The duration of untreated psychosis (DUP)—the time from onset of psychotic symptoms to the start of adequate treatment—is consistently correlated with better course and outcome, but the mechanisms are poorly understood.
To report the effects of reducing DUP on 2-year course and outcome.
A total of 281 patients with a DSM-IV diagnosis of nonorganic, nonaffective psychosis coming to their first treatment during 4 consecutive years were recruited, of which 231 participated in the 2-year follow-up. A comprehensive early detection (ED) system, based on public information campaigns and low-threshold-psychosis–detecting teams, was introduced in 1 health care area (ED area), but not in a comparable area (no-ED area). Both areas ran equivalent 2-year treatment programs.
First-episode patients from the ED area had a significantly lower DUP, better clinical status, and milder negative symptoms at the start of treatment. There were no differences in treatment received for the first 2 years between the groups. The difference in negative symptoms was maintained at the 1-year follow-up. There was a statistically significant difference in the Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale negative component, cognitive component, and depressive component in favor of the ED group at the 2-year follow-up. Multiple linear regression analyses gave no indication that these differences were due to confounders.
Reducing the DUP has effects on the course of symptoms and functioning, including negative symptoms, suggesting secondary prevention of the negative psychopathologies in first-episode schizophrenia.