Schizophrenia is present in over 1% of the population, regardless of cultural and geographical differences. In 2009, an extensive three-year study confirmed the genetic precursors and heritability of schizophrenia. This was not a surprise to the scientific community, as it was a validation of previous research. The study also described the polygenic component involving a mix of hundreds of genes with very small effects in the human body.
Yet, not everyone genetically predisposed for schizophrenia exhibits the signs or symptoms. Environmental factors also play a role in the onset of the disorder. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, these factors may be one or a combination of environment, problems during birth, and physical or psychological trauma.
Schizophrenia lies hidden throughout childhood and adolescence. Young adults experience dramatic changes in their personality that have a negative effect with parents, siblings, partners, and friendships. Especially challenging for family members, the abrupt changes are devastating. Parents see their child change into a completely different person.
“Often Hollywood portrays the person with schizophrenia as violent and dangerous.” explained Dr. Richard Knapp, a Principal Investigator at Meridien Research’s Maitland office. “The reality is that people with schizophrenia are more often the victims of violent crime. Schizophrenics, when ill, often don’t have the ability to focus on one specific task and follow it through to the end. They have a lot of difficulty just trying to complete the simplest of goals. Medication allows them to be able to focus, and manage any delusions.”
Current medications have been found to be very effective in controlling delusional thinking and disorganization, but the difficulty for many patients is the transition from years in active disease state to a more healthy, socially and occupationally integrative thinking. Added to this, many of their family members and friends were alienated by the psychotic behavior displayed by these patients before they received treatment.
Another challenge for many people with schizophrenia is that they feel there is nothing wrong. Subsequently, they fail to take their medications. Or, when they are taking medications, they experience emotional flatness, unusual side effects, such as fidgeting or the need to constantly be in motion, and difficulty engaging with others. This becomes an enormous challenge for families and friends who are struggling to help their loved one.
In 2014, Michael Hedrick wrote a blog for the New York Times, where he discusses “Living With Schizophrenia: Wanting to Connect.” His narrative gives an excellent view of the thoughts and feelings a person with schizophrenia has when on and off medication. While in group therapy, he explains, “Having their eyes on me was a special kind of hell… They were all drilling holes into me… They were wolves, chewing and snapping at my bones.”
For the cognitive aspects of schizophrenia, Dr. Knapp’s research is exploring the effects of medications to help individuals experiencing the emotional flatness, problems with short term memory, abstract thinking and lack of facial recognition that come with the disease. “Our research has the potential to be beneficial for many who suffer from this disease, because of the extensive cognitive and physical testing that takes place,” said Dr. Knapp. “Also, the medications we provide can be expensive, but are covered by the research company.”
About Dr. Knapp
Dr. Knapp received his DO at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine in 1971 and had his residency at what is now Belmont Behavioral Health in Philadelphia. A board certified psychiatrist since 1985, he received his certification in addictions psychiatry in 1993.
Being a Principal Investigator coincides nicely with his perpetual curiosity and life-long love of learning After his extensive time spent in private practice, Dr. Knapp was drawn to research, which enabled him to be at the forefront of new therapies. “It’s exciting to see what new medications are on the horizon and how they are developed. Even in research, I am still an integral part of the patient’s treatment. We want them to be safe and actively participating, to help them better manage their disease.”
For more information on the schizophrenia research studies taking place at Meridien Research, please look at the studies pages of our website or call 888-777-8839.