Discuss Biological Treatments for Schizophrenia
The vast majority of people who suffer from schizophrenia will receive some form of treatment to try and diminish their symptoms. There are drug therapies that help patients to function as well as possible, and were founded in the 1950’s when the drugs were given to hospital patients to try and calm their anxiety before surgery but were also found to relieve the symptoms of schizophrenia and so consequently were used for treatment of schizophrenia. Antipsychotics were used to combat the positive symptoms of schizophrenia e. g. allucinations and auditory hallucinations, which are come from having an overactive dopamine system in the brain. When Dopamine was discovered in 1952, drugs were created to help reduce the amount of dopamine in the brain. Conventional antipsychotics reduce the effects of dopamine, and so reduce the symptoms of schizophrenia. They bind to dopamine receptors, D2 receptors in particular, but do not stimulate them and so block the actions of them, which also helps support the dopamine hypothesis. There is some evidence to support the use of conventional antipsychotics when looking at relapse rates.
Davis examined 29 studies and found that relapse occurred in 55% of the patients whose drugs were replaced by a placebo compared to just 19% of those who remained on the drug. This seems to suggest that they are successful in helping people who have schizophrenia. However Ross and Read point out that these figures are misleading as they indicate that 45% of those on a placebo did benefit just from the placebo instead of the taking the course of drugs. Therefore, there is contradictory evidence for the success of conventional antipsychotics in terms of relapse rates.
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There is research that suggests other factors play a key role in the success of the treatment. Vaughn and Leff found that antipsychotic medication did make a significant difference, but only for those who were living in hostile and criticising home environments. In these conditions the relapse rates for those on medication were 53% and for those in the placebo condition the relapse rate was 92%. Therefore, this implies that if the environment is not a supportive one then taking conventional antipsychotic drugs will help more than just giving them a placebo.
Although, the relapse rate was 53% with medication therefore this means that there are still over half of the patients relapsing who took the drugs. There is an ethical issue with the conventional antipsychotics, they have several worrying side effects, one of which is tardive dyskinesia. Hill found that 30% of people taking antipsychotic medication develop tardive dyskinesia (which is the cause of involuntary bodily movements) and this is irreversible in the majority of cases.
Consequently, this undermines the treatment as people would have to decide if they are okay with having the disorder and possibly not even being cured from schizophrenia. Another treatment of schizophrenia is ECT (Electroconvulsive therapy) which is were a electric current is passed between two scalp electrodes to create a minor seizure. One electrode is placed above the temple of the non-dominant side of the brain and a second in the middle of the forehead.
The patient is then injected with a short-acting anaesthetic to make them unconscious before the shock is administered. They are also given a nerve blocking agent to paralyse the muscles of the body to prevent them contracting during the treatment and causing fractures. 0. 6 amps are passed through the brain lasting about half a second, produces a seizure lasting up to one minute which should start to slowly destroy the part of the brain that causes the schizophrenia. The patient usually has 3-15 treatments depending on the severity of the condition.
However doctors still aren’t 100% clear on to how the ECT therapy works, but so far has had positive effects on mental illnesses. ECT is mainly used for the treatment of depression, but can help the symptoms of schizophrenia. Although there is some evidence to support ECT as a therapy for the treatment of schizophrenia. Tharyan and Adams found that real ECT was more effective than placebo or simulated ECT in terms of improvement of patients. Therefore, this indicates that ECT is a good treatment option for someone with schizophrenia as there is some research to back up the claim.