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Mass shootings account for a small fraction of annual worldwide murders, yet disproportionately affect society and influence policy. Evidence suggesting a link between mass shootings and severe mental illness (i.e. involving psychosis) is often misrepresented, generating stigma. Thus, the actual prevalence constitutes a key public health concern.
We examined global personal-cause mass murders from 1900 to 2019, amassed by review of 14 785 murders publicly described in English in print or online, and collected information regarding perpetrator, demographics, legal history, drug use and alcohol misuse, and history of symptoms of psychiatric or neurologic illness using standardized methods. We distinguished whether firearms were or were not used, and, if so, the type (non-automatic v. semi- or fully-automatic).
We identified 1315 mass murders, 65% of which involved firearms. Lifetime psychotic symptoms were noted among 11% of perpetrators, consistent with previous reports, including 18% of mass murderers who did not use firearms and 8% of those who did (χ2 = 28.0, p < 0.01). US-based mass shooters were more likely to have legal histories, use recreational drugs or misuse alcohol, or have histories of non-psychotic psychiatric or neurologic symptoms. US-based mass shooters with symptoms of any psychiatric or neurologic illness more frequently used semi-or fully-automatic firearms.
These results suggest that policies aimed at preventing mass shootings by focusing on serious mental illness, characterized by psychotic symptoms, may have limited impact. Policies such as those targeting firearm access, recreational drug use and alcohol misuse, legal history, and non-psychotic psychopathology might yield more substantial results.
Early detection and intervention strategies in patients at clinical high-risk (CHR) for syndromal psychosis have the potential to contain the morbidity of schizophrenia and similar conditions. However, research criteria that have relied on severity and number of positive symptoms are limited in their specificity and risk high false-positive rates. Our objective was to examine the degree to which measures of recency of onset or intensification of positive symptoms [a.k.a., new or worsening (NOW) symptoms] contribute to predictive capacity.
We recruited 109 help-seeking individuals whose symptoms met criteria for the Progression Subtype of the Attenuated Positive Symptom Psychosis-Risk Syndrome defined by the Structured Interview for Psychosis-Risk Syndromes and followed every three months for two years or onset of syndromal psychosis.
Forty-one (40.6%) of 101 participants meeting CHR criteria developed a syndromal psychotic disorder [mostly (80.5%) schizophrenia] with half converting within 142 days (interquartile range: 69–410 days). Patients with more NOW symptoms were more likely to convert (converters: 3.63 ± 0.89; non-converters: 2.90 ± 1.27; p = 0.001). Patients with stable attenuated positive symptoms were less likely to convert than those with NOW symptoms. New, but not worsening, symptoms, in isolation, also predicted conversion.
Results suggest that the severity and number of attenuated positive symptoms are less predictive of conversion to syndromal psychosis than the timing of their emergence and intensification. These findings also suggest that the earliest phase of psychotic illness involves a rapid, dynamic process, beginning before the syndromal first episode, with potentially substantial implications for CHR research and understanding the neurobiology of psychosis.
The authors developed a practical and clinically useful model to predict the risk of psychosis that utilizes clinical characteristics empirically demonstrated to be strong predictors of conversion to psychosis in clinical high-risk (CHR) individuals. The model is based upon the Structured Interview for Psychosis Risk Syndromes (SIPS) and accompanying clinical interview, and yields scores indicating one's risk of conversion.
Baseline data, including demographic and clinical characteristics measured by the SIPS, were obtained on 199 CHR individuals seeking evaluation in the early detection and intervention for mental disorders program at the New York State Psychiatric Institute at Columbia University Medical Center. Each patient was followed for up to 2 years or until they developed a syndromal DSM-4 disorder. A LASSO logistic fitting procedure was used to construct a model for conversion specifically to a psychotic disorder.
