Scientists Discover Contrasting Cognitive Effects of Psychotic Drugs

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Scientists found contrasting effects of anti-psychotic drugs on cognition for patients suffering from schizophrenia, according to a new study published in journal European Psychiatry in September 2017.

A team of researchers from the Universities of Oulu (Finland) and Cambridge (UK) conducted the study to find the long-term use of psychiatric drugs in schizophrenia. The team followed participants from the Northern Finnish Birth Cohort 1966, those born in 1966. 60 of those participants had been diagnosed with a schizophrenia spectrum disorder, and had received different medications over the long-term.

At the age of 43 years, the individuals were made to undergo an extensive series of cognitive tests having had an average medicine use lasting 16.5 years.

The long-term study found that low cumulative exposure to benzodiazepine and antidepressant medications does not seem to affect cognition in schizophrenia. However, long-term high-dose use of antipsychotic drugs seemed to be associated with poorer cognition, whereas a relatively long break in antipsychotic use was associated with better cognitive functioning.

The researchers found that modest long-term use of common psychiatric medications, benzodiazepines and antidepressants, had no noticeable effect on cognition. However, they contrast this with their previous finding (reported in January 2017, see below) that the high-dose use of antipsychotic drugs was associated with poorer cognition in the long-term, by reporting that long breaks in antipsychotic treatment seems to result in better cognitive functioning.

“These are mixed results, which show different outcomes. Firstly, low long-term use of benzodiazepines and antidepressants doesn’t seem to have adverse effects on cognition in patients with schizophrenia. These are not the primary medicine prescribed to people with schizophrenia to target psychotic symptoms. If there is little if any cognitive harm in using them with small doses or for short periods of time, then they may be promoted for anxiety, depression, or sleeplessness, which can be undertreated. It should be noted that, high-dose long-term use of benzodiazepines has been associated with poorer cognition and according to treatment recommendations should be avoided.”

However, it is also important that patients work with their doctors to find the minimum effective dose for the long-term, and perhaps consider psychosocial treatments and cognitive rehabilitation.

Increasing prevalence of mental disorders is increasing the demand for anti-psychotic drugs, as elaborated in Anti-Psychotic Drugs Market report published by Coherent Market Insights.

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