How Do Phenothiazine Antipsychotics Work?

Reviewed on 1/10/2022

How Do Phenothiazine Antipsychotics Work?

Phenothiazine antipsychotics are medications used in the treatment of schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders. Some of the phenothiazine antipsychotics are used for sedation and to treat severe hiccups, nausea and vomiting.

Phenothiazine antipsychotics inhibit the activity of dopamine, a chemical (neurotransmitter) released in the brain by nerve cells (neurons) to transmit signals. Known as the “happy hormone,” dopamine regulates the brain’s reward system and is responsible for many essential functions including movement, emotions and cognition.

Phenothiazine antipsychotics work by blocking D2 dopamine receptors, protein molecules on neuronal surfaces that initiate excitatory action when stimulated by dopamine. Inhibiting D2 receptors reduces aggression and agitation.  

Some phenothiazine antipsychotics work as antiemetics by blocking the vagus nerve in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. In addition to D2 receptors, phenothiazines block the activity of H1 histamine receptors and M1 muscarinic receptors which stimulate GI smooth muscle contraction.

Phenothiazine antipsychotics also depress the release of hormones by the hypothalamus and pituitary gland, which stimulate other glands in the body to release hormones. Phenothiazine antipsychotics have sedative effects and are used to relieve anxiety.

How Are Phenothiazine Antipsychotics Used?

Phenothiazine antipsychotics are available as:

Phenothiazine antipsychotics are used to treat the following conditions:


Off-label uses:



Schizophrenia is the most disabling mental illness. See Answer

What Are Side Effects of Phenothiazine Antipsychotics?

Side effects of phenothiazine antipsychotics may include the following:

Information contained herein is not intended to cover all possible side effects, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. Check with your doctor or pharmacist to make sure these drugs do not cause any harm when you take them along with other medicines. Never stop taking your medication and never change your dose or frequency without consulting your doctor.

What Are Names of Some Phenothiazine Antipsychotic Drugs?

Generic and brand names of phenothiazine antipsychotic drugs include:


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