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Explains what antipsychotics are used for, how the medication works, possible side effects and information about withdrawal.

What is a depot injection?

A depot injection is a slow-release form of medication. The injection uses a liquid that releases the medication slowly, so it lasts a lot longer.

Depot injections can be used for various types of drug, including some antipsychotics. The medication used in depot injections is the same as other forms of the drug, such as tablets or liquid.

Why might I choose a depot injection?

A depot injection might be a good option for you if:

  • you find it difficult to swallow medication
  • you find it difficult remembering to take medication regularly
  • you prefer not to have to think about taking medication every day.

You may also be given a depot injection if the healthcare professionals involved in your care agree that you need the drug, but think you may struggle to take it regularly in a different form.

But you will usually only be offered a depot injection if:

  • you've already been on your medication for a while
  • you know it's working well for you, and
  • you expect to keep taking it for a long time.

Not all antipsychotics are available as depot injections. See our antipsychotics A-Z or our page on comparing antipsychotics for information about the different forms available for each drug.

How are depot injections given?

  • Injections are usually given every two, three or four weeks, depending on the drug. Certain antipsychotics may last for longer periods when given as a depot injection.
  • Your injection will usually be given by a healthcare professional in a community setting. For example, this may be in a clinic, medical centre or in your own home. You will not be given a depot injection to use at home on yourself.
  • The injection is made into a large muscle. This is likely to be either your buttock or the largest muscle of your shoulder. Some types of antipsychotic may need to be given into a certain muscle. Whoever administers your injection should follow the guidance for your specific medication, which should be in the patient information leaflet (PIL) for your medication.
  • You may be able to alternate between different muscles and sides of your body. This is to help prevent any injection site problems.

Injection site problems

If you regularly have your injection in the same place in your body, you may start to experience problems with that part of your body. This may include:

  • abscess (a painful collection of pus)
  • bleeding
  • bruising
  • irritation
  • lumps
  • numbness
  • pain
  • redness
  • soreness
  • swelling.

If you have problems with your injection site, make sure you mention this to your doctor, nurse or whoever gives your injection.

Patient Information Leaflet (PIL)

If you have depot injections, you may not pick up your own prescription for your medication. This may mean you are not given the Patient Information Leaflet (PIL) which usually comes in the drug packet.

It's always a good idea to read the PIL carefully before taking any medication. So if you aren't given it you can ask for a copy from the person who gives the injection, or your doctor or pharmacist. Or you can see our antipsychotics A-Z for links to PILs for the different forms of antipsychotics, including depot injections.

This information was published in September 2020.

This page is currently under review. All content was accurate when published. 

References and bibliography available on request.

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