Cognitive, Work, and Social Outcomes in Fully Recovered First-Episode Schizophrenia: On and off Antipsychotic Medication

This study examined the development in cognition, work, and social functioning in a group of fully recovered first-episode schizophrenia (FES) patients across six–eight years and inspected whether changes in outcome were similar when individuals were off medication as when they were on medication.

Abstract

Objective: This study examined the development in cognition, work, and social functioning in a group of fully recovered first-episode schizophrenia (FES) patients across six–eight years and inspected whether changes in outcome were similar when individuals were off medication as when they were on medication.

Method: Ten out of 28 participants were identified as fully recovered by the eighth follow-up. Assessments were conducted yearly, apart from the first year, when assessments were conducted every six months. Cognition was assessed with MATRICS Consensus Cognitive Battery. Functional outcomes were obtained through Global functioning: Social and Global functioning: Role. Information from semistructured interviews were also gathered. Data were analyzed with linear multilevel models.

Results: There were steady improvements in cognition, social, and role functioning among the patients, but the changes were significantly larger when individuals were off antipsychotic medications than on medications for processing speed and work functioning. T-tests showed that unmedicated participants were not healthier than medicated participants at baseline. The most common reason for discontinuing medication treatment was negative side effects. Instead, many of the participants highlighted the use of active coping mechanisms for maintaining recovery.

Conclusions: The findings challenge some of the views about medication treatment of FES patients. For a subgroup of FES patients, continuous medication treatment is not necessary for maintaining low levels of symptoms. These patients show sustained good functioning once fully recovered. Due to a small sample size, these results may not be generalized to the general FES population and need to be replicated with studies of larger sample sizes.

Psychiatry, 2019, doi.org/10.1080/00332747.2018.1550735

Published Jan. 14, 2019 7:00 AM