Vitamin B12 in a syringe ready for injection with vials in the background, antipsychotic drugs

Antipsychotic drugs are the mainstay of treatment for people with schizophrenia. Such medications may control hallucinations in the first few months of treatment, but long-term benefits are less obvious. Patients often relapse after several years.

Is There a Way to Boost Effectiveness of Antipsychotic Drugs?

A review of 18 studies has found that high-dose B vitamins may be a valuable addition to medications for schizophrenia such as Zyprexa, Abilify or Seroquel. The authors analyzed data from randomized clinical trials including 832 patients in all.

B Vitamins Worked Best:

They concluded that high doses of B vitamins, including B6 and B12, helped reduce psychiatric symptoms more than the placebo or control conditions. The earlier the patients started taking B vitamins, the better the outcomes. Antioxidant vitamins or mineral supplements did not make a difference.

The authors suggest that people who are depleted in certain B vitamins might get the greatest benefit from supplementation. They conclude, “Future studies should also explore the effects of combining beneficial nutrients within multi-nutrient formulas.” We should all welcome ways to make antipsychotic drugs more useful in helping people lead normal lives.

Firth et al, Psychological Medicine, online, Feb. 16, 2017

Antipsychotic drugs have a number of side effects that can be quite difficult to tolerate. You can learn what we wrote about Abilify side effects here. People with schizophrenia may need to take such medications despite adverse reactions. Others, however, should think twice before accepting a prescription for an antipsychotic intended to help an antidepressant work better.

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  1. sue

    My son has schizotypal disorder and is on quetiapine. Would vit B benefit him?
    What about other meds?

  2. Sara

    I’d like to know what “high doses” cited in the study actually means. I’ve just purchased some sublingual B12/B6/folic acid supplements (Trader Joe brand, works great for my own deficiency) for my stepson. The bottle says 1 per day, so I’m guessing that 2 per day is reasonable to start? Should we go to 5 or more a day if they seem to be working? We’d sure like to see some improvement in his symptoms, especially such an easy and inexpensive thing. Poor guy.

  3. Marj

    I would like to see studies cited in this newsletter. Traditional Arkansas MDs, including psychiatrists, have fought us all the way in prescribing these B vitamins for our son who was diagnosed over ten years ago with schizophrenia. We took him to doctors who worked with a renowned therapist in Warrenville, IL, three times.

    As a result of our trying to get holistic treatment, and speaking of it, the local psychiatric clinic put in writing that I (his mother) was the cause of his needing hospitalization so much. Once an MRI was ordered in 2007 but never done. To this day he has never had an MRI. Our son, age 34, had been hospitalized over 30 times in ten years. It almost seemed like my being a career psychiatric RN worked against us. Hearing author Pete Earley speak of how the system mistreats family members trying to help made me know I was not wrong. I will never understand why a person with a brain disorder is disqualified from having diagnostics for the brain.

  4. Janet
    Greenville, NC

    Gluten-free diet also helps control schizophrenia. When bread was in scare supply during the war, symptoms decreased. Maybe Terry can do a bit of research on this. Have a colleague with sister with schizophrenia who does not need meds if she follows gluten-free diet.

  5. Lizzie

    I am working in an assisted living setting where behavioral and psychiatric issues are the norm. The antipsychotics really aren’t covering it, for the most part. I saw positive B vitamin effects in the past with stress, and, of course, alcoholics. Seems like a good way to go.

  6. lee Kidd

    Thank you Thank you Thank you! love this article-Will discuss with the pDoc

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