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The value of dihydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) augmentation in treating the negative, depressive, and anxious symptoms of schizophrenia

Summary of the research of Dr. Israel Strauss, Beer Yaakov Mental Health Center, Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Tel Aviv University

Introduction: Negative symptoms, which include alogy, anhedonia, lack of motivation and desire, are prominent characteristics of schizophrenia. Unfortunately, the negative signs of the disease are often resistant to treatment, and the search for augmentative treatment for this phenomenon is of significant clinical value. Dihydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), together with its sulfated form, DHEA sulfate DHEA – S)), is an important neurosteroid with several essential neurophysiological functions, including regulation of arousal and neural function. Since taking DHEA led to an improvement in mood, a sense of well-being, interest, activity and energy in several clinical subpopulations, we are investigating the effectiveness of DHEA in treating the negative signs of schizophrenia.
Method: 30 schizophrenic patients diagnosed according to DSM-IV, with prominent negative symptoms, were randomly assigned to DHEA or placebo treatment, in a double-blind manner, as an addition to the antipsychotic treatment. DHEA was added up to a dose of 100 mg in divided doses over 6 weeks.
 Results: The results showed a significant improvement in negative symptoms (P<.001), depressive symptoms (P<.05) and anxiety (P<.001), for patients who received DHEA. This effect was mainly evident among women. The improvement in negative symptoms was independent in the improvement of depression. Participants who received DHEA showed a significant increase in the levels of DHEA (P<.05) and DHEA-S (P<.01) in the plasma, which was correlated with the improvement in negative symptoms (P<.05). No effects were observed side effects during the study. Conclusions: Our observations report for the first time the effectiveness of DHEA as an augmentation in the treatment of the negative, depressive and anxious symptoms of schizophrenia. The findings of this study raise important issues regarding the role of neurosteroids in general, and DHEA in particular, in the symptomatology and drug treatment of schizophrenia.  

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