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Despite important progress, the results of pharmacological treatment of schizophrenia are frequently unsatisfactory. Therefore some patients use natural medicines although it is unclear whether natural medicines are effective and safe. We assessed the evidence for natural medicines with and without antipsychotics in treating symptoms or reducing side effects of antipsychotics in schizophrenia.
A systematic review until April 2013. Only RCTs with a Jadad score of 3 or higher, were included.
105 RCTs were identified. Evidence was found for glycine, sarcosine, NAC, some Chinese and ayurvedic herbs, ginkgo biloba, estradiol and vitamin B6 for improving symptoms of schizophrenia when added to antipsychotics. Inconclusive or no evidence was found for omega-3, Dserine, D-alanine, D-cycloserine, B vitamins, vitamin C, dehydroepiandrosteron (DHEA), pregnenolone (PREG), inositol, gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB) and des-tyr-gamma-endorphin when added to antipsychotics. Omega-3 without antipsychotics might be beneficial in the prevention of schizophrenia. Only ayurvedic herbs (in one study), no other agents, seemed effective without antipsychotics. Ginkgo and vitamin B6 seemed to be effective in reducing side effects of antipsychotics. All natural agents produced only mild or no side-effects.
High quality research on natural medicines for schizophrenia is scarce. However, there is emerging evidence for improved outcome for glycine, sarcosine, NAC, some Chinese and ayurvedic herbs, ginkgo biloba, estradiol and vitamin B6, all with only mild or no side effects. Most study samples are small, the study periods are generally short, the studies only cover a modest part of the world's population and most results need replication.
A substantial proportion of persons with mental disorders seek treatment from complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) professionals. However, data on how CAM contacts vary across countries, mental disorders and their severity, and health care settings is largely lacking. The aim was therefore to investigate the prevalence of contacts with CAM providers in a large cross-national sample of persons with 12-month mental disorders.
In the World Mental Health Surveys, the Composite International Diagnostic Interview was administered to determine the presence of past 12 month mental disorders in 138 801 participants aged 18–100 derived from representative general population samples. Participants were recruited between 2001 and 2012. Rates of self-reported CAM contacts for each of the 28 surveys across 25 countries and 12 mental disorder groups were calculated for all persons with past 12-month mental disorders. Mental disorders were grouped into mood disorders, anxiety disorders or behavioural disorders, and further divided by severity levels. Satisfaction with conventional care was also compared with CAM contact satisfaction.
An estimated 3.6% (standard error 0.2%) of persons with a past 12-month mental disorder reported a CAM contact, which was two times higher in high-income countries (4.6%; standard error 0.3%) than in low- and middle-income countries (2.3%; standard error 0.2%). CAM contacts were largely comparable for different disorder types, but particularly high in persons receiving conventional care (8.6–17.8%). CAM contacts increased with increasing mental disorder severity. Among persons receiving specialist mental health care, CAM contacts were reported by 14.0% for severe mood disorders, 16.2% for severe anxiety disorders and 22.5% for severe behavioural disorders. Satisfaction with care was comparable with respect to CAM contacts (78.3%) and conventional care (75.6%) in persons that received both.
CAM contacts are common in persons with severe mental disorders, in high-income countries, and in persons receiving conventional care. Our findings support the notion of CAM as largely complementary but are in contrast to suggestions that this concerns person with only mild, transient complaints. There was no indication that persons were less satisfied by CAM visits than by receiving conventional care. We encourage health care professionals in conventional settings to openly discuss the care patients are receiving, whether conventional or not, and their reasons for doing so.
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