(Mirror Daily, United States) – A government-funded study has found that treating schizophrenia with counseling and smaller doses of medication might be a better solution than simply administering high doses of anti-psychotic drugs, the traditional treatment.

Published in the Journal of American Psychiatry, the study results offer a better alternative to schizophrenics and their families, a treatment that could upend the standard of living with a disorder that affects roughly 3 million people in the United States alone.

Participants in the two-year National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) study started the Navigate treatment as soon as their first psychotic hallucinations occurred, as part of an early-intervention model. Patients met on a weekly basis with mental health clinicians who provided support for getting back on track with their lives in addition to managing their lower doses of medication.

About 400 people participated in the study, divided in two groups: one followed the Navigate program, while the other went down the traditional path. It turned out that the mental health outcomes for patients in the first group were significantly better, as well as their, interpersonal relationships, and participation in work or school.

According to lead author Dr. John M. Kane, a psychiatry professor at the Hofstra North Shore–LIJ School of Medicine, this kind of treatment works best for those whose psychosis diagnosis is recent, and it could be implemented in clinics around the country.

Treating schizophrenia – a mental disorder characterized by paranoia, hallucinations and other forms of psychosis – does not always work as doctors would like. The strong anti-psychotic drugs are needed for relieving the symptoms and offering a more normal life, but they can also have harmful side effects: drowsiness, violent tremors, and extreme weight gain.

Schizophrenia’s onset can start as early as a person’s 20s, and previous studies have shown that early treatment – right after the first episode – seems to have better outcomes for the mental health of the patient.

The NIMH study is the U.S.’ first to focus on this kind of approach. With an average of 23 months of treatment the Navigate patients seemed to benefit from this type of treatment; they scored higher on their 6-month follow-up, which included tests that measured their motivation and sense of purpose, as well as their desire to engage in activities and social interactions.

These results were backed up by monthly check-ins, which revealed similar improvements, which were aimed at meeting the need for emergency medical treatment and outpatient services. According to the final results, the Navigate patients managed to switch to lower doses of anti-psychotic drugs over the two years of the study.
Image Source: Huffington Post