Schizophrenia: Biological Therapies

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Biological Therapies for Schizophrenia


  • One of most commonly prescribed drugs (phenothiazine)
  • Related to antihistamine drugs used to treat common cold and asthma.
  • A phenothiazine derivative, chlorpromazine (trade names Thorazine, Largactil) found to be very effective in reducing symptoms of schizophrenia.
  • They are dopamine antagonists
  • Bind dopamine receptors (D2 receptors) but do not stimulate them, thus blocking their action. 
  • By reducing stimulation of dopamine receptors, antipsychotic drugs can reduce acute, positive symptoms (e.g hallucinations, delusions etc)

Evaluation - Effectiveness:

  • Positive symptoms - Julien (2005) found conventional antipsychotic drugs are most common form of treatment for SZ. Effective for 70%. Drugs reduce many positive symptoms and decrease average length of time spent in hospital. Allows patients to live fairly normal lives. 

Issues of effectiveness:

  • Wide range of symptoms - SZ has wide range of symptoms. Treatments may be effective for some but not for others. Substantial portion of people with chronic SZ cannot be helped with convential antipsychotic medication.

Problems with measuring effectiveness:

  • When to measure - Schizophrenia is episodic so may be periods with no symptoms but does not mean they no longer have SZ.
  • Placebo effects - some patients may get better because they are receiving attention from a therapist, rather than benefitting from a specific therapy. Could be overcome by having a control group (e.g exampe of group of patients on waiting


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