Although atypical antipsychotics are now considered first line treatments for schizophrenia, intramuscular (i.m.) conventional neuroleptics are often still considered necessary in emergency treatment of acute psychoses. This European, multicentre, open-label, active-controlled trial compared oral risperidone plus oral lorazepam to standard care with i.m. conventional neuroleptics with or without lorazepam in the emergency treatment of acutely psychotic patients. Patients were allowed to choose either oral risperidone (a single dose of 2 mg and 2.0–2.5 mg lorazepam; 121 patients) or standard i.m. treatment (conventional neuroleptic with or without lorazepam; 105 patients). No additional treatment was allowed for 2 h. Primary outcome was the percentage of patients with treatment success (asleep or at least much improved on Clinical Global Impression-global improvement scale) 2 h after treatment initiation. Baseline characteristics were similar in both treatment groups. Oral risperidone plus oral lorazepam was more successful at 2 h (66.9%) and significantly non-inferior compared to standard i.m. care (54.3%; P=0.0003), and the incidence of extrapyramidal symptoms (EPS) was lower (1.7%) compared to standard i.m. care (9.5%). In acutely psychotic patients requiring emergency treatment, oral risperidone/oral lorazepam was at least as effective as i.m. conventional neuroleptic treatment with or without lorazepam. Oral risperidone plus lorazepam rapidly reduces symptoms, including aggression, and causes fewer EPS.