Cases That Test Your Skills

Suicidal, violent, and treatment-resistant

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Mr. T, age 52, has a long history of schizoaffective disorder, suicide attempts, and violence. Could an underlying medical condition be contributing to his treatment resistance?



CASE Violent, then catatonic

Mr. T, age 52, has a long history of schizo­affective disorder, depressed type; several suicide attempts; and violent episodes. He is admitted to a mental health rehabilitation center under a forensic commitment.

Several years earlier, Mr. T had been charged with first-degree attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, and abuse of a dependent/geriatric adult after allegedly stabbing his mother in the upper chest and neck. At that time, Mr. T was not in psychiatric treatment and was drinking heavily. He had become obsessed with John F. Kennedy’s assassination and believed the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), not Lee Harvey Oswald, was responsible. He feared the CIA wanted to kill him because of his knowledge, and he heard voices from his television he believed were threatening him. He acquired knives for self-protection. When his mother arrived at his apartment to take him to a psychiatric appointment, he believed she was conspiring with the CIA and attacked her. Mr. T’s mother survived her injuries. He was taken to the county jail, where psychiatric staff noted that Mr. T was psychotic.

The court found Mr. T incompetent to stand trial and sent him to a state hospital for psychiatric treatment and competency restoration. After 3 years, he was declared unable to be restored because of repeated decompensations, placed on a conservatorship, and sent back to county jail.

In the jail, Mr. T began to show signs of catatonia. He refused medications, food, and water, and became mute. He was admitted to a medical center after a 45-minute episode that appeared similar to a seizure; however, all laboratory evaluations were within normal limits, head CT was negative, and an EEG was unremarkable.

Mr. T’s catatonic state gradually resolved with increasing dosages of lorazepam, as well as clozapine. He showed improved mobility and oral intake. A month later, his train of thought was rambling and difficult to follow, circumstantial, and perseverating. However, at times he could be directed and respond to questions in a linear and logical fashion. Lorazepam was tapered, discontinued, and replaced with gabapentin because Mr. T viewed taking lorazepam as a threat to his sobriety.

Recently, Mr. T was transferred to our mental health rehabilitation center, where he expresses that he is grateful to be in a therapeutic environment. Upon admission, his medication regimen consists of clozapine, 300 mg by mouth at bedtime, duloxetine, 60 mg/d by mouth, gabapentin 600 mg by mouth 3 times a day, and docusate sodium, 250 mg/d by mouth. Our team has a discussion about the growing recognition of the pro-inflammatory state present in many patients who experience serious mental illness and the importance of augmenting standard evidence-based psychopharmacotherapy with agents that have neuroprotective properties.1,2 We offer Mr. T minocycline, 100 mg by mouth twice daily, a potent anti-inflammatory agent that has been shown to improve symptoms of schizophrenia.2 Mr. T is reluctant to take minocycline, saying he is happy with his current medication regimen.

The authors’ observations

Several studies have found that acute psychosis is associated with an inflammatory state, and interleukin-6 (IL-6) is a crucial biomarker. A recent meta-analysis of serum cytokines in patients with schizophrenia found that IL-6 levels were significantly increased among acutely ill patients compared with controls.3 IL-6 levels significantly decreased after treating acute episodes of schizophrenia.3 Further, levels of peripheral IL-6 mRNA levels in individuals with schizophrenia are directly correlated with severity of positive symptoms.4

Continue to: A meta-analyis reported...


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