Antipsychotic medication is prescribed for various mental illnesses. One of the most common conditions treated with antipsychotic medication is schizophrenia. Medication has been shown to be an effective approach to help individuals manage hallucinations, delusions,and other behaviors and symptoms associated with schizophrenia. Clients diagnosed with this mental health challenge often benefit further when they receive cognitive therapy (CT) in conjunction with medication. Unfortunately, antipsychotic medications have significant side effects and pose physical and physiological health risks. Additionally, some believe that medications used for schizophrenia actually exacerbate the illness. Because of these factors, adherence rates are extremely low.
People who choose to discontinue their antipsychotic medication, or those whose clinicians are opposed to that course of treatment, have uncertain outcomes. Although CT has been shown to work well in combination with medication, until now, few studies have examined if CT is a viable and effective treatment option when administered independent of pharmacologic treatment. To address this question, Anthony P. Morrison of the School of Psychological Sciences at the University of Manchester in the UK recently conducted a study that followed 20 participants who had not taken medication in the previous 6 months as they underwent CT.
All of the participants had a history of psychosis and received 9 months of CT and were assessed at baseline, end of treatment, and 15 months using the Positive and Negative Syndromes Scale (PANSS). Morrison found that all of the participants achieved reductions in hallucinations, delusions, and social impairment. Specifically, almost half reported a significant reduction in symptoms, and only two individuals enrolled in the study dropped out. Morrison believes that these results clearly demonstrate that CT can help individuals manage the symptoms of schizophrenia without the use antipsychotic medication. He added, “These findings, together with the extensive evidence base supporting CT’s effectiveness for treating comorbid disorders such as anxiety and depression, suggest that patients refusing antipsychotics should be offered CT.”
Morrison, A. P., Hutton, P., Wardle, M., Spencer, H., Barratt, S. (2012). Cognitive therapy for people with a schizophrenia spectrum diagnosis not taking antipsychotic medication: An exploratory trial. Psychological Medicine, 42.5, 1049-1056.
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