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Outline and Evaluate Biological Treatments for Schizophrenia. The meaning of Schizophrenia is the loss of contact with reality also known as split-mind. It shouldn’t be thought of as one disorder as there are several sub-types such as; paranoia, catatonic, disorganised, and undifferentiated; they all have different symptoms. It is a disorder which is estimated at 1% of the population and is more common in males, lower social classes and African-Caribbean’s living in the U.K. Schizophrenia is characterised by a profound disruption of cognition and emotion, which affects a person’s language, thought, perception and sense of self.
The assumptions of biological therapies are that schizophrenia can be treated physically and internally, though the use of medication and drugs etc. Conventional antipsychotic drugs are an example of a biological therapy for the treatment of schizophrenia.
They reduce the effects of dopamine (a neurotransmitter that helps control the brains reward and pleasure centres) to reduce symptoms of schizophrenia. Dopamine antagonists bind to dopamine receptors but do not stimulate them, blocking their action.
Chlorpromazine (a synthetic drug used as a tranquilizer and sedative) can eliminate some of the positive symptoms of schizophrenia such as hallucinations and delusions. The effectiveness of these drugs in reducing symptoms led to the development of the dopamine hypotheses (argues that schizophrenia is based on over-activity of synapses that depend on dopamine.)
Another example of a biological therapy for the treatment of schizophrenia is atypical antipsychotic drugs. These drugs act on the dopamine system and also block serotonin receptors in the brain (known as the happy hormone because the level or lack of greatly influences moods and sense of well-being).
They help by temporarily blocking D2 receptors and then rapidly dissociating to allow normal dopamine transmission. They are responsible for lowering side effects more than conventional antipsychotics, for example Tardive dyskinesia (involuntary movements of the mouth and tongue). A strength of conventional antipsychotics as a biological therapy for the treatment of schizophrenia is that there is supporting evidence relating to relapse rates.
Davis et al (1980) found a significant difference in terms of relapse rates between treatment and placebo groups in every study reviewed, thus demonstrating the therapeutic effectiveness of these drugs as a treatment for schizophrenia. The fact that there is supporting evidence means that the reliability of the effectiveness of these drugs is high as they are consistent and dependable. Also reliability and validity are linked so if reliability is strong, validity is also strong.
If findings from research evidence can support the use of conventional antipsychotics, then it becomes a more effective biological treatment of schizophrenia and questions of what causes schizophrenia and how it can be treated become better understood. Another Strength of these drugs is that Vaughn and Leff (1976) found that antipsychotic medication did make a significant difference, but only for those living with hostility and criticism in their home environment. Although the support of research evidence strengthens the effectiveness of conventional antipsychotics, the lack of it means that the reliability of the therapy can be questioned.
However, a weakness of conventional antipsychotics is that there is evidence to contradict the effectiveness of these drugs. Vaughn and Leff (1976) found that for individuals living in a more supportive home environment, there was no significant difference between those on medication and those in a placebo condition. Because there are different natures of schizophrenia, conventional drugs are not a reliable treatment, as individual differences make it hard to find a drug that will treat all natures of the disorder. This has a bad impact on society as people will lose faith in the treatment; therefore it becomes a less reliable biological therapy for the treatment of schizophrenia. Another weakness of conventional antipsychotics as a biological therapy for the treatment of schizophrenia is the risk of side effects such as Tardive dyskinesia and motivational deficits.
Hill (1986) found that there were many worrying side effects that came with this medication. About 30% of people taking antipsychotic medication develop Tardive dyskinesia and it is irreversible in 75% of cases. This raises ethical issues such as harm to the patient; however these can be overcome by considering ethical guidelines before prescribing the medication. Ross and Read (2004) also found that medication reinforces the view that there is ‘something wrong with you’; this reduces patient’s motivation to look for possible solutions that might alleviate stressors and reduce their suffering. The scientific evidence against conventional antipsychotics reduces its reliability.
Also because reliability and validity are linked, if reliability is weak, validity is also affected. If research evidence can’t support the effectiveness of these drugs as a biological therapy for the treatment of schizophrenia, then questions of what causes schizophrenia and how it can be treated become meaningless. A strength of atypical antipsychotics is that there is scientific evidence to suggest that they are more effective in treating schizophrenia than conventional antipsychotics. Leucht et al (1999) looked at a Meta analysis of studies published in 1999 and revealed the superiority of these drugs compared to conventional drugs.
The fact that there is supporting evidence means that the reliability of the effectiveness of these drugs is high as they are consistent and dependable. Also reliability and validity are linked so if reliability is strong, validity is also strong. If findings from research evidence can support the superiority of atypical antipsychotics, then it becomes a more effective biological treatment of schizophrenia. However a weakness of atypical antipsychotics as a biological therapy for the treatment of schizophrenia is that it is reductionist, it only considers the biological factors of its effectiveness with negative symptoms.
In a study by Leucht et al (1999) two atypical drugs were slightly more effective than conventional antipsychotics, one was as effective and one was slightly worse. Because they ignore the other contributing factors, this can be used to question the effectiveness of their ideas on how to treat schizophrenia. Lots of factors must be considered and these would change the way that people see and understand schizophrenia. Strength of atypical antipsychotics is that there is a lower likelihood of side effects such as Tardive dyskinesia.
This claim can be supported in a study by Jeste et al (1999), which found Tardive dyskinesia rates in 30% of people after nine months of treatment with conventional antipsychotics, but just 5% for those treated with atypical antipsychotics. Also atypical antipsychotics may ultimately be more appropriate in the treatment of schizophrenia because there are fewer side effects, which in turn means that patients are more likely to continue their medications and therefore see more benefits. The impact this evidence will have on society will be good as the faith in the medication will be restored and will be stronger. This means the reliability of atypical antipsychotics as a biological treatment for schizophrenia is higher.
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