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Will B Vitamins Help Antipsychotic Drugs Work Better?

A meta-analysis finds that high-dose B vitamin supplementation can enhance the effectiveness of antipsychotic drugs like Zyprexa.

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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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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