How is schizophrenia treated?

Because the causes of schizophrenia are still unknown, treatments focus on eliminating the symptoms of the disease. Treatments include antipsychotic medications and various psychosocial treatments.

 

Antipsychotic medications

Antipsychotic medications have been available since the mid-1950′s. The older types are called conventional or “typical” antipsychotics. Some of the more commonly used typical medications include:

  • Chlorpromazine (Thorazine)
  • Haloperidol (Haldol)
  • Perphenazine (Etrafon, Trilafon)
  • Fluphenazine (Prolixin).

 

In the 1990′s, new antipsychotic medications were developed. These new medications are called second generation, or “atypical” antipsychotics.

 

One of these medications, clozapine (Clozaril) is an effective medication that treats psychotic symptoms, hallucinations, and breaks with reality. But clozapine can sometimes cause a serious problem called agranulocytosis, which is a loss of the white blood cells that help a person fight infection. People who take clozapine must get their white blood cell counts checked every week or two. This problem and the cost of blood tests make treatment with clozapine difficult for many people. But clozapine is potentially helpful for people who do not respond to other antipsychotic medications.19

 

Other atypical antipsychotics were also developed. None cause agranulocytosis. Examples include:

  • Risperidone (Risperdal)
  • Olanzapine (Zyprexa)
  • Quetiapine (Seroquel)
  • Ziprasidone (Geodon)
  • Aripiprazole (Abilify)
  • Paliperidone (Invega).

 

When a doctor says it is okay to stop taking a medication, it should be gradually tapered off, never stopped suddenly.