Prevention of schizophrenia: can it be achieved?

CNS Drugs. 2005;19(3):193-206. doi: 10.2165/00023210-200519030-00002.


Schizophrenia is a serious mental disorder with a profound impact on patients, their caregivers and society. It is also an expensive disorder to treat, despite being relatively rare. In this paper, prevention of schizophrenia is described in terms of primary, secondary and tertiary prevention. Schizophrenia is regarded as a neurodevelopmental disorder with different phases. Primary prevention essentially involves education programmes about the association of obstetric complications and the increased risk of schizophrenia. Secondary prevention involves intervention at the prodromal phase. We review the literature and discuss the evidence relating to intervention in this phase of the illness. Early intervention could result in reduction in morbidity and better quality of life for the patients and their families. The prodromal phase can now be identified, based on current symptoms, with reliability and predictive validity for the risk of development of schizophrenia in the following year. We also discuss possible risks faced by prodromal patients, such as unnecessary stigmatisation, and the role of drug treatment during intervention at this stage. Any recommendation that anti-psychotic medications be routinely prescribed in this phase should be supported by more research work. Drug and psychosocial intervention is indicated as part of tertiary prevention to prevent further disability in the illness.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Disease Progression
  • Humans
  • Schizophrenia / economics
  • Schizophrenia / etiology
  • Schizophrenia / prevention & control*