At 2 years, 64 patients (32.2%) converted to a psychotic disorder. The top five variables with relatively large standardized effect sizes included SIPS subscales of visual perceptual abnormalities, dysphoric mood, unusual thought content, disorganized communication, and violent ideation. The concordance index (c-index) was 0.73, indicating a moderately strong ability to discriminate between converters and non-converters.
The prediction model performed well in classifying converters and non-converters and revealed SIPS measures that are relatively strong predictors of conversion, comparable with the risk calculator published by NAPLS (c-index = 0.71), but requiring only a structured clinical interview. Future work will seek to externally validate the model and enhance its performance with the incorporation of relevant biomarkers.
Guloksuz & van Os boldly challenge the status quo as pertains to schizophrenia. In ‘The Slow Death of the Concept of Schizophrenia, and the Painful Birth of the Psychosis Spectrum’ (Guloksuz & van Os, 2017) they thoughtfully review long-standing concerns about this diagnostic category and present a new conceptualization. The authors question the validity of the schizophrenia concept citing variable clinical outcomes, transdiagnostic manifestations of psychosis, and the difficulty in identifying biomarkers, among other concerns. They also point toward the over-representation of schizophrenia in the psychosis literature and lament that patients and clinicians have come to associate this illness with predominantly poor outcomes. Finally, they propose removing the diagnosis of schizophrenia from the diagnostic nomenclature and instituting a broad new classification system, ‘psychosis spectrum disorder’ (PSD), to capture the many manifestations of psychosis. In this commentary, we advise against the institution of a psychosis spectrum due to the potential negative effects this framework would have on clinical care and progress in biological research.
Intervention in the progression of schizophrenia is an effort not just to deter psychosis but also to protect the brain from physiologic deterioration. Neurodegeneration is believed to result from neurochemical dysregulation during the onset of schizophrenia. Deterioration accrued over recurring psychotic episodes causes cumulative loss of cell processes, loss of gray matter volume, and apoptosis. Neurodegeneration ultimately results in persistent symptomology and functional impairment. Functional decline occurs early in the course of schizophrenia, and the symptoms that emerge during the prodromal stage may derail the normal adolescent neurodevelopment. Both first-episode psychosis and the prodrome may be opportunities to forestall neurodegeneration. Unfortunately, people with schizophrenia often experience a long duration of untreated psychosis. Treatment of first-episode psychosis with antipsychotic agents shows robust response. However, early-stage patients have very high rates of medication noncompliance. Treatment in the prodrome may offer the best chance to delay the onset of illness, mitigate its severity after onset, or even prevent onset of symptoms entirely. Nonpharmacologic treatments during the prodrome, such as education, treatment for substance use, and cognitive-behavioral therapy, are low-risk interventions that are potentially beneficial. Pharmacologic interventions during the prodrome are also effective in delaying onset of illness, but carry the risk of adversely affecting patients who are false positives for prodromal schizophrenia.
In this Expert Roundtable Supplement, Jeffrey A. Lieberman, MD, provides an overview of the neurobiological basis of neurodegeneration and the concept of neuroprotection. Next, Peter F. Buckley, MD, reviews the importance of first-episode psychosis, including duration of untreated illness and medication adherence. Finally, Diana O. Perkins, MD, MPH, reviews treatment strategies for prodromal schizophrenia.
