Background. Maintenance antipsychotic medication is the mainstay of relapse prevention in patients with schizophrenia. Long acting depot antipsychotics were developed to promote treatment adherence and yet their utilization is variable, perhaps due to negative attitudes of both patients and psychiatrists. Recently, a shift away from depots has occurred, in favour of the newer atypical oral antipsychotics.
Method. This study investigated the current attitudes and knowledge concerning depots, with a newly designed questionnaire, in a cross-sectional postal survey of qualified psychiatrists working in south-east England.
Results. A substantial minority of psychiatrists believe that depots are old fashioned (40%), stigmatizing (48%) and are associated with more side-effects than typical oral antipsychotics (38%). Many believe that depots are as efficacious as oral medication (91%) but are less acceptable to patients (69%) and relatives (66%). A large majority consider depots enhance patient compliance (81%) and prevent relapse (94%). Psychiatrists would be persuaded to prescribe depots if they were associated with fewer side-effects, in patients where compliance is an issue, and if atypical depot antipsychotics were available, presumably because they would have a lower incidence of side-effects. Additionally, psychiatrists' knowledge about depots was positively associated with attitudes. More favourable patient-centred attitudes were reported by psychiatrists with higher depot use.
Conclusion. Practising psychiatrists have several strongly endorsed attitudes towards depot medication that are associated with knowledge and prescribing habits. By updating psychiatrists' knowledge about depots, in turn their attitudes may become more positive and prescribing practices may subsequently change.