Schizophrenia Treatment Sees a Simple Breakthrough

Early intervention has caught on in Australia and the UK
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 19, 2015 4:33 AM CDT
Glenn at work on a science project in high school, before symptoms of schizophrenia appeared.   (Courtesy of Glenn's family)

(Newser) – When Glenn, a smart high school student with a knack for building robots, began experiencing episodes of psychosis, he was diagnosed with schizophrenia and given a grim prognosis. He was prescribed medications and saw therapists, "But the common message from virtually everybody who worked with Glenn was that his life was basically over," reports the Huffington Post. "He wasn’t going to become a world-famous engineer or travel to the moon. He wasn’t even going to finish high school." But today, some four decades later, people with schizophrenia are being treated in places like Australia as early as possible with the hope that symptoms can be managed and people with schizophrenia can actually lead normal lives.

By treating patients when they first developed symptoms, researchers discovered a few promising changes: less pronounced change in prefrontal cortex and gray matter; greater sensitivity to medication, allowing for lower doses and less debilitating side effects; and greater response to cognitive therapy to manage irregular thoughts. In other words, minimizing the duration of untreated psychosis, or DUP, matters. It "wasn’t really rocket science," Australian researcher Patrick McGorry concedes, and eventually his team developed a questionnaire and other intervention methods. The Huffington Post also explores the possible reasons why the approach has yet to become standard in the US. Either way, Glenn's sister, Tamara, says she's learned that prognosis may actually change when doctors treat a person with mental illness as a person with a future. (Schizophrenia isn't actually one disease.)

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