Last Edited: April 16th, 2012

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Zyprexa (also known as Olanzapine) is used for the treatment of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder in people aged 13 years and older. Classified as an antipsychotic, Zyprexa works by changing the activity of certain chemicals in the brain. It may be used in conjunction with other antipsychotic medications.

Dosage Information

Zyprexa comes in tablet and quick-dissolving tablet forms. It is taken once daily with or without food and should be taken at the same time every day.

Your doctor may start you out on a low dose and gradually increase it as needed. It may take several weeks for your body to feel the full effects of Zyprexa, so continue to take it for as long as your doctor instructs you to, even if you feel better or experience side effects.

If you miss a dose, take it as soon as you remember. However, do not take more than one dose per day. If it is close to the next dose, just skip the dose and continue with your regular dosing schedule.

Special Precautions

Zyprexa is not right for everyone. Let your doctor know if you have the following conditions:

  • Allergies to medications
  • History of street drug use or prescription drug overdose
  • You are taking other medications, as drug-drug interactions can occur
  • You have had a stroke, heart problems, seizures, glaucoma, high blood sugar, breast cancer, difficulty swallowing, low white blood cell count, diabetes and prostate or liver disease
  • You are pregnant or breast-feeding. Zyprexa can harm an unborn baby, especially if taken in late pregnancy.
  • You are having surgery
  • You are an older adult with dementia. Zyprexa is not FDA approved for the elderly who suffer from dementia, as antipsychotics can increase the risk of stroke or even death.

You should avoid smoking and alcohol while taking Zyprexa, as they can decrease its effectiveness. Zyprexa can also cause dizziness, fainting and heart problems when standing too quickly. You should get out of a lying position slowly and take a few extra minutes to avoid these conditions. Also, drowsiness can occur while taking Zyprexa, so avoid driving or operating machinery until you are aware of its effects on your body.

You may experience an increase in blood sugar, called hyperglycemia, while taking Zyprexa. This can happen even if you are not diabetic. Be aware of the symptoms and let your doctor know immediately if you experience any, as they can lead to ketoacidosis, which can be life-threatening.

Your body may have difficulty cooling down while you are taking Zyprexa. Avoid heat and drink water frequently.

Side Effects

Common side effects associated with Zyprexa include dizziness, drowsiness, restlessness, depression, sleep problems, weight gain, constipation, dry mouth, breast enlargement, menstrual problems and sexual inability. Contact your doctor immediately if you experience serious side effects, including vision problems, seizures, swelling, uncontrollable movements, stiff muscles, signs of infection, heart problems and difficulty swallowing or breathing.

Teenagers who take Zyprexa are more likely to experience weight gain, increased fat in the blood, breast enlargement, sleepiness and liver problems. Your doctor can inform you of the risks and suggest an alternative medication.