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Attitudes of Schizophrenia Outpatients Toward Psychiatric Medications: Relationship to Clinical Variables and Insight

J Clin Psychiatry 2004;65(10):1372-1376

Background: Attitude toward medications is important for medication adherence. A patient's drug attitude probably reflects a weighing of benefits against experienced or anticipated side effects or risks associated with the medication. We predicted (1) that drug attitudes would be more positive among schizophrenia patients taking second-generation compared to first-generation antipsychotics because of their greater tolerability and efficacy; and (2) that greater insight into illness, fewer extrapyramidal symptoms, and better social functioning would be associated with better attitudes toward psychiatric medication.

Method: In a cross-sectional study of 81 DSM-IV-diagnosed schizophrenia outpatients, we used multivariate analysis to determine clinical and demographic predictors of drug attitude. Drug attitude was assessed with the 10-item Drug Attitude Inventory (DAI). The relationship between the DAI and psychopathology, insight, extrapyramidal symptoms, level of functioning, and type of antipsychotic (first-generation versus second-generation versus clozapine) was examined.

Results: Less awareness of current symptoms, presence of deficit symptoms, and employment predicted a negative attitude toward psychiatric medications. Extrapyramidal symptoms did not predict drug attitude. Drug attitudes were no different between patients taking first- or second-generation antipsychotics or clozapine.

Conclusion: Patients may not favor second-generation over first-generation antipsychotics, and extrapyramidal symptoms may not be a primary factor determining attitudes. While attitudes may be more positive in patients who recognize therapeutic drug effects, patients who work may view medications particularly negatively, possibly due to a sense of stigma. Because drug attitudes may reflect compliance and are difficult to predict, clinicians should inquire directly.