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Understanding Seroquel Misuse

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Seroquel, a brand name of the bipolar disorder medication quetiapine, is one of the best-recognized and widely prescribed psychiatric drugs in the United States. It is FDA-approved for treating bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. However, it has also seen numerous off-label uses, including for treating sleep disorders, PTSD, and generalized anxiety disorder.

Boston drug rehabs don’t often see cases of people hooked on just quetiapine. However, its misuse is extremely common among people who have a history of polydrug use. Though not often abused by itself, it is often paired with other more dangerous drugs to produce a desired effect, sometimes with deadly results.

What is Seroquel (quetiapine)?

Quetiapine is an antipsychotic medication specifically designed in the 1970s to address the high misuse potential of drugs like benzodiazepines and barbiturates. However, it would not go to market until 1997, where it was approved for use on schizophrenia, a relatively rare illness. However, doctors soon caught onto its potential for many other illnesses, including depression, anxiety, and trauma and began to prescribe it widely.

While quetiapine is still classified as an antipsychotic drug with an intended use only for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, off-label prescriptions are extremely widespread. This is partly due to the relatively low risk of addiction compared to benzodiazepines, for which it is commonly substituted.

One particularly controversial use of quetiapine is as a sleep aid and general-purpose sedative. It is not FDA-approved for these specific uses and prescriptions for these common uses are always off-label.

How can quetiapine be abused?

While not usually misused by itself, quetiapine is commonly paired with other drugs. They’re often used by people with stimulant use disorders to help them sleep or paired with depressants to bring a more pronounced sedative effect. This type of misuse is widespread enough that black market quetiapine is also available, under such street names as Squirrel, Baby Heroin, Quell, and Suzy-Q.

Additionally, it’s common for people who have legitimate quetiapine prescriptions to take much more than the needed amount. Polydrug users may also snort the drug or crush, dissolve, and inject it for a much faster onset and to bring on a hallucinogenic effect.

What are the effects of quetiapine misuse?

Misusing the drug in the ways described above can easily bring a quetiapine use disorder or a depressant use disorder. The individual may also experience serious withdrawal symptoms if they were regularly taking high doses and stopped too abruptly.

Some of quetiapine’s short-term effects include the following:

  • A reduction in depression and anxiety symptoms
  • Sedation
  • Dry mouth
  • Better cognition and focus
  • Increased appetite

Taking more the prescribed amount can cause the following:

  • Dizziness
  • High fever
  • Racing heartbeats or heart palpitations
  • Hyperglycemia
  • Nausea
  • High blood pressure

Repeated long-term misuse can cause the following:

  • Hallucinations
  • Dementia
  • Brain damage
  • Diabetes
  • Weight gain

These signs can be a cause for concern. If you are currently being prescribed quetiapine, ask your doctor if your dosage could be adjusted or if some alternative drugs or therapies could be used. If you suspect a quetiapine use disorder or a depressant use disorder, you can call us at Boston Drug Treatment Centers to discuss your treatment options.

How are quetiapine use disorders treated?

The patient will need to be fully assessed by qualified clinicians to determine the best initial treatment approach. If only quetiapine is involved, then the process tends to be a straightforward tapering of the dosage. However, if other habit-forming drugs are an issue, then these may take priority. This process can take anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks.

Next, the patient may take psychotherapy or other types of treatment to prevent an immediate relapse. If they have a co-occurring mental health issue, such as post-traumatic stress, treating this may take precedence, especially if the attending physician determines that this was the ultimate root cause of the drug use. Rehab can take anywhere from three months to a year.

Lastly, the patient will need to regularly attend aftercare sessions. This may involve group and individual therapy but also include supplemental therapy to help address issues that the patient tried to fix with Seroquel. For instance, if they started misusing Seroquel because of a sleep issue, they may benefit from supplemental therapies designed to help them relax better, like yoga or meditation. This may continue for so long as the patient remains at risk of a relapse.


Thankfully, quetiapine misuse is still rare despite its widespread availability. This may be a testament to how well-developed the medication is, as it was specifically designed to avoid misuse problems.

In the rare where a person has developed a quetiapine use disorder, they likely have underlying issues like trauma or a more general depressant use disorder. If a quetiapine problem is likely, it’s important to talk to drug treatment experts who can also treat co-occurring mental health conditions. Good luck, and be well!

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