Haldol vs Thorazine

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For patients with schizophrenia or other types of severe mental disorders, certain medications that alter the balance of chemicals in the brain known as neurotransmitters can be beneficial. Haldol (haloperidol) and Thorazine (chlorpromazine) are two such drugs prescribed for these conditions. They both impact different neurotransmitters in the brain but have similar effects on alleviating symptoms associated with psychosis. Haldol is classified as a typical antipsychotic, primarily affecting levels of dopamine by blocking its receptors in the brain to reduce hallucinations and improve concentration. On the other hand, Thorazine also belongs to this class but has additional effects on other neurotransmitter systems like histamine and serotonin, providing not only relief from psychotic symptoms but also calming effects useful for managing agitation.

What is Haldol?

Haloperidol (the generic name for Haldol) is a representative of the butyrophenone class of antipsychotics, which was a significant progression from the first generation of antipsychotic drugs known as phenothiazines. Haloperidol was first approved by the FDA in 1967. It functions by blocking dopamine receptors in certain parts of the brain, thereby reducing symptoms of psychosis and agitation. This drug has been prescribed to treat various forms of psychosis including schizophrenia and manic phases. Compared to Chlorpromazine (Thorazine), another older-generation antipsychotic, haloperidol has a more selective antagonistic effect on dopamine receptors with less influence on histamine and acetylcholine receptors, resulting in it having fewer side effects such as sedation and anticholinergic effects than other antipsychotics that have stronger effects on these two neurotransmitters.

What conditions is Haldol approved to treat?

Haldol is approved for the treatment of various psychiatric conditions:

  • Schizophrenia and acute psychosis
  • Tourette's syndrome (tics)
  • Hyperactive behavior in children that does not respond to psychotherapy or medications
  • Severe behavioral problems in children (short-term use)

Thorazine is also used for managing a similar range of disorders:

  • Psychoses including schizophrenia, manic states, and drug-induced psychoses
  • Severe behavioral problems in children (short-term use)
  • Preoperative apprehension and anxiety

How does Haldol help with these illnesses?

Haldol, or haloperidol, works to manage psychosis by reducing the amount of dopamine available in the synapses of the brain. It achieves this by blocking dopamine receptors, preventing it from exerting its effects. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that plays an important role in reward and pleasure systems, mood regulation and cognitive functions among other things. In conditions like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder with psychotic features, there's often an overactivity of dopamine pathways which contributes to symptoms like delusions and hallucinations. Therefore, by decreasing excess dopamine activity with Haldol use, we can help limit these disruptive effects of psychosis and help patients manage their condition more effectively.

In contrast Thorazine (chlorpromazine), also manages psychosis but has a broader spectrum of action inhibiting not only dopaminergic but also serotonergic and adrenergic receptors leading potentially to a wider range of side-effects compared to Haldol.

What is Thorazine?

Thorazine, or chlorpromazine as it's also known, is a type of drug called a phenothiazine antipsychotic. It works by blocking a variety of receptors in the brain, including dopamine receptors. This action helps to reduce abnormal excitement in the brain and is helpful for managing symptoms of psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia. Thorazine was first approved by the FDA in 1957 and pioneered the use of medical therapy for psychiatric treatment.

Unlike Haldol (haloperidol), which primarily blocks D2-dopamine receptors, Thorazine has a broader range of activity not only against various types of dopamine receptors but also serotonin, histamine and alpha-adrenergic receptors. As such, its side-effect profile differs from that of drugs like Haldol; common side effects can include drowsiness or sedation, dry mouth and weight gain amongst others.

However, due to its broad receptor-blocking actions, Thorazine may be beneficial in patients who do not respond well to typical antipsychotics like haloperidol that selectively block D2-dopamine receptors.

What conditions is Thorazine approved to treat?

Thorazine, known generically as chlorpromazine, is approved for the treatment of:

  • Schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders
  • Manic phase in bipolar disorder
  • Severe behavioral problems in children where other treatments have failed.

How does Thorazine help with these illnesses?

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that plays several important roles in the brain and body, including regulation of mood, memory, and voluntary movement. Thorazine works by blocking dopamine receptors in the brain which can help to control symptoms of schizophrenia such as hallucinations and thought disorders. It's an older antipsychotic medication known as a first-generation or typical antipsychotic. Unlike Haldol, another typical antipsychotic drug with more selective action on certain dopamine pathways associated with psychosis, Thorazine has broader actions affecting multiple different neurotransmitter systems (including not just dopamine but also norepinephrine and serotonin). This broad action may contribute to its wide range of potential side effects but it also allows for greater versatility in treating various psychiatric conditions beyond schizophrenia alone. Therefore, it might be prescribed when less broad-spectrum drugs like Haldol are ineffective or contraindicated.

How effective are both Haldol and Thorazine?

