Schizophrenia is a severe mental disorder. People with schizophrenia often experience hallucinations and thought disturbances, so they have difficulty distinguishing between what is real and what is not. One way out is to give psychiatric drugs.
The question for ordinary people is when people with schizophrenia should take the drug. Will they ever be able to get rid of drugs completely? Find the answer through the description below, yes!
1. The drugs used today are only symptom control
From the MayoClinic explanation in 2020, schizophrenia occurs due to increased dopamine levels, a substance in the brain that regulates a person’s cognitive and emotional functions. To withstand the effects of the brain’s dopamine surge, schizophrenic patients must take schizophrenic drugs (also known as antipsychotic drugs).
But these drugs are not magic drugs like in fiction stories. According to the Psychiatry Textbook, the way antipsychotic drugs work is to block dopamine from triggering activity in certain parts of the brain. To return dopamine to normal levels takes a long process.
2. Treatment of schizophrenia does take a long time
According to the 2011 Consensus on the Management of Schizophrenic Disorders, treatment for schizophrenia can take up to five years. Even if they have frequent relapses, some people with schizophrenia need therapy for the rest of their lives. Usually, if the symptoms subside after the first three months, the drug dose can be lowered slowly.
In addition to taking medication, people with schizophrenia must undergo routine control and other psychological therapy. One of them is cognitive-behavioural therapy. This therapy will help the sufferer to distinguish whether an event is hallucinatory or real.
3. During treatment, symptoms of schizophrenia often recur
According to a 2014 article from Everyday Health, only 2 out of 10 people with schizophrenia do not experience relapse symptoms. So you could say schizophrenia is a disease that is very easy to relapse. The presence of stress, not regularly taking medication, and lack of support from people around are thought to cause symptoms of schizophrenia to recur.
The incidence of schizophrenia relapse is very difficult to predict. According to BMJ Psychiatry in 2013, people with schizophrenia can experience relapses in the early stages of treatment and beyond. Incidents of relapse may even occur after two years of treatment.
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4. Patients often drop out of treatment because of severe side effects of drugs.
In BMJ psychiatry’s article entitled “The nature of relapse in schizophrenia”, dropping out of treatment is one of the most common causes of relapse. Maybe some sufferers do not understand this disease, so they only take medicine if they feel it is necessary.
But for some people, the side effects of antipsychotic drugs are no joke. Many discontinue treatment because they are unable to withstand the side effects, such as uncontrolled body movements, body stiffness, restlessness, drowsiness and weight gain.
This is the dilemma faced by schizophrenic patients. If they do not take medication, their hallucinatory symptoms may worsen. On the other hand, even if they try to take regular medication, they must be prepared to face the side effects of antipsychotic drugs.
5. The current reality is that schizophrenia treatment guidelines are lifelong.
Many factors influence the success of schizophrenia treatment. First, patients must adhere to treatment while enduring severe side effects. Second, there is no 100% guarantee that the symptoms will recur despite regular medication.
For this reason, most psychiatrists still doubt the decision to stop medication for schizophrenic patients. According to the journal Frontiers in Psychiatry, published in 2021, sudden drug withdrawal actually triggers the recurrence of hallucinations in people with schizophrenia.
In a survey conducted in the Journal of Psychopharmacology in 2019, most psychiatrists consider the concept of stopping drugs forever not to have strong evidence and can actually harm patients and those around them.
6. Even though they have to take medication continuously, schizophrenic patients can still be productive.
Review the literature titled “Medication-free treatment for psychosis – an alternative to antipsychotics?” published in 2021. The study states that 30% of schizophrenic patients can function like ordinary people.
Adding from the WebMD page, 3 out of 4 schizophrenic patients experience symptom recovery after taking the drug. Although it takes patience and persistence to seek treatment, people with schizophrenia can live optimally.
For now, antipsychotic drugs must still be consumed by people with schizophrenia for life. But hopefully, with the latest studies, the dream of schizophrenic patients being able to stop taking drugs will soon come true.