Many US schizophrenics getting wrong meds

Woman with two faces representing two different personalities.
Woman with two faces representing two different personalities.

Improper drug treatment is given to nearly 40 percent of people who suffer their first episode of schizophrenia, according to a new study.

As many as 4 in 10 seeking help after first episode are medicated inappropriately, researchers say.

Read: What is schizophrenia?

Because schizophrenia is typically a chronic illness, early treatment can have an effect on a patient's long-term outcome, the researchers noted.

Inconsistent with recommendations

Inappropriate drug treatment can lead to problems that cause patients to stop taking their medication.

The study included 404 people who suffered a first episode of schizophrenia.

They were seen at community treatment centres in 21 states.

Of those patients, 159 received drug treatment that was inconsistent with recommendations for first-episode patients.

Read: Mental illness in SA – are we getting the help we need?

Some of the more common mistakes the researchers cited included:

  • Prescribing more than one anti-psychotic drug.
  • A higher-than-recommended dose of an anti-psychotic.
  • The use of psychotropic medication other than an anti-psychotic.
  • Prescribing an antidepressant without justification.
  • The use of the anti-psychotic olanzapine, which is especially likely to cause major weight gain but was often prescribed at high doses.
The study appears in The American Journal of Psychiatry.

Dosing for first-episode patients differs

"Academic research has found that optimal medication selection and dosing for first-episode patients differs from that for patients with longer illness durations. The challenge to the field is to get this specialised knowledge to busy clinicians who are treating patients," study author Dr. Delbert Robinson, a psychiatrist at the Zucker Hillside Hospital in Glen Oaks, New York, said in a journal news release.

Read: Large number of schizophrenics report happiness

"Our finding that treatment differed based upon patients' insurance status suggests that in order to improve first-episode care we may also need to address treatment system issues," Robinson said.

Read More:

Links between schizophrenia and cannabis use
OCD sufferers at greater risk of schizophrenia
Dagga is more dangerous than previously thought
Image: Portrait of girl with two faces from Shutterstock.

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