Do high blood pressure medications help with mental illness?
Mental illnesses are on the increase today. Researchers have now found that inexpensive drugs, which are usually used to combat physical illnesses such as high blood pressure, diabetes or to reduce cholesterol, can also be used to treat people with serious mental illnesses.
In their latest research, University College London scientists found that mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder can be treated with medication for high blood pressure and medication for high cholesterol. The doctors published the results of their study in the English-language journal "JAMA Psychiatry".
Data from 142,691 patients were evaluated
The study evaluated health data from 142,691 patients with severe mental illness. The experts focused particularly on drugs for lowering cholesterol, which are also known as statins, as well as drugs for high blood pressure and drugs for diabetes (such as metformin). These data were examined in relation to so-called self-injuries and psychiatric hospital admissions. The experts wanted to determine whether these incidents occurred during a period in which patients were taking the prescribed medication or at times when it was not.
What did the experts find?
The study found that periods when the medication was taken were associated with fewer psychiatric hospital stays compared to periods when the patient did not take such medication. It was found that there was reduced self-harm when patients with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia were taking the medicines examined. In patients with non-affective psychosis, attempts to injure themselves decreased when taking medication for high blood pressure, the doctors explain.
The treatment of severe mental illness is complicated
"Serious mental illnesses, including bipolar disorders, are associated with a high degree of morbidity and are difficult to treat," explains the study author Dr. Joseph Hayes of University College London in a press release. Many common drugs, such as statins, have long been identified as a potential target for the treatment of these diseases. "This study is the first to use large population records to compare patient exposure to these commonly used drugs and the potential impact on people with severe mental illness," the expert added.
More research is needed
The study provides further evidence that certain medications can improve the treatment of people with severe mental illness. As these medications are usually already used frequently and are known to doctors and medical professionals, they should be further investigated as medicines for psychiatric symptoms. All of the drugs examined are known to have an effect on the central nervous system, but the mechanism of action needs to be better understood, say the experts. A clearer understanding of the mechanism of action could lead to a new drug development that would benefit people with serious mental illnesses.
Results were independent of the use of antipsychotics
All three drugs examined in the study are approved globally, are widely used, are cheap, and relatively safe. They are therefore ideal candidates for treatment, say the scientists. The study could have a significant impact on clinical practice and drug development. The investigated effects of medicinal products on patients were independent of whether or not they were taking medications aimed at treating their mental illnesses (e.g. antipsychotics or mood stabilizers). (as)