Schizophrenia drugs have side effects

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Schizophrenia: meta-study shows lower psychotic relapse rate

Medications for schizophrenia have strong side effects, which is why psychiatrists do not always prescribe medication for relapse prevention. A new meta study examined the relapse rate with and without medication. The results showed that the drugs can apparently prevent relapses. However, the meta-analysis could only examine one study time frame of two years at a time. Research on long-term effects is still lacking.

Massive side effects of antipsychotics
If a patient has acute psychosis, every psychiatrist will use medication to relieve the delusional symptoms despite side effects. In modern psychiatry, special antipsychotics are therefore administered to treat the most serious mental illness to date. The prescription is easy for psychiatrists at the moment of the onset of psychosis. However, if a relapse is to be avoided, a preparation is not always given to the person concerned due to the sometimes serious side effects.
Depending on the medication, typical antipsychotics can cause significant weight gain. The development of the so-called metabolic syndrome has been observed for some drugs. The syndrome is characterized by obesity, high blood fat levels and a significantly enlarged abdomen. A metabolic syndrome can lead to complications such as diabetes, stroke or heart attack. Older, conventional antipsychotics often cause movement disorders. For example, those affected feel a stiff back and feel that they are no longer flexible enough. In addition, facial muscle movement disorders and voluntary limb movements can occur after years of ingestion. Patients who suffer from bipolar illness are very susceptible to motor side effects. Some long-term studies even point to an increased risk of death.

However, those affected are in a dilemma. If the medication is stopped, the risk of relapse increases. However, some research suggests that by far not all patients without a drug prescription will relapse. In addition, the long-term funds cause the healthcare systems worldwide costs in the billions. Estimates assume that spending on antipsychotic drugs worldwide is around $ 18.5 billion.

Medicines reduce relapse frequency Under the direction of scientist Stefan Leucht, a research team from the Technical University of Munich (TU) investigated the relapse frequency with and without medication. They analyzed the data from 116 methodological studies of around 6,500 schizophrenia patients. Depending on their origin, the data came from the years 1959 to 2011. The study results were published in the specialist magazine "The Lancet" and now support the use of medication for relapse prevention.

The evaluation showed that patients had a relapse frequency of 27 percent when taking a preparation. Patients who were not given any active substance subsequently suffered a psychotic relapse in 64 percent of the cases. In addition, patients who received an agent had to be admitted to a clinic much less inpatient than patients without antipsychotic medication. Here the comparable clinical admission rate was 10 to 26 percent.

Some data also indicate that aggressive pulse bursts decreased during medication and the quality of life improved overall. However, these results should be viewed only with reservations, since the evidence for this is limited, according to the researchers.

In contrast to the placebo groups, subjects who took a drug also showed increased side effects. Accordingly, they complained much more frequently of movement disorders (16 to nine percent), fatigue (13 to nine percent) and drastic weight gain (ten to six percent).

The effect of the medication diminished with time after it was noticeable that according to the data, the effectiveness of the medication wore off over time. Although the results of the meta-analysis suggest that drug prophylaxis proved to be effective, the studies only followed the subjects for a maximum of two years. In view of the limited effectiveness, numerous questions remain unanswered. Because the disease persists for a lifetime for those affected. This made it impossible to examine the long-term effects in terms of effectiveness and side effects during the research work.

The dispute between psychiatrists will therefore continue to exist because the success of the medication is difficult to measure. In addition, doctors usually focus on alleviating psychotic symptoms. Schizophrenia sufferers also suffer from cognitive disorders and impaired social skills. There is still no complete cure. (sb)

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