In general, treatment for schizophrenia includes antipsychotic medications and psychosocial interventions (therapy and rehabilitation). Antipsychotic medications for schizophrenia have been available since the mid-1950s. They alleviate the positive symptoms of schizophrenia. Psychosocial treatments help those with schizophrenia deal with difficulties in areas such as communication, motivation, self-care, and work.
Schizophrenia treatment has advanced considerably in recent years. However, since the causes of schizophrenia are still unknown, current treatment focuses on:
- Eliminating the symptoms of the disease
- Improving quality of life
- Restoring productive lives.
Treatment and other service interventions are often linked to the clinical phases of schizophrenia:
- Acute phase
- Stabilizing phase
- Stable (or maintenance) phase
- Recovery phase.
Achieving optimal treatment for schizophrenia across all phases of the disorder generally requires some form of medical therapy with antipsychotic medication, usually combined with a variety of psychosocial interventions (e.g., therapy, rehabilitation).
Antipsychotic medications for schizophrenia have been available since the mid-1950s. These drugs alleviate the positive symptoms of schizophrenia. While antipsychotic medications have greatly improved the lives of many patients, they do not cure schizophrenia.
Everyone responds differently to antipsychotic medications. In some cases, several different drugs must be tried before the right one is found. People with schizophrenia should work in partnership with their doctor to find the medications that best control their symptoms with the fewest side effects.
Like diabetes or high blood pressure, schizophrenia is a chronic disorder that needs constant management. At this time, schizophrenia cannot be cured, but the number of psychotic episodes a person experiences can be decreased significantly by staying on the prescribed medications. Although responses vary from person to person, most people receiving schizophrenia treatment need to take some type of medication for the rest of their lives and use other approaches, such as supportive therapy or rehabilitation, as well.
Relapses occur most often when people with schizophrenia stop taking their antipsychotic medication because they feel better, or only take it occasionally because they forget, or they don't think taking it regularly is important. It is very important for people with schizophrenia to take their medication on a regular basis and for as long as their doctors recommend. If they do so, they will experience fewer psychotic symptoms.
No antipsychotic medication should be discontinued without talking to the doctor who prescribed it. These medications should always be tapered off under a doctor's supervision rather than being stopped all at once.
Antipsychotic medications can produce unpleasant or dangerous side effects when taken with certain other drugs. For this reason, the doctor who prescribes the antipsychotics should be told about all medications (over-the-counter and prescription) and all vitamins, minerals, and herbal supplements the patient takes. The use of alcohol or other drugs should also be discussed.
(Click Schizophrenia and Antipsychotics for more information.)