August 11, 2005

Schizophrenia Treatment Delay

Read more... Schizophrenia Biology

While in general there is a lot of evidence that indicates that the later that a person receives treatment for his or her schizophrenia, the worse the outcome for that person in the long term. Now, however, there is evidence from a recent study that suggests a delay in treatment for schizophrenia does not lead to a reduced hippocampus (which was one of the factors that some researchers thought might be the reason for the worse long term outcome for untreated people who have schizophrenia). In this new study, the duration of untreated psychosis was compared to the volume of their respective hippocampus regions and a correlation between the two was not found. This is just one study, so more research needs to be done - but the overall message has not changed. Research still shows that the earlier one is treated for his or her schizophrenia, the better the long term outcome.

Some have hypothesized in the past that "psychosis is neurotoxic" or that "delaying antipsychotic" treatment can cause one to have a smaller hippocampus. This study looked at 105 patients who had just had an episode of a schizophrenia spectrum disorder. The average length of time for one to have an untreated disorder was 59.9 weeks. MRI images showed that the hippocampus was not significantly different between those who had been treated within 13 weeks and those who had not received treatment till after 13 weeks of their episode of psychosis.

"The researchers note that there was no statistically significant association between total, left, or right hippocampal volume and length of untreated psychosis. Indeed, dividing the group according to whether their psychosis had remained untreated for less than 13 weeks or for longer than 13 weeks provided similar total volumes of 3.67 cm³ and 3.77 cm³, respectively" (PsychiatrySource, 2005).

The researchers hypothesized that the negative effect that any negative effects associated with treatment delays may be due to the disruption that the disorder can have on one's education, employment, and self esteem.

Original Source: Schizophrenia treatment delay 'not neurotoxic for the brain'. August 11, 2005.

This research paper was published in: Am J Psychiatry 2005; 162: 1527–1529.


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