Call for caution over use of antipsychotics

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Anti-psychotic medicine should not be the first option offered to people at risk of developing schizophrenia, researchers said.

Clinicians should be “extremely careful” about prescribing antipsychotics to young people, because only a tenth will go on to develop more serious conditions, a study suggested.

A study by five universities suggested that “benign” psychological treatments, including cognitive therapy (CT), were effective in reducing the severity of psychotic experiences that can lead to conditions like schizophrenia.

The study, published on the British Medical Journal website bmj.com, found the frequency, seriousness, and intensity of psychotic symptoms that may lead to more serious conditions was reduced by counselling and CT.

The landmark research could pave the way for coherent treatment for young people at risk of developing psychotic illnesses, which is not currently in place.

Teams from the universities of Glasgow, Birmingham, Cambridge and East Anglia, led by the University of Manchester, gave participants, aged between 14 and 35, weekly CT sessions for a maximum of six months, for four years. Only eight per cent of patients in the study were shown to have made transition to a psychotic illness.