Approximately 100,000 people in the U.S. have a psychosis episode each year, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Psychosis is a break with reality where a person may exhibit signs of paranoia, hear voices, or experience other hallucinations or delusional thoughts. Anti-psychotic medications reduce the risk of future psychotic episodes in patients who have recovered from an acute episode. They can also reduce symptoms, such as thinking problems, delusions, and hallucinations.
The goal of treatment with anti-psychotic medications is to effectively manage signs and symptoms at the lowest possible dose. Because relapse is more likely when anti-psychotic medications are discontinued or taken irregularly, it is very important that people with schizophrenia work with their doctors and family members to closely follow their treatment plan.
Continued drug treatment doesn’t prevent relapses; instead, it reduces their intensity and frequency. The treatment of severe psychotic symptoms generally requires higher dosages than those used for maintenance treatment. If a person is taking a lower dosage and symptoms reappear, a temporary dosage increase may prevent a full-blown relapse.
It is important for those with schizophrenia to follow their doctor’s instructions with respect to treatment. This involves taking prescribed medication at the correct dose and proper times each day, attending appointments, and following any other instructed treatment procedures. Schizophrenia affects how a person thinks, acts, and feels. It can keep the person afflicted with this disorder from seeing the world in a normal way, and can result in he or she not wanting to take their medication. They may not believe they are ill and reject the idea that medication may help them. Additionally, their thinking may be disorganized, resulting in the inability to remember to take their medication.
Physicians may not always ask their patients if they are taking their medications as instructed. Sometimes patients may decrease dosages on their own, if side effects are worse than the illness itself. If friends and family are not knowledgeable about schizophrenia, they may inappropriately encourage their loved one to end treatment when he or she is feeling better. These are just a few of the reasons a patient may not properly and faithfully adhere to a treatment plan.
However, there are several strategies to help a patient adhere to following a treatment plan and vastly improve quality of life for those with schizophrenia. Stopping medicine will make the symptoms of schizophrenia come back or get worse.
If the patient won’t take pills every day, he or she may want to try long-acting anti-psychotics, such as haloperidol (Haldol), fluphenazine (Prolixin), perphenazine (Trilafon) and others, that are available in long-acting injectable forms, eliminating the need to take pills every day.
Patients and caregivers can have a better handle on how and whether medication is being taken by using medication calendars or pill boxes labeled with the days of the week. Also, using electronic timers that beep when medications should be taken, or pairing medication times with routine daily events like meals, can help patients remember and follow to their dosing schedule. Involving family members in observing oral medication taking by patients is another way to ensure that drugs are being taken properly. It is important to help motivate patients to continue taking their medications properly.
In addition to any of these strategies, patient and family education about schizophrenia, its symptoms, and the medications being prescribed to treat the disease, are all important parts of the treatment process and help support the goal of properly following a treatment plan as recommended by a physician.