Catatonia Medication

Updated: Nov 03, 2016
  • Author: James Robert Brasic, MD, MPH; Chief Editor: Selim R Benbadis, MD  more...
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Medication

Medication Summary

Medications that may be used in the treatment of patients suffering from catatonia include benzodiazepines, carbamazepine, zolpidem, tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs), muscle relaxants, amobarbital, reserpine, thyroid hormone, lithium carbonate, bromocriptine, and neuroleptics.

Because neuroleptic malignant syndrome (NMS) may occur in patients with symptoms and signs of catatonia, prudent clinicians use neuroleptics, including atypical neuroleptics, with caution. Although success has been reported in cases of catatonia treated with a combination of lithium and a neuroleptic, the risk of adverse effects must be considered when this combination is given, even if an atypical neuroleptic is used.

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Anxiolytics, Benzodiazepines

Class Summary

By binding to specific receptor sites, benzodiazepines appear to potentiate the effects of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and facilitate inhibitory GABA neurotransmission and the action of other inhibitory transmitters.

Lorazepam (Ativan)

Lorazepam is a sedative hypnotic with a short onset of effects and a relatively long half-life. By increasing the action of GABA, which is a major inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain, it may depress all levels of the central nervous system (CNS), including the limbic and reticular formations. After a lorazepam dose is administered, the patient's blood pressure should be monitored. The dose is adjusted as necessary.

Clonazepam (Klonopin)

Clonazepam is a long-acting benzodiazepine that increases presynaptic GABA inhibition and reduces the monosynaptic and polysynaptic reflexes. It suppresses muscle contractions by facilitating inhibitory GABA neurotransmission and the action of other inhibitory transmitters.

Midazolam

Midazolam is an alternative for the termination of refractory status epilepticus. Because it is water-soluble, it takes approximately 3 times longer than diazepam to reach peak electroencephalographic (EEG) effects. Therefore, the clinician must wait 2-3 minutes to evaluate midazolam's sedative effects fully. Midazolam has twice the affinity for benzodiazepine receptors that diazepam does. It may be administered intramuscularly (IM) if intravenous (IV) access cannot be obtained.

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Anticonvulsants, Other

Class Summary

The use of certain anticonvulsants has proven helpful in some cases of catatonia.

Carbamazepine (Tegretol, Carbatrol, Epitol, Equetro)

Carbamazepine's mechanism of action may include modulation of voltage-dependent sodium channels.

Valproic acid (Depakote, Depakote ER)

Valproic acid may be helpful by increasing activity at GABA or modest antiglutaminergic effects.

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Anticonvulsants, Barbiturates

Class Summary

The use of certain anticonvulsants has proven helpful in some cases of catatonia.

Amobarbital (Amytal)

Amobarbital is a sedative hypnotic with anticonvulsant properties that interfere with the transmission of impulses from the thalamus to the cortex.

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Anxiolytics, Nonbenzodiazepine

Class Summary

The use of certain nonbenzodiazepine anxiolytics has been shown to be helpful in some cases of catatonia.

Zolpidem (Ambien, Edluar, ZolpiMist)

Zolpidem increases neural hyperpolarization by enhancing the activity of the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA through selective agonist activity at the benzodiazepine-1 receptor.

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Skeletal Muscle Relaxants

Class Summary

The use of certain skeletal muscle relaxants has been shown to be helpful in some cases of catatonia.

Dantrolene (Dantrium, Revonto, Ryanodex)

Dantrolene acts directly on skeletal muscle by interfering with the release of calcium ions from the sarcoplasmic reticulum.

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Central Monoamine-Depleting Agents

Class Summary

The use of central monoamine-depleting agents has been shown in case reports to be helpful in some cases of catatonia.

Reserpine

Reserpine depletes norepinephrine and dopamine, and this depletion may result in reduced blood pressure and sedative effects.

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Thyroid Products

Class Summary

The use of thyroid products has been shown in case reports to be helpful in some cases of catatonia.

Thyroid, Desiccated (Armour Thyroid, Nature Throid, Westhroid)

Thyroid hormone is involved in normal metabolism, gluconeogenesis, utilization and mobilization of glycogen, and stimulation of protein synthesis.

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Antipsychotics, Other

Class Summary

The use of antipsychotic products has been shown in case reports to be helpful in some cases of catatonia.

Lithium carbonate (Lithobid)

A case report has described successful lithium treatment in a patient with long-standing periodic catatonia. Although success has been reported in cases of catatonia treated with a combination of lithium and a neuroleptic, the risk of adverse effects must be considered when this combination is given, even if the neuroleptic is an atypical one.

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Antipsychotics, 2nd Generation

Class Summary

The use of second-generation antipsychotic products has been shown in case reports to be helpful in some cases of catatonia.

Olanzapine (Zyprexa)

The effects of olanzapine are mediated through combined antagonism of dopamine and serotonin type 2 receptor sites.

Clozapine (Clozaril, FazaClo)

Clozapine has been reported to improve catatonia in psychosis, perhaps via a greater pass-though of dopamine to the D2 receptor.

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Ergot Derivatives

Class Summary

The use of ergot derivatives has been shown in case reports to be helpful in some cases of catatonia.

Bromocriptine (Parlodel, Cycloset)

Bromocriptine activates postsynaptic dopamine receptors in the tuberoinfundibular and nigrostriatal pathways. A case report on a patient with catatonia described successful treatment with bromocriptine.

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Antidepressants, TCAs

Class Summary

The use of TCAs has been shown in case reports to be helpful in some cases of catatonia.

Amitriptyline hydrochloride

Amitriptyline is an analgesic indicated for certain chronic and neuropathic pain.

Clomipramine (Anafranil)

Clomipramine is a dibenzazepine compound belonging to the TCA family. It inhibits the membrane pump mechanism responsible for the uptake of norepinephrine and serotonin in adrenergic and serotonergic neurons. Clomipramine affects serotonin uptake and affects norepinephrine uptake when converted into its metabolite, desmethylclomipramine. These actions are believed to be responsible for clomipramine's antidepressant activity.

Doxepin

Doxepin increases the concentration of serotonin and norepinephrine in the CNS by inhibiting their reuptake by the presynaptic neuronal membrane. It inhibits histamine and acetylcholine activity and has proved useful in treatment of various forms of depression associated with chronic pain.

Nortriptyline (Pamelor)

Nortriptyline has demonstrated effectiveness in the treatment of chronic pain.

Desipramine (Norpramin)

Desipramine is the original TCA used for depression. It and similar agents appear to act by inhibiting reuptake of noradrenaline at synapses in central descending pain-modulating pathways located in the brainstem and spinal cord.

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