Schizophrenia is generally regarded as a lifelong disorder requiring ongoing treatment. In many cases, the first psychotic episode leads to hospitalization — for safety as well as stabilization. Future hospitalizations are often necessary if the individual stops taking medication and becomes severely symptomatic. Treatment is often made more challenging because people with schizophrenia have a lack of insight, thereby making them oblivious to the fact that they have an illness.
Medication is often the primary treatment for schizophrenia. Antipsychotic medications, including newer atypical antipsychotics, reduce the risk of psychotic episodes, lessen the severity when they do occur and improve a person’s ability to function. Unfortunately, antipsychotic medications often have undesirable side effects, leading some individuals to stop taking their medication (against their doctor’s advice). In some cases, medication may not work or its effectiveness may be limited or minimal. Of course, when the medication is working and an individual starts feeling good, he or she may stop taking it, believing it is no longer necessary.8 It is not uncommon for individuals with schizophrenia to end up back in the hospital not long after discontinuation of medication.
Some antipsychotic medications such as haloperidol (Haldol), fluphenazine (Prolixin) and perphenazine (Trilafon), are available in long-acting injectable forms that eliminate the need to take pills every day. This methodology may result in better adherence to treatment. A major goal of schizophrenia research is to develop a wider variety of long-acting antipsychotics, especially newer injectable agents with milder side effects.