Early Detection of Schizophrenia–The Time Is Now

A message from APA President Jeffrey Lieberman, M.D., also appearing in  Psychiatric News Alert to all interested persons. Please send your comments to pnupdate@psych.org

“I believe that we are at another game-changing moment in psychiatry with the rise of the early detection and intervention strategy (EDIS). This new therapeutic strategy and model of care could have a significant effect on our ability to treat and limit the morbidity of mental illness beginning with schizophrenia and related psychotic disorders.

“While schizophrenia has been historically associated with a therapeutic nihilism due to its devastating and often irreversible consequences, research over the last two decades has changed attitudes and inspired optimism. Studies show that the earlier patients are diagnosed and treated, the better their responses to treatment. This leads to improved outcomes and higher chances of full recovery. The corollary to this is continued engagement of patients in treatment following their recovery and relapse prevention.

“Among the reasons for this are findings from neuroimaging studies showing that the hallmark clinical deterioration of schizophrenia is associated with cortical gray matter atrophy, reflecting the loss of cell processes and synaptic connections. Unlike Alzheimer’s disease though, for which there currently is no “disease-modifying” treatment, early intervention and relapse prevention methods for schizophrenia coupled with antipsychotic medication may prevent illness progression.

“Moreover, additional research and first-person reports indicate that resilience, coping skills, and peer and family support can substantially contribute to favorable outcomes and recovery. Collectively, these findings have suggested the value of early detection, intervention, and sustained engagement with treatment to enhance recovery and prevent disability.

“Unfortunately, these encouraging research findings have been slow to translate into clinical practice in the United States. It will not come as a surprise that an important reason for the slow implementation of the EDIS model of care is a lack of adequate financing. Many individuals in the earliest stages of psychosis do not have health insurance, and even if they do, their plans do not cover comprehensive psychosocial and rehabilitative services. And while the public mental health system is designed to serve individuals without health insurance and to provide services not covered by insurance, the system favors individuals who have already become disabled by mental illness, limiting the availability of services for patients in the early stages of psychotic disorders.”

For Dr. Lieberman’s full message and call to action, CLICK HERE.

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