Outline and evaluate biological therapies for schizophrenia (8 and 16 marks)

Authors Avatar by charliegib1gmailcom (student)


Biological treatments for schizophrenia have proved quite successful. The main option used nowadays is antipsychotics in which there are two types; conventional and atypical.

Conventional antipsychotics” are based on the dopamine hypothesis and work by blocking D2 receptors to reduce the effects of dopamine and thus reduce the symptoms. Secondly “atypical antipsychotics” work by blocking serotonin receptors as well as dopamine. They temporarily occupy the D2 receptors and then rapidly dissociate to allow normal dopamine transmission and so attempt to control both positive and negative symptoms.

        However the appropriateness of drug treatment is debatable. While it may be a more humane approach than ECT or restraints that were used in the past and they are relatively cheap (they are free at point of delivery in the UK) and can allow schizophrenics to live a relatively normal life, it is questionable as to whether they are suited for all schizophrenics.

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Around 30% of patients appear to be drug resistant. The fact that not all patients respond to the drug’s highlight the fact that there must be some other factors involved other than the dopamine system on which the drugs work on. This idea was shown by Vaughn who concluded that antipsychotics did work but only for those living with hostility and criticism at home. This demonstrates clearly that the drugs must interact with environmental triggers and thus may be better used combined with psychological therapies too and so are an incomplete therapy on its own.

Nevertheless, a meta-review by Davis ...

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