Intervening at the earliest stages of psychosis with a robust arsenal of complementary treatment modalities attempts to shorten the duration and decrease the severity of psychotic symptoms, thereby minimizing a decline in overall health and social functioning associated with untreated psychosis.
Based on the principal of neuroplasticity, research has shown that the longer the duration of untreated psychosis, the poorer the long-term functioning and response to treatment. Yet, in the U.S., the average time between the onset of first symptoms and the start of treatment is 2 years.
“The best chance for altering the discouraging prognosis may be to intervene aggressively at the first episode of psychosis, before functional abilities are lost.”
– Tom Insel, National Institute of Mental Health Director
Early intervention programs vary in focus, with some serving only ‘high-risk’ clients with the aim of preventing a first psychotic episode (known as the “prodromal” period, in which unusual thoughts and perceptions emerge), while other programs serve clients within the first few years of initial onset of acute symptoms, with the aim of regaining full function.
The more than 50 treatment programs in the United States today represent the most meaningful step toward the prevention of psychosis since the advent of antipsychotic drugs in the 1950s. And yet, with 100,000 young people developing acute psychosis each year, it is not enough.
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