Recognizing how a change in schizophrenia treatment can help

(BPT) - Tim is like any other 26-year-old — he lives on his own and has a job. He is also one of the 2.8 million adults living with schizophrenia in the United States.

For those in his small community, Tim may be the first person living with schizophrenia that they have ever met. According to Tim, it is important for him to talk to others to address any stigma and misconceptions they may have: “I want to help others learn what people with schizophrenia are like. I’m just a normal guy!”

For adults living with schizophrenia, a strong support system, often consisting of healthcare providers (HCPs) and loved ones, and the right treatment plan, can make the difference. For Tim, his mom and caregiver, Chrisa, plays an active role in his care.

“When people meet Tim and find out that he has schizophrenia, they are surprised because he’s not what they expected,” Chrisa remarked. “Sharing our story has helped other families feel less alone, and the community better understands schizophrenia and what people can do and accomplish with the right treatment plan.”

Like many adults living with schizophrenia, Tim’s treatment journey hasn’t been easy. When he was first diagnosed, Tim and his family had little knowledge about schizophrenia and the treatment options available to them. Tim has tried many different medications since he was first diagnosed, cycling through periods where his symptoms were well managed, before experiencing breakthrough symptoms or relapse.

Recently, Tim switched from an oral daily medication to a once-monthly injection because he did not like having to take his medication every day and was afraid that he would forget his treatment.

According to Chrisa, it is important for adults living with schizophrenia and their caregivers to learn about the different treatment choices available, including the side effects and benefits, and work with their HCP to find the right treatment for them. Individuals should also make sure they are prepared in advance of any potential treatment changes. “Before Tim transitioned to a once-monthly injection, we worked with his HCP to make sure that we had a plan in place to navigate any potential challenges,” Chrisa remarked.

Ultimately, Tim made the final decision regarding his treatment: “I learned about the different options from my doctors and my mom. I liked all the information they shared about the once-monthly injection, and decided that it was the right treatment option for me.” Tim noted, “When I was on an oral daily medication, I had to constantly carry my medication around with me. I wasn’t free to do things when I wanted, like taking a trip with my friends, and sometimes I forgot to take my medication. I knew that this wasn’t good and that I needed to make a change.”

The change to a once-monthly injection has helped Tim get closer to accomplishing his goals, including embarking on a cross-country road trip with friends. “I’m freer to do the things I want to because I don’t have to worry about taking my medication every day,” Tim said.

For Chrisa, knowing Tim will stay on track with his treatment plan while he’s traveling gives her more peace of mind: “With the long-acting injectable, that worry that he will forget to take his medication goes away completely. Now I can just worry like other moms about their son going on a guys’ road trip!”

Despite their clinical benefits, it can take some time for individuals like Tim to be prescribed a long-acting injectable (LAI) after their initial diagnosis. Mental health advocacy groups are working to raise awareness about treatment options, including LAIs, to help adults and their loved ones make informed treatment decisions and advocate for the use of LAIs earlier in their treatment journey. Recently, the American Psychiatric Association released its updated Practice Guideline for the Treatment of Patients With Schizophrenia and the National Council for Behavioral Health issued their Guide to Long-Acting Medications for Providers and Organizations, which both discuss how LAIs can be used.

“Having organizations like the American Psychiatric Association and the National Council for Behavioral Health bring forward information on treatment options is so important,” Chrisa noted. “All patients deserve to be fully informed about their treatment options.”

If you or a loved one is an adult living with schizophrenia, ask your doctor if a change in treatment plan could make the difference for you. Learn more and take a quiz to find out if a once-monthly injection could be right for you at www.oncemonthlydifference.com.

Every story is unique. If you are an adult living with schizophrenia, talk to your doctor to figure out a treatment plan that's right for you.

Chrisa and Tim have partnered with Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc., to share their story. They have been paid an honorarium for their time.

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