Biological Treatments for Schizophrenia
The biological approach suggests that schizophrenia is a disorder caused by genetic abnormalities, neurotransmitter levels and brain structure irregulations. Therefore the biological treatments focus of restoring theses to normal levels with the main focus being on drug therapy.
Schizophrenia is implicated with an excess of the neurotransmitter dopamine, so conventional anti-psychotic drugs such as Chlorpromazine reduce dopamine levels. They bind to dopamine receptors, blocking dopamine and reducing its levels.
Positively, Chlorpromazine is 70% effective making it the most effective drug treatment. However, this is not 100% effective and questions the other 30% who it doesn’t work for.
Thus, those who don’t respond to Chlorpromazine are prescribed atypical antipsychotic drugs such as Clozapine. This acts on the dopamine system as well blocking serotonin receptors, suggesting that serotonin is implicated with schizophrenia as well as dopamine.
This is a preview of the whole essay
Clozapine has less side effects than Chlorpromazine but negatively affects the immune system. These effects can be counteracted by other drugs but they are costly for the patient.
Both drugs have limitations. It has also been found, mostly with conventional antipsychotic drugs that tariff dyskinesia is a major side effect and roughly 30% of those taking it will develop the disorder, irreversible for 75% of those taking them.
A further limitation with drug treatments is relapse. Davis et al’s meta-analysis found that relapse occurred in 55% of the patients who took drug treatments. This suggests that for half of the patients the drug treatment is ineffective, undermining the importance of a biological intervention and favouring psychological.
Lastly, both drug treatments do not treat negative symptoms of schizophrenia and therefore is seen to be a less effective treatment for schizophrenia and not everyone will respond to any of the drug treatments that are available.
Therefore, an alternative treatment for schizophrenia according to the biological approach is electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). This involves an electric current being passed between two scalp electrodes to create a seizure in attempt to realign neurotransmitter imbalances that are thought to contribute to schizophrenia.
Supporting research was conducted by Therein and Adams when they found more people improved in the real ECT condition rather than the stimulated condition. This supports the efficiency of the treatment. However, it should be noted that this was one study and therefore results are not consistent and therefore these findings are less reliable.
ECT has also been criticised for having ethical implications, as it removes all control from the patient as well as having major side effects like memory impairments, brain damage and even death. This explains the 59% fall in treatment in the UK between 1979 and 1999, thus the potential gains from the treatment may not outweigh the overall risk of the patient. It is a treatment that doesn’t stick to basic human rights which leads to questioning if it should be used at all.
Another ethical implication with ECT and also drug treatments is if the patient cannot detach from their illness, they may not be able to give full informed consent to taking medication or undergoing ECT and therefore may not understand the potential side effects of risks of the treatment.
Overall, the biological approach clearly favours the nature side of the nature-nurture debate. Because not everyone responds to biological treatments perhaps there are other factors into play such as the environment. Similarly, this approach only focusses on biology and not cognitive or behavioural explanation which makes this reductionistic because it sees us as a product of our biology. Lastly, treatments can be considered deterministic because it ignores psychological treatments such as CBT which doesn’t suggest everything is determined.
In conclusion, biological treatments can be criticised for treating the symptoms not the cause and therefore a more holistic approach should be considered looking at treating causes not the symptoms.