A recent study reveals that a new drug for teen schizophrenia may be controlling symptoms better than in the past. Researchers have been looking for a type of drug that would better manage the symptoms of schizophrenia without the side effects that come with antipsychotic medication.
Currently, antipsychotics are used to treat psychotic symptoms such as those experienced in individuals with schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, mania, and many brain disturbances that might be the result of trauma or infection. Antipsychotics block the neurotransmitter dopamine when it reaches the brain protein dopamine D2 receptor, and this results in serious side effects. One researcher of the study commented that getting a better understanding of the biology of teen schizophrenia could lead to more effective drugs.
Schizophrenia affects thinking, feeling, movement, and behavior. It is a severe mental illness that can significantly affect a teen’s life. Its symptoms are clinically divided into three main categories: positive, negative, and cognitive. Typically, schizophrenia shows up in late adolescence. In order for a teen to be diagnosed, the following symptoms must last longer than six months. Those with this illness experience delusions and hallucinations, which cause changes in behavior. These symptoms last longer than six months and usually with a decline in work, school, and social functioning. Other psychotic disorders, in which antipsychotic medication might be used include:
- Schizoaffective Disorder
- Schizophreniform Disorder
- Brief Psychotic Disorder
- Delusional Disorder
- Substance-induced Psychotic Disorder
The aim behind the new drug is to find a way to avoid completely blocking the dopamine in the brain. Researcher Arthur Christopoulos, Ph.D. commented that
The idea behind our research is to develop a drug that doesn’t completely block dopamine. We found a molecule that, rather than blocking the effect of dopamine at the D2 receptor, acts to subtly dial down dopamine’s effect, a bit like a dimmer switch.
Although researchers are still a ways away from developing a new drug, they feel that they are on their way. In the meantime, it might be difficult for parents and caregivers to find the right medication for their teen. However, an ideal drug should:
- Do a good job of reducing or eliminating symptoms.
- Be safe in that the side effects are not harming or dangerous.
- Not interact with other drugs, making them ineffective or produce additional side effects.
- Be convenient to use, such as a pill a day or with meals.
- Be inexpensive.
Of course, an ideal drug is what to aim for, but there might be tradeoffs to consider. For example, there might be a drug that’s inexpensive but causes weight gain, or a drug that is safe and convenient but interacts with another drug you’re taking. Since many people already have resistances to taking medication for a mental illness, finding one that as much as possible meets the above ideal criteria can facilitate sticking to a medication treatment plan.
A few important elements to finding the right medication are having a clear, open, and honest communication with your psychiatrist, doing your own research, and being honest with yourself about what is most important to you. For instance, you’ll want to inform your doctor about any herbs or alternative methods you might be using to treat your condition. You might want to take the time to do research on all your medication options, and you may want to make a list of your priorities.
And meanwhile, parents and caregivers can look forward to the possibility of a new drug for teen schizophrenia that will address symptoms without all the side effects.
Nauert, R. (2014). Aim for Next-Gen Schizophrenia Drugs Is Dimming Symptoms Without Side Effects. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 14, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/news/2014/08/12/next-gen-schizophrenia-drugs-will-mitigate-symptoms/73519.html
Paradigm Malibu is an adolescent mental health and drug treatment center dedicated to identifying, understanding and properly treating the core issues that impact teens and their families.