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Future Opportunities in the Treatment of Schizophrenia

December 19, 2018

Researchers Exploring Ways to Identify Symptoms Sooner

Anticipate some significant changes in the treatment of schizophrenia over the next 10 years, from a move toward coordinated specialty care to harnessing the power of social media to help identify symptoms sooner, said John M. Kane, MD.

The median time between the development of their first psychotic symptoms to when people receive treatment is a staggering 18 months in the United States, according to a recent study conducted by Dr. Kane, Professor and Chairman, Department of Psychiatry at the Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell, Glen Oaks, New York.

“This is a huge challenge,” he said. “We have people experiencing psychosis and all of the sequelae and not getting any treatment. The question is what can you do about that.”

A number of factors contribute to untreated psychosis, Dr. Kane said, including issues such as stigma, confusion on where to seek help, and lack of mental health awareness. “They often think this is a reaction to stress and will go away if they get more sleep or exercise,” he added. 

Fortunately, researchers continue to explore new methods of tightening the window of untreated psychosis, he said. For example, social media may help identify people with psychiatric symptoms more quickly than usual. 

With people’s consent, investigators have tracked their social media posts and found their picture and language usage change as they develop psychosis, he said. In addition, looking at internet search history can reveal what individuals might be thinking or experiencing.

“How do we use modern technology and the tremendous presence of young people on social media to help inform this issue?” asked Dr. Kane, also Senior Vice President for Behavioral Health Services, Northwell Health, New Hyde Park, New York.

Along with this topic, Dr. Kane explored many other areas during his Psych Congress session, “Predicting What the Treatment of Schizophrenia Will Look Like in a Decade”, such as the advantages of coordinated specialty care. This multimodal team approach to the management of early-phase schizophrenia includes individual therapy, family therapy, cutting-edge medication management, and supported education and employment to help people return to school and work.

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