Current Antipsychotics

Volume 212 of the series Handbook of Experimental Pharmacology pp 125-134


Managing the Prodrome of Schizophrenia

  • W. Wolfgang FleischhackerAffiliated withDepartment of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Medical University Innsbruck Email author 
  • , Alexander M. SimmaAffiliated withDepartment of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Medical University Innsbruck

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It is a well-known fact that managing schizophrenia patients as early as possible has a positive impact on the psychopathological and psychosocial outcomes of the disorder. Identifying people at risk for this serious disorder before its outbreak has become a major research aim in the past decade. Consequently, the intuitive notion that intervening at this early stage, before a diagnosis of schizophrenia is established, could be a preventive measure has been scientifically studied. In this context, a number of interventions, both pharmacological and psychosocial, have been evaluated in prospective controlled clinical trials. Amisulpride, olanzapine, risperidone, omega-3 fatty acids, and antidepressants have been compared to placebo or other control interventions and have been found somewhat helpful. With the exception of omega-3 fatty acids, however, the original positive findings were not maintained in follow-up studies. In addition, the rates of conversion to psychosis, although generally lower in the experimental treatment groups, were also reasonably low in the control groups. Similar findings have been established in psychotherapy trials.

All evidence taken together makes it difficult to justify specific interventions at the prodromal stage of schizophrenia from the perspective of preventing or delaying the onset of the disorder. On the other hand, as many of the affected individuals suffer considerably, symptomatic treatment certainly is called for even though the evidence whether it should be pharmacological or psychosocial is not yet available.


Schizophrenia Prodrome High risk Prevention Antipsychotics Antidepressants Omega-3 fatty acids Psychotherapy CBT Early intervention Prophylaxis