Samantha Bazely
Author: Samantha Bazely Medical Reviewer: Amy Shelby Last updated:

Haloperidol is an antipsychotic medication used to treat various mental and behavioral conditions. Several medications can negatively interact with this drug. It is important to discuss any existing conditions and prescriptions with your doctor or healthcare provider before you start taking Haloperidol. Never take this drug without proper medical advice.

Haloperidol brand names

Haloperidol is also known as Haldol, Haldol decanoate, and Serenace. It is important to know that Haldol is no longer a branded product on the market, but generic alternatives are available.

Why is haloperidol prescribed?

Haloperidol is an antipsychotic drug used to treat certain mental health conditions, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Haloperidol can be used alone or in combination with other medications to treat severe behavioral problems such as autism or excessive aggression. [2]

Haloperidol uses include but are not limited to treating psychotic disorders, uncontrolled movement and verbal tics from Tourette’s syndrome, severe behavioral problems, schizophrenia, and hyperactivity in children when psychotherapy and other medications have failed. [3]

How does haloperidol work?

Haloperidol is grouped in the antipsychotic class of drugs. The drug works by helping to restore the balance of certain natural substances in the brain and reduce anxiety. Haloperidol works by binding to dopamine receptors in the brain. [1] This prevents dopamine from binding to those receptors and decreases abnormal brain excitement.

Decreasing the dopamine in the brain may also help to treat psychosis. In addition, haloperidol can also act as a block on other chemicals in the brain, which will help patients manage aggression, explosiveness, over-excitability, excessive movement, impulsiveness, trouble paying attention, and mood swings. [4]

How is haloperidol usually taken?

Haloperidol is taken orally via a tablet or oral concentrate one to two times per day. The dosage depends on various conditions. Patients should follow the directions on the prescription label. The dosage may fluctuate, but it is important to continue taking it as prescribed. [1]

How long does haloperidol stay in your system?

Haloperidol has been found in the system 14.5-36.7 hours after a single oral dose. After long-term use, this drug has a half-life of up to 21 days. [2]

Haloperidol side effects

As with any new medication, it is important to watch for adverse effects and allergic reactions. Some are more severe than others, but all should be noted and discussed with your doctor. [1]

Physical side effects of Haloperidol:

  • Drowsiness and dizziness
  • Involuntary movements
  • Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Dry mouth
  • Increased saliva
  • Blurred vision
  • Headache
  • Loss of appetite
  • Indigestion
  • Vomiting
  • Breast enlargement or pain
  • Breast milk production
  • Missed menstrual periods
  • Sexual dysfunction in men
  • Increased sexual desire
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Weight gain

Psychological side effects of Haloperidol:

  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Nervousness
  • Mood changes
  • Restlessness

Call your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following side effects:

  • Fever
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Confusion
  • Fast or irregular heartbeat
  • Chest pain
  • Low blood pressure
  • Sweating
  • Decreased thirst
  • Neck cramps
  • Tightness in the throat
  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • Uncontrollable facial movements
  • Seizures
  • Eye pain or discoloration
  • Decreased vision, especially at night
  • Seeing everything with a brown tint
  • Rash
  • Yellowing of the skin or eyes
  • Erection that lasts for hours

Haloperidol precautions

It is recommended that people taking haloperidol do not drive or operate heavy machinery until they know how it will affect them.

There are some drugs and conditions that will interact poorly with haloperidol. Be sure to tell your doctor or pharmacist if you have Parkinson’s disease, bipolar disorder, prostate issues, glaucoma, heart conditions, hyperthyroidism, seizures, or low white blood cell count.

Tell your doctor if you are pregnant, plan to become pregnant while taking haloperidol, or are breastfeeding, as this drug can pass through to the baby.

Haloperidol interactions

If taking more than one medication or supplement at a time, it is important to note that they can have negative interactions with one another. Always have a list of the medications, supplements, and vitamins you are taking to discuss with your doctor and/or pharmacist before taking haloperidol. [5]

Possible medicinal interactions

There have been negative reported drug interactions in patients who have used haloperidol while also using anticholinergic medications, cabergoline, ketoconazole, lithium, methyldopa, Parkinson’s disease drugs, paroxetine, pergolide, quinupristin/dalfopristin, rifampin, and saquinavir. In addition, tell your doctor if you are taking any other products that may cause drowsiness, such as opioid pain medications, cough relievers, anxiety medication, muscle relaxants, or antihistamines.

Possible nonmedicinal interactions

Haloperidol can increase the effects of alcohol and vice versa, increasing the potential risk of adverse reactions like dizziness and drowsiness. For this reason you should avoid drinking alcohol whilst taking haloperidol.

Haloperidol storage

In order to safely store haloperidol, you should keep it in a dry area away from direct sunlight and moisture (do not store it in the bathroom). Keep the medication in its original container and store it up and away from children and pets. If prescribed the liquid form of this drug, it is important not to let it freeze. It should be stored at room temperature.

What to do if you overdose on haloperidol

Overdoses can happen and they have the potential to cause sudden death. If you suspect an overdose and the patient has trouble breathing or is unconscious, call 911 immediately. Call your local poison control center if the patient is alert and not in immediate danger. Symptoms of an overdose may include unusual movements of any part of the body, including peculiar or slowed movement, stiff or weak muscles, and slowed breathing. Sleepiness and loss of consciousness are also symptoms to watch for. [5]

FAQs about haloperidol

How long does it take for haloperidol to work?

Haloperidol can work within the hour, depending on the dosage and the condition it is treating. However, for most antipsychotic treatments, it will take several weeks to determine if haloperidol is working. [2]

Is haloperidol addictive?

Haloperidol is often used over a long period of time for treatment purposes. However, it is not typically a drug that is abused, as it can cause psychosis in people who are not taking it for a diagnosed condition.

Haloperidol vs. Lorazepam: What’s the difference?

Lorazepam is an antianxiety medication to reduce anxiety in patients. This medication does help individuals relax, but it is different from Haloperidol because the latter aims to help the patient, calm agitation, stabilize their mood, and help to control negative thoughts.

  1. National Alliance on Mental Illness. (n.d.). Haloperidol (Haldol). NAMI. Retrieved October 24, 2022, from https://www.nami.org/About-Mental-Illness/Treatments/Mental-Health-Medications/Types-of-Medication/Haloperidol-(Haldol)
  2. NCBI Haloperidol. National Library of Medicine. (2022, June 4). Retrieved October 24, 2022, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK560892/
  3. Haloperidol for psychosis‐induced aggression or agitation (rapid tranquillisation). National Library of Medicine. (2017, July 31). Retrieved October 24, 2022, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6483410/
  4. The effects of haloperidol on dopamine receptor gene expression. (n.d.). National Library of Medicine. Retrieved October 24, 2022, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7867758/
  5. MedlinePlus [Internet]. National Library of Medicine. Haloperidol: MedlinePlus Drug Information. (n.d.). Available from https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a682180.html
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Samantha Bazely
Author Samantha Bazely Writer

Samantha Bazely is a medical writer with a background that includes a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications from Augustana College.

Published: Nov 22nd 2022, Last edited: Sep 29th 2023

Amy Shelby
Medical Reviewer Amy Shelby M.S. Counseling Psychology

Amy Shelby is a medical reviewer with a B.A. in Psychology from Northwestern and an M.S. in Psychology from Chatham University.

Content reviewed by a medical professional. Last reviewed: Nov 23rd 2022