• Pharmacy Author:
    Omudhome Ogbru, PharmD

    Dr. Ogbru received his Doctorate in Pharmacy from the University of the Pacific School of Pharmacy in 1995. He completed a Pharmacy Practice Residency at the University of Arizona/University Medical Center in 1996. He was a Professor of Pharmacy Practice and a Regional Clerkship Coordinator for the University of the Pacific School of Pharmacy from 1996-99.

  • Medical and Pharmacy Editor: Jay W. Marks, MD
    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD, is a board-certified internist and gastroenterologist. He graduated from Yale University School of Medicine and trained in internal medicine and gastroenterology at UCLA/Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

What is trifluoperazine, and how does it work (mechanism of action)?

Trifluoperazine is an oral antipsychotic medication used for the management of schizophrenia. Trifluoperazine is one of the older, first-generation antipsychotic medications. Examples of other first-generation antipsychotics include:

Although the exact mechanism of antipsychotics is unknown, scientists believe that they may work by blocking the action of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter (chemical) that nerves use to communicate with one another. Trifluoperazine is used when patients do not respond to other antipsychotics.

What brand names are available for trifluoperazine?


Is trifluoperazine available as a generic drug?


Do I need a prescription for trifluoperazine?


What are the side effects of trifluoperazine?

Trifluoperazine causes extrapyramidal side effects such as:

Tardive dyskinesia and neuroleptic malignant syndrome can result from trifluoperazine treatment. These side effects can be severe enough that patients must seek medical help. Neuroleptic malignant syndrome is a medical emergency.

What is the dosage for trifluoperazine?

The recommended starting dose of trifluoperazine for treating schizophrenia is 1 to 5 mg every 12 hours. The typical maintenance dose is 15 to 20 mg daily, and the maximum daily dose is 40 mg.

The dose for treating anxiety is 1 to 2 mg every 12 hours. The maximum dose is 6 mg daily. Trifluoperazine should not be used to treat anxiety for longer than 12 weeks.

Which drugs or supplements interact with trifluoperazine?

Combining trifluoperazine with medications such as procainamide (Pronestyl), sotalol (Betapace), amiodarone (Cordarone), and dofetilide (Tikosyn) that affect heart rate and rhythm can cause abnormal heart beats.

Antidepressants such as fluoxetine (Prozac), sertraline (Zoloft), and and tricyclic antidepressants may reduce the break down of trifluoperazine, leading to increased blood levels and more side effects of trifluoperazine.

Trifluoperazine should be used with caution with medications that depress the central nervous system and cause sedation or drowsiness. Examples include alprazolam (Xanax), lonazepam (Klonopin), zolpidem (Ambien), codeine, morphine, and alcohol. Such combinations can cause excessive sedation, drowsiness, weakness, confusion, speech impairment, and in severe cases coma or death. Combining alcohol with trifluoperazine also increases the risk of low blood pressure.

Is trifluoperazine safe to take if I'm pregnant or breastfeeding?

Use of trifluoperazine during pregnancy has not been adequately studied. Neonates exposed to antipsychotics during the third trimester of pregnancy are at risk for extrapyramidal and withdrawal symptoms after birth. Symptoms reported included agitation, hypertonia, hypotonia, tremor, somnolence, depressed breathing, and feeding disorder.

Safe use of trifluoperazine by nursing mothers has not been established.

What else should I know about trifluoperazine?

What preparations of trifluoperazine are available?

Tablets: 1, 2, 5 and 10 mg.

How should I keep trifluoperazine stored?

Trifluoperazine tablets should be stored between 15 C and 30 C (59 F and 86 F).


Trifluoperazine (Stelazine, discontinued) is a prescription drug used to treat anxiety and schizophrenia. Side effects, drug interactions, dosing, storage, and pregnancy and breastfeeding safety information should be reviewed before taking this medication.

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REFERENCE: FDA Prescribing Information