JAMA Logo Schizophrenia is known to be a serious mental illness characterized by a disintegration of the process of thinking and emotional responsiveness. Experts share that patients with early stage Schizophrenia who receive a combination of medication and a psychological intervention appear to be less likely to discontinue treatment or relapse. In addition, these patients may have enhanced insight, quality of life and social functioning as compared to those taking medication alone.

Background data highlights that antipsychotic drugs are the mainstay of therapy for patients with schizophrenia, however long-term therapy is apparently linked with unfavorable effects and poor adherence.

“Most patients, even those with a good response to medication, continue to experience disabling residual symptoms, impaired social and occupational functioning and a high rate of relapse,” the authors commented. “Adding psychosocial treatment may produce greater improvements in functional outcome than does medication treatment alone.”

Experts examined the combination of therapies among 1,268 patients with early-stage schizophrenia treatment from January 1, 2005 through October 31, 2007. Around 633 individuals were randomly allocated to receive pharmacotherapy in addition to psychosocial intervention involving 48 one-hour group sessions. The intrusion included four evidence-based practices namely psychoeducation, family intervention, skills training and cognitive behavioral therapy. Scientists revealed that other 635 patients received medication alone.

Scientists observed that rates of treatment discontinuation or change were 32.8 percent in the combined treatment group as compared to 46.8 percent in the medication-only group. They also underlined that the risk of relapse was seemingly less among patients in the combination group, occurring in 14.6 percent of patients in that group and 22.5 percent of patients in the medication-only group.

“Social outcomes reflect how patients live, function in society and perform their various roles,” the authors elucidated. “Our study showed that a significantly higher proportion of patients receiving combined treatment obtained employment or accessed education. Thus, the findings support the results from previous studies that patients with schizophrenia receiving combined treatment had better outcomes. In particular, integrating a comprehensive therapy with medication treatment in patients with early-stage schizophrenia before the disease becomes chronic and disabling could improve long-term outcomes.”

The combined treatment group appears to show greater improvements in insight, social functioning, activities of daily living and on four domains of quality of life. In addition, a greater percentage of them were employed or seem to have received education. Experts share that there was no vital difference in either frequency or type of adverse events between the groups.

These findings will appear in the September issue of Archives of General Psychiatry.