Zyprexa is a prescription drug used to help treat schizophrenia, a disease which affects around 3.2 million Americans.

Also known by its generic name, olanzapine, the drug is one of a new generation of medications for schizophrenia and other mental disorders.

If your doctor has prescribed olanzapine (Zyprexa), here are eight things you need to know before taking it.

1.) Dosage Options

Olanzapine is available in oral tablet form or as an injection.

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The oral dose of olanzapine ranges from 5 mg to 20 mg. The dose of the injection ranges from 150 mg to 405 mg.

You will begin with the lowest effective dose of olanzapine, but your healthcare provider may increase your dose over a period of several weeks.

Olanzapine tablets are taken once a day, with or without food.

The long-acting injection form of olanzapine is administered every two to four weeks by a healthcare professional.

2.) Olanzapine Side Effects

The most common side effects of olanzapine include stomach pain, constipation, dry mouth, headaches, dizziness, and sleepiness.

Olanzapine also increases the risk of metabolic syndrome, characterized by weight gain, high cholesterol, and high blood sugar. Your doctor may ask you to provide blood samples to monitor your levels while you take olanzapine.

Olanzapine can produce other less common, more serious side effects in selected patients. These include but are not limited to:

  • Seizures
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Swelling in your hands or feet
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes)
  • Suicidal thoughts or a desire to hurt yourself
  • Confusion, problems with speech, vision or balance
  • Uncontrollable twitching, involuntary physical movements
  • Flu-like symptoms of stiff or rigid muscles, fever, chills, sweating, and tremors

You should stop using olanzapine and contact your doctor immediately if you are suffering with any of these serious side effects.

3.) How Does Zyprexa Work?

Olanzapine (Zyprexa) works by helping to rebalance neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and serotonin. This helps improve your thinking, behavior, and mood.

Depending on the specific symptoms, it may take two to three months for you to get the full benefit of the drug.

Hallucinations, delusions, and disorganized thinking may start to improve in the first week or two of taking the drug.

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Other symptoms such as motivation and desire to be with other people can take one to two weeks to improve, but symptoms will continue to get better the longer you take olanzapine.

4.) Symptoms & Treatment Uses

Olanzapine is an antipsychotic medication used to treat the symptoms of schizophrenia in adults and children over 13.

Olanzapine may help all or some of the symptoms associated with schizophrenia. These can include hallucinations, delusions, paranoia, disorganized thinking, lack of motivation and social withdrawal.

The drug is also FDA-approved for the treatment of bipolar disorder.

Olanzapine is sometimes used together with antidepressants or other antipsychotic medications. For example, olanzapine may also be used alongside fluoxetine (Prozac) to treat depression associated with bipolar disorder.

6.) Typical & Atypical Antipsychotics

Olanzapine is an atypical or second-generation antipsychotic (SGA). Olanzapine is seen as more effective and less harmful than older, typical antipsychotic drugs.

Typical antipsychotic drugs, such as haloperidol have been used since the mid-1950s to treat schizophrenia.

But, these older antipsychotics are more likely to cause movement-related side effects such as tardive dyskinesia (TD). TD involves involuntary physical movements and facial contortions. And, it can be a permanent condition.

Atypical antipsychotics are also more effective at treating symptoms such as social withdrawal and motivation.

And, unlike clozapine, another atypical psychotic drug, olanzapine is not linked to agranulocytosis, a severe white blood cell disorder.

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6.) Instructions for Taking Olanzapine

Schizophrenia is a disease which requires long-term treatment. You should not stop taking olanzapine even if you feel better – this means that the olanzapine is working.

If you miss a dose of olanzapine you should take it as soon as you remember, unless it is close to the time of your next dose. Check with your healthcare provider before taking two doses close to each other. Never double your dose or take more than you have been prescribed.

If you miss an injection, see your healthcare provider to receive your dose as soon as possible.

If you overdose on olanzapine you should call your doctor or 911 immediately, as you may need urgent medical care.

7.) Precautions When Taking Olanzapine

Olanzapine is a powerful drug which may impair your thinking and reactions. Be careful when doing anything which requires you to be alert, such as driving or operating machinery.

You should avoid drinking alcohol or using illegal drugs while you are taking olanzapine. The combination of Zyprexa and alcohol or drugs may decrease the effectiveness of your medication or worsen the side effects.

Olanzapine can also cause you to become overheated and dehydrated. Make sure to drink plenty of fluids, especially in hot weather and during exercise.

8.) What to Discuss with Your Doctor

Before taking olanzapine, you should make your doctor aware of your medical history, physical and mental symptoms, and current lifestyle. This should include information such as:

  • If you have suicidal thoughts
  • Your symptoms and whether they have changed over time
  • If you are pregnant, plan to become pregnant, or are breastfeeding
  • If you drink alcohol or smoke – cigarette smoke can decrease the effectiveness of olanzapine
  • Past medications you have taken, how effective they were, and what side effects they caused
  • All other medications you are taking, including supplements, as well as any medication allergies you may have
  • Any medical problems you have, such as heart problems, diabetes, and high cholesterol – or if there is a family history of these conditions

Is Zyprexa Right for Me?

Zyprexa is an effective drug for the treatment of schizophrenia. But, it will take several weeks for you to see a real change in your symptoms.

Make sure to tell your doctor how you feel during the first few weeks after you start taking olanzapine. Then he or she can decide whether it’s the right medication for you.

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If you’ve been prescribed olanzapine then find out how to save money on prescription drugs, or check out our medication safety blog for more advice.