Dr. Lieberman shares if schizophrenia is preventable.
Prevention is something that’s now just beginning to come into practice, and at a healthcare level we are beginning to think about, but there are many things one could do if one had a specific concern or index of suspicion about their family member, their child, being at risk for schizophrenia.
The first thing is, just in general, you’d want the mother, when she is pregnant, would want to take good care that she leads a healthy lifestyle; she doesn’t abuse things, there’s not anything happening that can cause the developing fetus to be at risk for a brain disorder like schizophrenia. So things here are involved: don’t do drugs, don’t smoke, eat well, it’s preferable not to get exposed to infections. If the mother gets sick with something, then the fetus can be exposed.
Also, having a good obstetrical care, having a smooth and uncomplicated delivery, and then raising the child in a way that’s non-traumatic. I mean, we all can’t control all conditions, but in clearly early life events affect how children develop, and one of the possible consequences of trauma, whether it’s physical or emotional, is that it increases the risk for schizophrenia.
Probably the biggest thing that one can do to try and prevent schizophrenia is if there’s a concern is avoiding drug, recreational drug use. Very, very common that you see kids developing their first symptoms or first episode of schizophrenia after they have been using drugs.
Now, not all drugs are equally liable, some more than others, particularly the stimulants like methamphetamine, cocaine. When kids go to college and they use stimulants to study, this can provoke the onset of the illness. Also, hallucinogens, so LSD and other hallucinogenic substances. Also very, very bad is PCP, phencyclidine, and Ecstasy.
And then the most common drug of recreational substance abuse--marijuana has indisputably been shown to increase the risk for schizophrenia. Kids, when they smoke marijuana during adolescence, are doubling, tripling, or quadrupling their chances of developing schizophrenia. So, these are real risk factors and although obviously in our culture it’s not uncommon for kids to use these, if they are avoided, that’s a very effective preventative measure.
About Dr. Lieberman, M.D.:
Jeffrey A. Lieberman, M.D. currently is the Lawrence E. Kolb Chairman of Psychiatry at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and Director of the New York State Psychiatric Institute. He also holds the Lieber Chair and Directs the Lieber Center for Schizophrenia Research in the Department of Psychiatry at Columbia.