A new study conducted by researchers in Australia has suggested that for people experiencing a first episode of psychosis, anti-psychotic medication is contra-indicated.

The study, published in medRxiv, recruited 120 people in a triple-blind, placebo-controlled trial. 38 people experiencing a first episode of psychosis were randomly assigned to receive anti-psychotic medication; another 40 experiencing a first psychotic episode received a placebo. The remaining 42 trial members comprised a healthy control group.

None of the trial members had ever taken anti-psychotic medication previously. All trial members were also given intensive psychosocial therapy over a period of six months.

All 120 trial members were assessed with a battery of cognitive tests assessing attention, working memory, processing speed, verbal fluency, cognitive control, and verbal paired-associate learning and memory, at baseline, at six months, at twelve months, and then again at two years.

The researchers found that while most forms of cognitive performance either remained stable or improved in all three groups, verbal paired-associate learning and memory deteriorated significantly in the group randomly assigned to receive anti-psychotic medication. The effect size was described as medium-to-large.

The study thus concluded that anti-psychotic medication “may cause progression of memory impairment ... The findings support the need for careful consideration of the risks and benefits of various antipsychotics and the importance of accounting for their cognitive effects in longitudinal research.”