
- The exact type of drug they took and its dose, if you know about it
- Any other supplements, medicines, or drugs the victim has recently taken
- Any possible issues that they may be suffering from
Once you have alerted the emergency services, focus on the victim and give them a quick inspection. Providing rescue breaths is crucial if you feel like they have stopped breathing. Those who do not know how to give rescue breaths can take help from an emergency services operator and request them to walk them through it. Alternatively, if the victim is breathing, turn them to one side and support them so they do not fall back onto the back. In a side posture, the victim is less likely to aspirate their vomit or choke on it. Choking on vomit can put them at risk of aspiration pneumonia, lung abscess, respiratory failure, infection of the bloodstream, shock, and even death.
Keep in mind never to leave a person with Seroquel overdose alone when they are exhibiting active symptoms. Such people require constant monitoring by someone until emergency help arrives and takes over. Seroquel overdose is a serious problem and often requires professional treatment to manage it. Stopping the use of this drug is the only way to prevent another incident of overdose from happening.
As soon as the emergency services take over the case, they immediately shift the victim to a hospital where doctors take over. The doctor’s job is to monitor important functions of the nervous system that may take a hit due to quetiapine overdoses, such as breathing, blood pressure, and heart rate. If one of these changes drops to a dangerous degree, doctors may intervene through appropriate medical interventions. For instance, someone who has overdosed on Seroquel and starts experiencing shallow breathing may receive mechanical intubation and ventilation to keep the lungs and airways open. Patients may also receive activated charcoal to soak any unabsorbed drug residue in the stomach and prevent it from reaching the bloodstream.
Using Seroquel Safely: How to Avoid Side Effects and Overdose in the Future?
People using Seroquel must be careful about using it safely to avoid experiencing any damage to their bodies or putting themselves at unnecessary risk. For this purpose, keep the following tips in mind:
- Do not use Seroquel if you are allergic to quetiapine, its active ingredient.
- Seroquel may increase the risk of death in people belonging to older age groups and diagnosed with dementia-related psychosis.
- Seroquel is not safe for use for individuals below 10 years.
- Inform your doctor before using Seroquel if you have ever had liver disease, prostate enlargement, high or low blood pressure, heart issues, a seizure, cataracts or glaucoma, abnormal prolactin or thyroid levels, diabetes, constipation, or high cholesterol levels.
- Some people, particularly the ones belonging to a younger age group, develop suicidal thoughts when they first start using an antidepressant-like Seroquel. Hence, make sure to visit your doctor frequently to keep track of your symptoms and progress. Alert your caregivers and family members to any changes in your mood.
- Avoid taking Seroquel when you are breastfeeding.
- Using Seroquel may temporarily reduce fertility in females.
- Do not use Seroquel during the last three months of pregnancy, as it may lead to breathing issues, fussiness, feeding issues, stiff muscles, and tremors in the newborn. Inform your doctor right away if you are using Seroquel and become pregnant.
- Never stop using or increase the dose of this medication before seeking approval from a doctor.
What are the approved uses of Seroquel?
Seroquel or Quetiapine can be beneficial for people with the following:
- Bipolar disorder
- Arteriosclerotic dementia with depression
- Depressive psychosis
What is the lethal dose of Seroquel?
Research investigating the safety of using Seroquel indicates that the lowest reported dose of this drug that has ever led to mortality is 6000 mg. This lethal dose is up to 7.5 times the maximum recommended dose of Seroquel. However, further investigations have concluded that most patients can survive even after ingesting up to 30,000 milligrams of Seroquel; however, the chances are highly variable.
What are the risk factors for Quetiapine overdose?
The presence of the following factors may put an individual at risk of experiencing a Seroquel overdose:
- Old age
- Low body weight
- Slow drug metabolism
- Cardiovascular illness
- Impaired function of the liver or kidneys
- Polysubstance abuse