A majority of people surveyed for a study into the impact of antipsychotic medication say that the drugs they have taken for conditions including schizophrenia, bipolar and depression "reduced the symptoms for which they were prescribed".
Medication should not be altered without prior consultation with your GP.
However a majority of the 650-person sample also said that their quality of life had been made worse, with a small number reporting their first experiences of psychosis or suicidal thoughts occuring only after starting medication.
In the survey’s quantitative section, roughly equal numbers reported that the drugs were "helpful" (40 percent) and "unhelpful" (44 percent).
56 percent reported that their quality of life had been made worse, with just 35 percent saying it had improved.
As one part of the study, people from 29 countries responded in an online survey to the open question: ‘Overall in my life antipsychotic medications have been ……….?’
Of the responses, 14 per cent reported purely positive experiences, 28 per cent had mixed experiences, and 58 per cent reported only negative ones.
Analysis by the University of East London identified three main negative themes from the results of their study, published first in Schizophrenia Bulletin: ‘adverse effects’, ‘unhelpful interactions with prescriber’ and ‘withdrawal/difficult to get off them’.
Adverse effects included weight gain, emotional numbing, cognitive dysfunction, sedation, akathisia, effects on relationships, and suicidality. Unhelpful interactions with prescribers included lack of information, support, or discussion of alternatives.
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The two positive themes were ‘symptom reduction’ and ‘sleep’. The only mixed theme was ‘short-term good, long-term bad’.
Dr John Read, professor of clinical psychology at the University of East London and lead author of the study, said, "These 650 people confirm the findings of smaller drug trials in which antipsychotics are better than placebo for only about 20 percent of people and cause a frightening array of severe adverse effects."
The study abstract finds: "Clinicians should pay more attention to the need for respectful and collaborative patient-prescriber relationships. At the point of prescription, this must include providing the full range of information about antipsychotics, including potential benefits and harms, difficulties withdrawing, and information on alternatives treatments such as psychological therapies."
One survey respondent said: "I felt disconnected, gained weight and felt like an emotional zombie, but they did help me sleep."
Another said: "It makes it possible to thrive instead of just surviving on a day to day basis."
A third said: "The inner restlessness was probably one of the worst side effects I have ever experienced. I developed muscle spasms, jerking limbs, twitching, inner agitation, restless legs, and could no longer function."
A fourth said: "It took away delusions and paranoia."
In total, over 80 participants are anonymously quoted within the methods section of the research.
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- See also: Learn more about therapies, mental health disorders and relationships at Mental Health Today Wales 2020