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  • Created on: 22-12-12 20:02

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Biological treatments arise from the medical model of psychotic behaviour which considers mental
disorders to be an illness or disease resulting from underlying biological factors. There are many
biological treatments such as chemotherapy, electro-convulsive therapy (ECT) or psychosurgery.
One biological form of treatment is drug therapy (or chemotherapy) which uses antipsychotic drugs
such as typical or atypical drugs to treat schizophrenia. Typical antipsychotic drugs such as
chlorpromazine treat one's dopamine levels by blocking the dopamine receptors. Such drugs are
known to treat `type 1' schizophrenia, reducing the positive symptoms experienced such as
delusions or hallucinations and produce the maximum benefits within the first 6 months of use.
Moreover, typical drugs do not treat the negative symptoms of schizophrenia such as catatonic
On the other hand, atypical antipsychotic drugs such as clozapine, known to treat both `type 1' &
`type 2' schizophrenia, work by blocking serotonin receptors. These drugs reduce the negative
symptoms experienced by schizophrenics such as loss of motivation, emotional flattening and
catatonia. They are suggested to be more effective than typical drugs according to Julien 2005.
This explanation of chemotherapy has been supported by Kane 1988 who conducted a single blind
study in USA with patients who failed to respond to three typical drug treatments (e.g.
chlorpromazine, haloperidol, phenothiazines) over 6 weeks. Out of this group, 268 participants'
(pps) psychotic disorder did not improve; they were then split into two groups, an experimental and
a control group, both of which were then involved in a double blind study. The experimental group
were given atypical drugs such as clozapine for 6 weeks and 30% of the group recovered, whereas
the control group were given typical drugs such as chlorpromazine, of which only 4% made a
recovery. Therefore, this study not only supports the effectiveness of drug therapy but also the
effectiveness of atypical drugs rather than typical antipsychotic drug therapy.
However, as Kane's study was conducted in 1988 at which time the DSM III-R was in use, the
diagnosis is likely to be accurate although it could be dated and today we might be even more
accurate in our analysis (thus providing a more valid diagnosis) with the use of the DSM V. Therefore
the validity of the diagnosis of schizophrenia in Kane's study (1988) can be questioned, possibly
reducing the internal validity of the study. On the other hand, a strength of Kane's study is that a
control group was used (given typical dugs) allowing the cause of improvement and the effect of
atypical drugs (e.g. clozapine) to be established under such experimental conditions.
However, the appropriateness of chemotherapy can be questioned as evidence shows that
patients tend to relapse when they stop taking medication, suggesting that they need to stay on
drugs for a long period of time which can increase the risks of side effects according to Rzewuska
2002. As with many drugs, both typical & atypical drugs have side effects. Those associated with
conventional drugs might be tremors, stiffness, immobility and in extreme forms, tardive dyskinesia.
However, although the side effects with atypical drugs are limited, they are potentially very severe
as they can cause agranulocytosis ­ damage to the immune system as bone marrow doesn't produce
sufficient amounts of white blood cells to fight off illnesses. This can have detrimental consequences
such as death.

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Another issue in relation to the appropriateness of using chemotherapy to treat schizophrenia is
compliance. As drugs rely on the patient taking them, some might not take the drugs due to the side
effects or simply due to poor memory. An alternative to this is to use depot injections which slowly
release the medication over a number of weeks. However, this treatment is only appropriate if the
patient agrees to it or if the patient has been sectioned under the Mental Health Act.…read more

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However, there is a problem in concluding cause and effect as it is not clear whether
atypical drugs helped in the recovery of schizophrenia or whether ECT treatment contributed to this
therefore, cause and effect are difficult to establish. Furthermore, there is a problem of how and
when improvement is measured.…read more


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