Author(s): Green AI, Patel JK, Goisman RM, Allison DB, Blackburn G
Obesity is common in schizophrenia, and people with schizophrenia appear to be at increased risk for certain obesity-related conditions, such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Antipsychotic drugs, used chronically to control symptoms of schizophrenia, are associated with often-substantial weight gain, a side effect that is a special concern with the latest generation of highly effective "novel" agents. That the most effective (e.g., novel) antipsychotic medications lead to substantial weight gain presents the field with a critical public health problem. Although preliminary data have been reported regarding the beneficial use of behavior therapy programs for short-term weight control in patients with schizophrenia, the available data are quite limited, and there are no data regarding the long-term beneficial effects of these programs in this population. The obesity field recently has developed programs emphasizing "lifestyle changes" (e.g., diet, exercise, and problem-solving skills) to successfully manage weight in patients without schizophrenia. Such programs can be adapted for patients with schizophrenia through the use of highly structured and operationalized modules emphasizing medication compliance, social skills development, and participation in outpatient programs. Moreover, these programs can potentially be combined with the use of adjunctive pharmacotherapy to maximize and maintain weight loss. The field must solve the paradox that some of our most effective medications for schizophrenia produce substantial weight gain and its associated troubling health risks.