Cure or curse? Ambivalent attitudes towards neuroleptic medication in schizophrenia and non-schizophrenia patients

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Steffen Moritz *
Maarten J.V. Peters
Anne Karow
Azra Deljkovic
Peter Tonn
Dieter Naber
(*) Corresponding Author:
Steffen Moritz | moritz@uke.uni-hamburg.de

Abstract

Neuroleptic non-compliance remains a serious challenge for the treatment of psychosis. Non-compliance is predominantly attributed to side effects, lack of illness insight, reduced well-being or poor therapeutic alliance. However, other still neglected factors may also play a role. Further, little is known about whether psychiatric patients without psychosis who are increasingly prescribed neuroleptics differ in terms of medication compliance or about reasons for non-compliance by psychosis patients. As direct questioning is notoriously prone to social desirability biases, we conducted an anonymous survey. After a strict selection process blind to results, 95 psychiatric patients were retained for the final analyses (69 participants with a presumed diagnosis of schizophrenia psychosis, 26 without psychosis). Self-reported neuroleptic non-compliance was more prevalent in psychosis patients than non-psychosis patients. Apart from side effects and illness insight, main reasons for non-compliance in both groups were forgetfulness, distrust in therapist, and no subjective need for treatment. Other notable reasons were stigma and advice of relatives/acquaintances against neuroleptic medication. Gain from illness was a reason for non-compliance in 11-18% of the psychosis patients. Only 9% of all patients reported no side effects and full compliance and at the same time acknowledged that neuroleptics worked well for them. While pills were preferred over depot injections by the majority of patients, depot was judged as an alternative by a substantial subgroup. Although many patients acknowledge the need and benefits of neuroleptic medication, non-compliance was the norm rather than the exception in our samples.

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