Cognitive therapy is safe alternative for people with schizophrenia not using antipsychotics, finds study

University of Manchester researchers find that therapy can reduce symptoms compared to treatment as usual

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Cognitive therapy can be a safe and acceptable alternative treatment for schizophrenics who chose not to take antipsychotic drugs, a University of Manchester study has found.

The study, published today in The Lancet, found reduced psychiatric symptoms among patients with schizophrenia spectrum disorders who did not take antipsychotics if they received cognitive therapy as well as treatment as usual compared to those who only received treatment as usual.

Professor Anthony Morrison of the university’s School of Psychological Sciences, said: “Our evidence suggests cognitive treatments do benefit patients with schizophrenia spectrum disorders who have chosen not to take antipsychotic drugs but a larger, definitive trial is now needed.”

Writing in The Lancet, Oliver Howes of the Institute of Psychiatry, London, said if a larger study found that the effectiveness of cognitive therapy compared well with the effectiveness of antipsychotics it could “be a step change in the treatment of schizophrenia” and provide “patients with a viable alternative to antipsychotic treatments for the first time”.

The study, funded by the National Institute for Health Research, examined the progress of 74 adult patients between February 2010 and May 2013.

It recorded eight serious adverse events, such as attempted overdoses and admissions to hospital under the Mental Health Act, in total.

Two of these incidents occurred among patients in the cognitive therapy group and six within the group that did not receive cognitive therapy.

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