Treating schizophrenia with long-term medication is safe, according to a new study conducted by a team from Karolinska Institutet in Sweden. Researchers from the United States (US) and Finland were also part of the investigation. The team wanted to understand how safe long-term antipsychotic therapy for schizophrenia is for patients.
The study's findings suggest mortality was higher when patients were not on medication compared to when they were on it. The average life expectancy for schizophrenia patients is between 10 to 20 years. Some researchers are concerned using antipsychotic drugs long-term may be a major cause.
Researchers of the study conducted a long-term follow-up to demonstrate that antipsychotic drugs have no links to increased risk of co-morbid complications, like cardiovascular disease. The study is the largest of its kind.
"It's difficult to make comparisons between people on permanent medication and those who aren't, as these groups differ in many ways," Heidi Taipale, assistant professor at the Department of Clinical Neuroscience at Karolinska Institutet, told a news portal. Adding, "One common method of dealing with this has been to try to take account of such differences when making comparisons. However, we chose another method, in which each person was their own control, making it possible for us to make individual comparisons of hospitalisation during periods of antipsychotic medication and periods of no treatment."
For the study, 62,000 Finns who were diagnosed with schizophrenia were monitored. Through their investigation, the team discovered a continual antipsychotic treatment for schizophrenia is a safe form of treatment. "Antipsychotics get something of a bad press, which can make it difficult to reach out to the patient group with information on how important they are," Jari Tiihonen, a professor of psychiatry at the Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Karolinska Institutet, told a news portal.
Adding, "We know from previous studies that only half of those who have been discharged from hospital after their first psychotic episode with a schizophrenia diagnosis take antipsychotic drugs. Besides, there are many people with schizophrenia who are on long-term benzodiazepine medication, which is in breach of existing guidelines and is associated with increased mortality risk. Building trust and understanding towards the efficacy and safety of antipsychotic drugs is important, and we hope that this study can contribute to this end."
The study's findings were originally published in the journal World Psychiatry.
Picture Courtesy: Google Images