Haldol (haloperidol) is an antipsychotic medication used to treat psychotic disorders and severe behavioral problems such as aggressive and explosive behavior or hyperactivity.

Haldol is also used to treat motor and verbal tics in patients with Tourette syndrome. The term “tic” describes the uncontrollable need to repeat movements, words, or sounds.

In Huntington’s disease, Haldol can improve symptoms of chorea, which are involuntary and uncontrollable dance-like movements.

How Haldol works

Haldol works by inhibiting the effects of dopamine and increasing its turnover. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter, a signaling molecule in the brain, which is involved in motor control. The increased activity of dopamine is thought to cause chorea in Huntington’s disease.

The exact mechanism by which Haldol acts on dopamine is not fully understood, but it is thought to block so-called dopamine D2 receptors. This prevents dopamine from binding to these receptors, interfering with dopamine’s action.

Studies with Haldol

Haldol has not been tested in randomized, controlled clinical trials for Huntington’s disease. However, two small studies suggested that the medicine might benefit Huntington’s patients with chorea symptoms.

In the first study, 13 Huntington’s disease patients with chorea symptoms were treated with different doses of Haldol ranging from 2 to 80 mg per day. Haldol treatment decreased chorea in all patients. The study also assessed Haldol’s effect on ataxia, or lack of muscle coordination, which did not improve.

In the second study, nine Huntington’s disease patients were treated with Haldol, either alone or in combination with two other antipsychotic medications pimozide and tiapride. In patients who received Haldol either alone or in combination with the other medicines, abnormal involuntary movements improved. However, because the patients were treated with four different treatment combinations, it could not be assessed whether Haldol is more efficient on its own or in combination.

Additional information

Common side effects of Haldol include dry mouth, blurred vision, diarrhea, loss of appetite, agitation, heartburn, nausea, and headaches. Haldol can also affect the heart’s electrical activity and cause sudden and dangerous arrhythmias. Caution is therefore advised for people with a heart condition known as long QT syndrome.

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