Schizophrenia is a chronic mental illness characterized by delusions, paranoia, hallucinations, disorganized thought and speech, difficulty expressing emotions, lack of motivation, and cognitive impairment.
Symptoms of schizophrenia typically present in early adulthood, often as individuals are completing high school, college, or embarking on a career path. First symptoms of the disease typically begin between 15 and 25 years of age. Men tend to develop schizophrenia slightly earlier than women; whereas most males exhibit symptoms between 16 and 25 years old, whereas women develop symptoms several years late, and the incidence in women is higher in women after 30 years of age. Recent findings have proven that the average life expectancy of persons with schizophrenia is approximately 15 years shorter than those without the disease and is higher in men than women. The life expectancy of persons with schizophrenia is 61 years of age.
Schizophrenia affects about 1% of the world's population, regardless of nationality, socioeconomic status, or level of education. The total economic cost (calculated by lost wages, as well as medical expenses) to the United States alone is approximately $65 billion per year, including $23 billion per year in direct medical costs. The human cost of the disease is extremely high as well; 20% of individuals with the illness attempt suicide and 10% succeed. Many individuals with schizophrenia experience devastating social consequences, leading lives of social isolation, homelessness, and hopelessness.
In the past, physicians typically set low expectations for recovery for patients with this illness, inconsistent with the much higher expectations for recovery in persons with depression or bipolar disorder who experience psychosis secondary to their illness. Antipsychotics such as chlorpromazine (Thorazine) and haloperidol (Haldol), were the first medications used to treat schizophrenia symptoms. However, they present risk of serious side effects such as movement impairment, worsening of motivational and cognitive impairments, metabolic issues, and liver injury which ultimately may decrease the expectations for recovery and increase risk of other medical conditions. In 1988, the antipsychotic medication, clozapine (Clozaril), came to market and was found to successfully treat many of the debilitating symptoms of schizophrenia. Since then, research efforts have produced a variety of antipsychotic medications that are effective in reducing psychotic symptoms and could even potentially reduce future incidence of acute exacerbation episodes. Physicians and researchers worldwide now hold a greater expectation for recovery cognitively, socially, and vocationally.
Our Community Clinic Research team strives to utilize our resources, experience, specialized equipment, and advanced technologies to conduct clinical trials that test investigational drugs for the treatment of schizophrenia. Our hope is that some of these investigational products will significantly minimize or eliminate the impact of this illness on people's lives, and ultimately revolutionize the treatment of this devastating illness.