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Treatment for Schizophrenia

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Treatment in schizophrenia involves taking the correct medicines with minimum side-effects and personal support. Consulting a doctor should not be delayed. In schizophrenia, it is very important to start with the treatment early to lead a normal life. Treatment involves assessments using standardized method like positive and negative syndrome scale (PANSS). This is a medical scale used for measuring the severity of symptoms in this condition.

Present medication available does not cure this condition but helps in restoring normal functioning of the brain. Long-lasting medication ensures continuous relief psychotic symptoms.

Patients undergoing treatment for this condition usually do not continue the medications prescribed. After the first year of treatment, most patients will discontinue their use of medications, especially the ones where the side-effects are difficult to tolerate.

Patients suffering with severe episodes of schizophrenia need to be hospitalized. This can be voluntary or involuntary. Long-term hospitalization is now decreased due to the practice of moving people from mental institutions into family-based environments.1 Hospitalization might be necessary in severe conditions. Hence, treating schizophrenia depends on:
  • Psychopharmacologic treatment (medications)
  • Psychotherapeutic treatment (psychosocial therapy, individual or group): Individual or group treatment involves meeting frequently and lectures from guest speakers to educate them about caring, sharing, mutual support, which is important in the recovery process. Psychosocial therapy involves frequent talks with the physician, psychologist or social worker. The sessions involve discussions and sharing about past problems, experiences, thoughts and feelings. This support helps them to overcome the difficult aspects of this condition.
  • Rehabilitation support (social, living skills and family education): Rehabilitation program is very important for the patients to lead a normal life outside the hospital. These programs focuses on improving job skills use of public transport, money management skills, and problem solving skills. Family therapy is a form of treatment, which involves addressing the whole family members about the advantages and disadvantages of schizophrenia. Caregivers are thought various coping strategies and problem solving skills. This has been found to be beneficial if the duration of intervention is for a longer term.

Apart from this therapy, the impact of schizophrenia on families and the burden on carers has been recognized with the guidance available through of self-help books.


Medications for schizophrenia  

Antipsychotic medications are used to treat schizophrenia. These medications take around 7–14 days to show their effect and decrease the positive symptoms.

Following are some of the antipsychotic drugs used in treating schizophrenia

Trifluoperazine: Is used for short-term treatment of anxiety. It helps in stabilizing the symptoms of schizophrenia by improving their mood and making them easier to function in everyday life.

Haloperidol: This medicine helps to think more clearly, feel less nervous, take part in everyday life, and prevent committing suicide. It also reduces aggression and the desire to hurt others.

Ziprasidone: Is used when other medications are not effective and works by maintaining the balance of certain natural chemicals called neurotransmitters in the brain.

Clozapine, Quetiapine, Thiothixene and Olanzapine: These medications work by helping to maintain the balance of neurotransmitters in the brain.

Risperidone: Is a common antipsychotic medication. It also helps to think clearly and makes functioning of daily activities easy. It can decrease negative thoughts and hallucinations.

Response to these medications is varies. The term ‘treatment-resistant schizophrenia’ is used for patients failing to respond satisfactorily to at least two different antipsychotic medications. Patients coming under this category are prescribed with medication of superior effectiveness. Such medication has potentially high lethal side-effects.

Patients who are unwilling or unable to take medications regularly, high-potency antipsychotic medication may be given every 2 weeks to achieve control. Long-term usage of such high-potency antipsychotics is not advised.

Over-the-counter drug (OTC): Haloperidol is the commonly available OTC drug.

Alternative therpy: This therapy is advised after consulting with a physician. The following are some of them coming under this category.

  • Glycine supplements: Glycine is an amino acid, which helps in reducing the negative symptoms of schizophrenia.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids: Helps in reducing the negative and positive symptoms of schizophrenia.
  • Antioxidants: Antioxidants like vitamin E, vitamin C and alpha-lipoic acid show mild improvement to this condition.
  • Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT): Can be considered and may be prescribed in cases where other treatments have failed.
  • Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS): This is and alternative to ECT. This treatment is considered as the last resort for people with severe depression. 

Written by: Healthplus24 team
Date last updated: September 27, 2012