Clozapine is a prototype atypical antipsychotic drug and displays efficacy in 30% to 60% of schizophrenia patients who do not respond to traditional antipsychotics. There is considerable evidence supporting a concentration-response relationship for clozapine. A plasma clozapine concentration >200 to 420 ng/mL increases the probability of antipsychotic effects. Approximately 70% to 80% of variability in clozapine plasma concentration can be attributed to variability in cytochrome P450 1A2 activity. Measurement of caffeine metabolites in plasma or urine can be used as an in vivo index of cytochrome P450 1A2 activity, since caffeine is primarily eliminated by oxidative metabolism through this cytochrome P450 enzyme. Caffeine-based tests may contribute to individualization of clozapine dosages and optimization of its antipsychotic effects in schizophrenia patieents There are several lines of evidence suggesting the potential involvement of the dopamine D4 receptor in pharmacodynamic effects of clozapine. Clozapine has a 10-fold higher affinity for the dopamine D4 receptor in comparison to the D2 and the D3 receptors. Moreover, the free plasma fluid concentration of clozapine is comparable to its binding affinity for the D4 receptor in vitro. Blockade of the D4 receptor in the mesocorticolimbic region, a brain area implicated in the pathogenesis of schizophrenia, may contribute to efficacy of clozapine in negative symptoms. Moreover, the dopamine D4 receptor gene (DRD4) displays an unusual degree of genetic variation (polymorphism). In a recent preliminary study, investigated the (G)n mononucleotide repeat polymorphism within the first intron of the D4 gene in 50 schizophrenia patients refractory to traditional antipsychotics. These patients were prospectively followed for antipsychotic response during clozapine treatment. Analysis of variance found significant differences in antipsychotic response as demonstrated by mean change in Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale scores among the genotype panels for this polymorphism F[3,49]=4.1 (P=0.01). Future studies investigating the mechanistic basis of variability in response to clozapine should focus on both pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic factors.
Ziprasidone is a second-generation antipsychotic that received Food and Drug Administration approval in February 2001. It has a unique receptor profile that includes high-affinity antagonist activity at dopamine D2 receptors, inverse agonist activity at serotonin (5-HT)2A receptors, agonist activity at 5-HT1A receptors, and a relatively high affinity for the serotonin and norepinephrine transporters. The 5-HT1A affinity, together with the inhibitory effect on monoamine reuptake, may underlie the hypothesized beneficial effects on comorbid affective and cognitive abnormalities in schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder. The short-term efficacy of ziprasidone for core positive symptoms of schizophrenia appears to be comparable to other conventional and atypical antipsychotics. The short-term efficacy of ziprasidone in acute mania has been established based on two 3-week, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials. Open-label treatment for up to 52 weeks confirms the sustained efficacy and safety of ziprasidone in bipolar disorder. Maintenance studies in schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder indicate that long-term ziprasidone therapy is effective in preventing relapse, while maintaining cognitive and psychosocial benefits. The safety database suggests that the overall cardiovascular and cerebrovascular risk associated with ziprasidone is lower than with other atypicals, with notably lower risk of drug-related increases in weight, glucose, or lipids. The data also suggest a modestly increased risk of QTc prolongation that is not dose related or linked to torsades de pointes. Switching to ziprasidone from other atypicals appears to improve both clinical symptoms and metabolic parameters, though more studies are needed to fully characterize these benefits. This monograph summarizes the efficacy, tolerability, and safety of oral ziprasidone in the treatment of schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, and bipolar mania.
Schizophrenia is a neurodevelopmental disorder associated with persistent symptomatology, severe functional disability, and residual morbidity characteristic of neurodegenerative brain diseases. The illness begins with genetic susceptibility and generally expresses itself after puberty through subtle changes that begin during the prodromal stage. Symptoms get progressively worse and tend to become more resistant to treatment with each relapse. Evidence for a neuroprotective effect of some forms of early treatment is beginning to emerge. While the underlying mechanisms remain uncertain, atypical antipsychotics may counteract some of the progressive deteriorative effects by enhancing synaptic plasticity and cellular resilience. However, identifying and treating patients in the earliest disease states presents methodological challenges as there is no consensus on the best methods of intervention and differences in at-risk children are not readily detectable or substantial enough to predict which ones will develop schizophrenia.
In this expert roundtable supplement, Jeffrey A. Lieberman, MD, reviews the historical context of progressive deterioration in schizophrenia. Next, Diana O. Perkins, MD, MPH, reviews some of the challenges to early identification of illness as well as the impact of early versus delayed treatment. Finally, L. Fredrik Jarskog, MD, focuses on the neurobiology of functional progression in schizophrenia as well as pharmacology and the potential for neuroprotection.
