A transdermal patch is the latest treatment available for schizophrenia. It administers medication through the skin to ease symptoms such as lack of motivation or emotion, but may not be for everyone.

The use of transdermal patches is a growing trend in healthcare. These patches attach to the skin and contain medication to help treat a range of conditions, from chronic pain to quitting smoking.

They’re easy to use and can be as effective as pills in some cases. Patches can sometimes have fewer side effects than oral or intravenous (IV) medications.

In 2019, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first transdermal patch to treat schizophrenia.

If you live with schizophrenia, the asenapine (brand name: Secuado) transdermal patch might be recommended to help improve mood, thinking, and behavior.

A transdermal patch contains medications that can help with:

The patch delivery system prevents you from taking pills multiple times a day. It can deliver the drug slowly over time.

The medication passes from the patch through the layers of your skin to reach your bloodstream. The set dose prevents any misuse and typically lasts longer.

Schizophrenia is a chronic mental health condition that can affect the way a person thinks, feels, and behaves. It’s characterized by positive (hallucinations or delusions) and negative (lack of emotion) symptoms.

Other common symptoms of schizophrenia include:

  • disorganized speech or thinking
  • altered perception of reality
  • abnormal body movements, such as catatonia
  • social withdrawal
  • difficulties planning or sticking with an activity

Treatment goals for schizophrenia include:

  • symptoms management
  • daily functioning improvement
  • personal life goal achievement

The most effective medication for schizophrenia will depend on the person taking it.

Each person experiences schizophrenia differently. No two people will experience the same symptoms in the same way or at the same frequency. How long you’ve lived with the condition is a factor that can help determine which medication might be best for you.

Medications, such as antipsychotics, are often used to treat schizophrenia. Antipsychotics are available in pill form or by injection.

Injections allow the medication to release slowly in the body, similar to the patch. Haloperidol decanoate (Haldol) and aripiprazole (Abilify Maintena, Aristada) are common injectables given for schizophrenia, among many others.

If injections are painful for you, the patch may be a better option for you. This patch also contains antipsychotic medications.

Antipsychotic medications are the first-line treatment for schizophrenia. They can help relieve symptoms, such as delusions or hallucinations, to help your daily functioning.

But the medication comes with some side effects, such as drowsiness and restlessness, that may be bothersome to some people.

A 2020 review shows that receiving the needed medication through the patch can offer more benefits than oral medication, including:

  • More steady release of the drug: A patch allows the medication not to get too high or too low in the body, optimizing its effects.
  • Less dosing: The patch prevents the need to take multiple pills at various times.
  • Fewer side effects: The patch bypasses the stomach and liver, delivering the medication directly to the blood and preventing some side effects.

This review also suggests that asenapine is effective in reducing negative symptoms of schizophrenia, even more than other antipsychotics, such as olanzapine (Zyprexa).

The use of transdermal patches for schizophrenia treatment is just getting started. A 2020 study shows that blonanserin — a second-generation antipsychotic transdermal patch — also improves schizophrenia symptoms when compared to the placebo group. This patch has yet to be approved by the FDA.

You can apply your patch with or without help. It has four parts, including the:

  • backing
  • medication itself
  • adhesive
  • protective liner

To apply the patch, you may follow these steps:

  1. First, wash and dry your hands using soap and water.
  2. If you’re already wearing a patch, remove the old one and dispose of it.
  3. Find a new site for the patch on a flat surface, such as the chest or upper arm. Rotate sights with each patch.
  4. Make sure the skin is free from sores, redness, or breaks.
  5. Avoid hairy areas when possible or clip excessive hair.
  6. Clean the area with water only and dry it if soiled.
  7. Remove the patch from the pouch.
  8. Peel off the protective liner on one side.
  9. Place the adhesive side onto the skin and peel away the other liner.
  10. Press the skin patch firmly with the palm of your hand for at least 30 seconds.
  11. Wash your hands.

Asenapine is an atypical antipsychotic, so it has similar side effects as other antipsychotic medications. They include:

Where can you buy transdermal patches?

Asenapine patches require a prescription. If you’re living with schizophrenia and want to try transdermal patches, consider speaking with a mental health professional to determine if these will be best for you.

If prescribed, you can fill it at any local or online pharmacy.

Are there any precautions?

Any transdermal patch can cause skin irritation or an allergic reaction. Hives and swelling are also a possibility.

There’s also a black box warning for all antipsychotic drugs that state that those with dementia-related psychosis have an increased chance of death.

The FDA hasn’t yet approved it for use in older adults with dementia-related psychosis. They’re also not recommended if you’re pregnant or nursing.

Try to avoid using a heating pad or other devices over the patch. Additionally, using illegal drugs or alcohol while wearing the patch can worsen your symptoms.

Asenapine is a second-generation (atypical) antipsychotic transdermal patch that works to treat schizophrenia. It might be a better treatment option if you have trouble taking oral medications or injections.

Schizophrenia requires long-term treatment. It’s best to keep applying the patches even when you feel better.

Transdermal patches may not be for everyone. Working with a mental health professional can help determine the best treatment plan for you and your lifestyle.

An integrated treatment approach to schizophrenia may include cognitive behavioral therapy and medication.

If you want more information, you can check out Psych Central’s schizophrenia hub for a brief schizophrenia overview and treatment options available.

Living with schizophrenia might be stressful. But taking care of yourself and prioritizing your treatment can positively affect your well-being.