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J Psychopharmacol. 2019 Apr;33(4):459-465. doi: 10.1177/0269881118822048. Epub 2019 Jan 24.

Psychiatrists' reflections on a medication-free program for patients with psychosis.

Author information

1 Stavanger Hospital Pharmacy, Western Norway Pharmaceutical Trust, Stavanger, Norway.
2 Network for Clinical Psychosis Research, Stavanger University Hospital, Stavanger, Norway.
3 Centre for Alcohol and Drug Research, Stavanger University Hospital, Stavanger, Norway.
4 Faculty of Health Science, University of Stavanger, Stavanger, Norway.
5 Division of Mental Health and Addiction, Oslo University Hospital, Oslo, Norway.
6 Institute of Clinical Medicine, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway.



Based on a collective action from a number of Norwegian user organizations for mental health, the Norwegian government demanded the regional health authorities to establish a medication-free treatment option for patients with severe mental illnesses. This change in governmental health policy has several direct implications, including making antipsychotic medication to a greater extent optional for patients with active psychosis.


The sim of this study was to investigate psychiatrists' reflections on the public medication-free program and how they think it will affect patients' adherence to antipsychotics generally.


We used a thematic analytic approach within an interpretative phenomenological framework. Consecutively semi-structured qualitative interviews were conducted with 23 psychiatrists (16 female, with 4-35 years of specialist experience).


Thematic analysis revealed four main interrelated themes. Psychiatrists considered medication-free treatment as an unscientific option for a stigmatized patient group; they believed that the advent of such a program is due to proposals from some dissatisfied users and their supporters and not from the majority of patients; in spite of active psychotic symptoms and lack of insight, patients had a crucial impact on choice of treatment and accordingly on adherence to medication; and psychiatrists reported that they in spite of governmental instructions utilized professionalism against unscientific ideology.


Despite all the internal and external pressure that the psychiatrists reported being exposed to, this did not affect their professional integrity in medical decisions based on guidelines, expertise and research studies. They believed that this treatment option would exacerbate negative attitudes towards medication and further worsen already existing adherence issues.


Adherence; antipsychotics; guidelines; professionalism; qualitative study


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