The differential effects of so-called ‘first- and second-generation’ antipsychotic medications, when given in the first episode, on the long-term outcome of schizophrenia remain to be elucidated.
We compared the 9-year outcomes of individuals initially randomised to clozapine or chlorpromazine.
One-hundred and sixty individuals with treatment-naive, first-episode schizophrenia or schizophreniform disorder in a mental health centre in Beijing, China were randomised to clozapine or chlorpromazine treatment for up to 2 years, followed by up to an additional 7 years of naturalistic treatment. The primary outcome was remission status for individuals in each group.
Individuals in both groups spent essentially equal amounts of time in each clinical state over the follow-up time period (remission, 78%; intermediate, 8%; relapse, 14%). There were no significant differences on other measures of illness severity. The clozapine group was more likely than the chlorpromazine group to remain on the medication to which they were originally assigned (26% v. 10%, P = 0.01). There were no significant differences between the two groups on other secondary efficacy outcomes.
These findings support the comparability in effectiveness between antipsychotic medications but with slightly greater tolerability of clozapine in the treatment of first-episode psychosis.
This chapter describes the development of the study designed to assess the effectiveness of antipsychotic drugs for persons with chronic schizophrenia. The protocol was developed by a team of academic investigators through an inclusive, iterative, and systematic process. The Clinical Antipsychotic Trials of Intervention Effectiveness (CATIE) program was designed to address a discrepancy between research demonstrating the efficacy of antipsychotic drugs and disappointing findings regarding their effectiveness and the ostensible superiority of second-generation antipsychotic (SGA) medications relative to first-generation antipsychotic drugs (FGA) medications. Some of the key study design decisions made by the Schizophrenia Protocol Development Committee, with input from various stakeholder groups, and their rationales are reviewed in this chapter. The study design was that of a practical clinical trial intended to evaluate the effectiveness of treatments in everyday settings to generate results intended to inform clinicians, administrators, policy makers, and patients.
Antipsychotic medications are a key treatment for schizophrenia and sales of antipsychotic drugs approach $20 billion per year, with fierce marketing between the makers of the drugs. The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health sponsored the Clinical Antipsychotic Trials of Intervention Effectiveness (CATIE) project to provide independent information about the comparative effectiveness of medications. CATIE was the largest, longest and most comprehensive study of schizophrenia to date. Conducted under rigorous double-blind conditions, Antipsychotic Trials in Schizophrenia presents the definitive archival results of this landmark study. The core of the book consists of chapters focused on specific outcomes that set the CATIE findings in a wider context. Also included are chapters on the design, statistical analyses and implications for researchers, clinicians and policy makers. Psychiatrists, psychiatric researchers, mental health policy makers and those working in pharmaceutical companies will all find this to be essential reading.
This chapter summarizes the features of the Clinical Antipsychotic Trials of Intervention Effectiveness (CATIE) schizophrenia trial that are relevant to interpretation of extrapyramidal side effects (EPS) findings. CATIE was designed to address the overall effectiveness of second-generation antipsychotic (SGA) versus a mid-potency first-generation antipsychotic drugs (FGA), perphenazine, based on treatment discontinuation. Using measures of dystonia, Parkinsonism, akathisia, and tardive dyskinesia (TD), the analysis of incidence rates and continuous measures from CATIE shows no substantial or statistically significant differences between modest doses of the intermediate potency FGA perphenazine and four SGAs in patients with chronic schizophrenia requiring maintenance antipsychotic treatment. The conclusion that must be drawn from the CATIE study is that there were no significant differences in primary outcome measures of acute EPS and TD overall, while at the same time perphenazine was shown to be not different in overall effectiveness compared with olanzapine, risperidone, quetiapine, and ziprasidone.