Both haloperidol (Haldol) and chlorpromazine (Thorazine) have long-standing histories of success in treating patients with schizophrenia, and were among the first antipsychotic medications to gain FDA approval. Both act on the dopamine system, but they interact with different subtypes of dopamine receptors which can lead to different therapeutic effects and side effects. The efficacy of haloperidol and chlorpromazine in managing symptoms of schizophrenia was directly studied in a double-blind clinical trial in 1982; both drugs exhibited similar efficacy in controlling psychotic symptoms, though there were differences observed between their safety profiles.

A comprehensive review from 2000 found that haloperidol effectively alleviates symptoms of psychosis starting from the first week of treatment, has fewer sedative effects compared to many other antipsychotics, and is well-tolerated even amongst elderly populations. Further research revealed that it has become one of the most widely prescribed antipsychotic medicines worldwide due to its effectiveness at a relatively low cost.

A recent meta-analysis conducted by Leucht et al., suggested that while chlorpromazine seems more effective than placebo for overall symptom reduction – it may be slightly less efficacious than some other common antipsychotics including haloperidol. Nonetheless, chlorpromazine remains an important treatment option due to its unique pharmacology: besides acting on dopamine receptors it also interacts with various other neurotransmitter systems which might make it particularly beneficial for certain patient groups like those who did not respond well or had problematic side-effects with pure dopaminergic agents.

abstract image of a researcher studying a bottle of drug.

At what dose is Haldol typically prescribed?

Oral dosages of Haldol range from 0.5–20 mg/day, but studies have shown that 1-3mg per day is usually adequate for most patients to manage symptoms associated with schizophrenia and acute psychosis. Children may be started on a lower dosage of 0.05-0.15 mg/kg/day in divided doses, based on weight and age. In either population, the dosage can be adjusted every few days until an optimum response is achieved. The maximum daily dose should not exceed 100 mg under any circumstance.

At what dose is Thorazine typically prescribed?

Thorazine treatment is typically initiated at a dosage of 25–50 mg, one to three times per day. The dose can then be gradually increased every few days until the desired effect is achieved. Dosages may range from 400-800 mg daily for severe conditions, divided into two or four doses and spaced evenly throughout the day. In extreme cases, your doctor might recommend testing a maximum dose of up to 2000 mg/day (divided into smaller doses), but only if there has been no response to lower dosages after several weeks.

What are the most common side effects for Haldol?

Common side effects of Haldol can include:

  • Drowsiness or lethargy

  • Dry mouth, blurred vision, constipation

  • Extrapyramidal symptoms (unintentional trembling, shaking movements or muscle stiffness)

  • Restlessness and pacing

  • Anxiety and agitation

  • Insomnia (difficulty sleeping)

  • Decreased sexual ability or interest

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Rash, itching skin

  • Unusual secretion of milk in females

  • Missed menstrual periods
    Whereas Thorazine may cause:

  • Sedation (sleepiness/drowsiness)

  • Orthostatic hypotension (drop in blood pressure upon standing up)

  • Anticholinergic effects such as dry mouth, blurred vision, constipation.

  • Photosensitivity (increased sensitivity to sunlight leading to sunburns easily)

  • Weight gain
    Remember that these are potential side effects; not everyone who takes these medications will experience them. It is also important to note that both drugs should be titrated carefully under the supervision of a healthcare professional due to their profound impact on various body systems.

abstract image of a patient experiencing side effect

Are there any potential serious side effects for Haldol?

Haldol and Thorazine are both antipsychotic medications with potential severe side effects. If you experience any of the following when taking either medication, seek immediate medical attention:

  • Suicidal thoughts or inclinations towards self-harm
  • Signs of an allergic reaction including difficulty breathing, hives, swelling in your face or throat
  • Severe skin reactions: fever, sore throat, burning eyes, skin pain; red or purple rash that spreads and causes blistering and peeling
  • Vision problems such as blurred vision, tunnel vision, eye pain/swelling or seeing halos around lights
  • Cardiovascular symptoms like fast/pounding heartbeats, chest fluttering sensation shortness of breath leading to sudden dizziness (feeling like you might pass out)
  • Neurological abnormalities - very stiff muscles (rigidity), high fever sweating confusion rapid/uneven heartbeat tremors feeling faint
    Symptoms suggestive low sodium levels in the body such as headache confusion slurred speech severe weakness vomiting loss coordination unsteadiness If you notice signs indicative of serotonin syndrome which include agitation hallucinations fever sweating shivering fast heart rate muscle stiffness twitching loss coordination nausea vomiting diarrhea

What are the most common side effects for Thorazine?

Thorazine, like Haldol, is an antipsychotic medication but it comes with its own set of potential side effects. These may include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Nasal congestion or stuffiness
  • Blurred vision
  • Upset stomach, nausea or vomiting
  • Constipation and loss of appetite
  • Drowsiness or difficulty sleeping (insomnia)
  • Restlessness or agitation
  • Abnormal heartbeat rhythms
  • Sensitivity to the sun which can cause a rash
    -Unintentional weight changes
    -Increased urination frequency -Possible confusion in elderly patients
    -A sense of dizziness, particularly when standing up quickly (orthostatic hypotension)
    -Some people also report experiencing muscle stiffness and joint pain while on Thorazine.

