Patients experiencing a first psychotic episode or early stages of psychosis present with key diagnostic issues for clinicians. At the time of first-episode psychosis presentation, it is crucial that clinicians select the most effective treatment option as immediate intervention offers the best chance for containing the illness. Functional impairment occurs most rapidly at the early stage of illness, and such impairment can influence the patient's future prognosis, alter the level of necessary treatment, and affect morbidity. Although research has shown a decrease in brain gray matter as well as signs of functional impairment in those who develop psychosis, many of these patients remain untreated for extended periods of time and do not visit a clinician due to fear of stigma, a failure to recognize the problem, or complexities of their care system. Prior studies have shown that untreated psychosis results in worse outcome for patients compared to psychosis that is treated earlier in the course of illness. There is a range of treatment options for psychosis, including use of first-generation or second-generation antipsychotic medication. Clinicians should note that both medication types are associated with certain side effects, such as tardive dyskinesia and weight gain, respectively. For all antipsychotics, doses should be lower for patients with a first psychotic episode than for patients with chronic psychosis. Finally, clinicians must consider that patients may present with various comorbidities, such as substance abuse, that also may affect treatment.
This expert roundtable supplement will address the diagnosis and treatment selection for first-episode psychosis as well as comorbidities related to the condition. The use of first- or second-generation antipsychotics for psychosis treatment, dosing guidelines, and the antipsychotic side-effect profile will also be addressed.