-- Robert Preidt
THURSDAY, Feb. 6, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- A form of
psychotherapy known as cognitive behavioral therapy may be an
effective option for schizophrenia patients who are unable or
unwilling to take antipsychotic drugs, a new study suggests.
Reporting Feb. 6 in
The Lancet, British researchers say that the treatment can
help ease patients' psychotic symptoms and boost their personal and
They note that many people with schizophrenia cannot take
"As many as half of all people with schizophrenia choose not to take drugs because of side effects that can include serious weight gain, development of metabolic disorders and an increased risk of sudden cardiac death, because the treatment is not felt to be effective, or because they do not perceive that they need treatment," study author Anthony Morrison, from the University of Manchester, said in a journal news release.
"Currently, no evidence-based safe and effective treatment alternative exists," he added.
To see if cognitive behavioral therapy might work in these
cases, Morrison's team tracked the outcomes of 74 schizophrenia
patients aged 16-65 who had stopped taking antipsychotic drugs for
at least six months.
As part of the treatment, a therapist worked with some of the
patients to help them change detrimental thought patterns and
The patients in the cognitive behavioral therapy group showed
greater improvements after 18 months than those who didn't receive
the therapy, the study found.
Prior research has shown that schizophrenia patients benefits
from cognitive therapy in combination with antipsychotic drugs, but
the effectiveness of cognitive therapy in patients who were
nottaking medication hadn't been known.
The findings show "that cognitive therapy is an acceptable
intervention for a population who are usually considered to be very
challenging to engage in mental health services," Morrison
Two experts in the United States said these early results are
promising, but more study may be needed.
"Non-compliance or medication refusal is a substantial therapeutic issue" when treating patients with schizophrenia, said Dr. Russell Joffe, chairman of psychiatry and behavioral science at Staten Island University Hospital, in New York City.
He noted that's there's been good data to support the use of
cognitive behavioral therapy in mood or anxiety disorders, "but
there is limited data in psychotic disorders" such as
schizophrenia. Still, the study was small and focused on short-term
treatment, whereas "schizophrenia is a chronic and persistent
mental illness," Joffe said.
"Demonstrating the effectiveness of new treatments for major psychiatric illness is always a good thing, given the enormous burden of suffering," he said. "This data, however, is very preliminary and further research needs to be done before confronting the substantial logistic challenges in implementing such treatment on a broad clinical basis."
Dr. Mary Badaracco is a professor at the NYU School of Medicine
and the director of psychiatry at Bellevue Hospital Center in New
York City. She said the study "adds to the growing body of evidence
supporting the usefulness of cognitive behavioral therapy
approaches in patients with schizophrenia, an illness that can
cause lifelong suffering and heartbreaking disability."
She stressed, however, that "the results of this study should
not be used to encourage patients not to take medications, which
remain the mainstay of treatment."
Morrison's team agreed with Badaracco that schizophrenia
patients on antipsychotics should not suddenly stop taking the
drugs. They should first discuss the matter with their doctor.
"The study does, however, underline the usefulness of cognitive behavioral therapy -- an intervention that is free of the sometimes intolerable effects of some medications," Badaracco said. The new finding may also provide "another source of hope for the 1 percent of the world's population that suffers from this illness."
The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health has more about
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