These are potential side effects and not everyone will experience them. It's important to discuss any concerns with your healthcare provider who can provide you with more individualized information based on your health profile.

Are there any potential serious side effects for Thorazine?

While Thorazine is a popular antipsychotic medication, it does come with its share of possible side effects. In some instances, these can be severe and require immediate medical attention:

  • Signs of an allergic reaction such as hives; difficulty breathing; swelling in your face or throat
  • Skin reactions could include itching, fever, swollen glands, red or purple skin rash with blistering and peeling
  • Unusual behavior changes like confusion or mood swings
  • Vision issues: blurred vision, seeing halos around lights
  • Heart-related problems: irregular heartbeats
  • Neurological symptoms that may resemble seizures (convulsions)
  • Indications of a manic episode might present as racing thoughts, increased energy levels leading to reckless behavior; feeling overly happy or irritable; excessive talking and severe sleep disturbances.

If you experience any of the above while taking Thorazine, please seek medical help immediately.

Contraindications for Haldol and Thorazine?

Both Haldol and Thorazine, like most antipsychotic medications, may cause a worsening of symptoms in certain individuals. If you notice an increase in psychotic symptoms or unusual changes in mood or behavior while using these drugs, please seek immediate medical attention.

Neither Haldol nor Thorazine should be taken if you are currently on or have recently stopped taking certain other types of medications such as potent CYP2D6 inhibitors (e.g., fluoxetine, paroxetine), due to the risk of dangerous drug interactions. Always inform your physician about all the medications and supplements you're currently taking; certain drugs may require a washout period to prevent harmful interactions with both Haldol and Thorazine.

How much do Haldol and Thorazine cost?

For the brand name versions of these drugs:

  • The price of 60 tablets of Haldol (5 mg) averages around $260, which works out to approximately $4.30 to $8.70/day, depending on your dose.
  • The price of 100 Thorazine tablets (25mg each) is about $290, working out to roughly $2.90/day.

Thus, if you are in the higher dosage range for Haldol (i.e., 10 mg/day or more), then brand-name Thorazine would be less expensive on a per-day treatment basis. Cost should not be your primary consideration when deciding between these two medications.

When it comes to their generic versions:

  • Haloperidol (generic version of Haldol) costs significantly lower with prices ranging from as low as $.20 up to $.50 per day based on typical doses.
  • Chlorpromazine (generic version for Thorazine), similarly costs considerably less than its branded counterpart with daily expenses running at about $.40 - .80 per day.

These figures may vary depending on where you purchase them and whether or not insurance coverage applies.

Popularity of Haldol and Thorazine

Haloperidol, commonly known as Haldol, is an antipsychotic medication that was prescribed to around 2.5 million people in the US in 2020. Accounting for approximately 8% of all antipsychotic prescriptions in the country, it's a widely used option for treating conditions such as schizophrenia and acute psychosis.

Chlorpromazine, also known by its brand name Thorazine, has been used less frequently over recent years due to the advent of newer alternatives with fewer side effects. In 2020, it was estimated that chlorpromazine had been prescribed to roughly half a million people in the US. This accounts for just under 1% of overall antipsychotic prescriptions nationwide.

It's important to note that both medications belong to an older class called typical antipsychotics which work primarily by blocking dopamine receptors but can have more severe side effects compared to atypical (or second generation) antipsychotics. Despite this distinction and their difference in prevalence since they were first introduced some decades ago, both drugs remain valuable tools when chosen on an individual patient basis.


Both Haldol (haloperidol) and Thorazine (chlorpromazine) have a long-standing record of usage in the treatment of various psychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia. Numerous clinical studies and meta-analyses confirm that they are more effective than placebo treatments. In some cases, these drugs may be used together under careful medical supervision; however, their combination can lead to increased side effects.

Haldol acts primarily by blocking dopamine receptors in the brain while Thorazine is known for its broad-spectrum blockade of dopamine, histamine, alpha-adrenergic and muscarinic cholinergic receptors. Therefore, they tend to be prescribed differently based on symptom profiles and patient characteristics. Haldol is often viewed as a first-line antipsychotic due to fewer sedative effects compared to Thorazine.

Both medications are available generically which represents significant savings for patients paying out-of-pocket. Like many psychotropic medicines, both Haldol and Thorazine may require an adjustment period with effects not immediately noticeable.

The side effect profile between the two differs somewhat: Both drugs come with a risk of extrapyramidal symptoms but this is greater with haloperidol; chlorpromazine has more pronounced sedation and hypotensive properties. Patients taking either drug must closely monitor changes in their mental state or unusual physical symptoms - it's crucial that any new or worsening symptoms are reported promptly to healthcare providers.