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Plasma β-Endorphin Concentration and Antipsychotic Treatment Outcome in Schizophrenia: 1-Year Follow-Up

Małgorzata Urban-Kowalczyk, Magdalena Kotlicka-Antczak, Dominik Strzelecki, Ewa Rudecka, Janusz Śmigielski

Department of Affective and Psychotic Disorders, Medical University of Łódź, Łódź, Poland

Med Sci Monit 2020; 26:e924307

DOI: 10.12659/MSM.924307

Available online: 2020-07-06

Published: 2020-09-06

BACKGROUND: Increased levels of endogenous opioids have been observed in patients with schizophrenia; however, the influence of these endogenous opioids on the biology of schizophrenia remains unclear. The aim of this study was to evaluate the impact of beta-endorphin (BE) on the course of schizophrenia and risk of relapse.
MATERIAL AND METHODS: The study included 25 patients hospitalized with schizophrenia and 47 controls. Their symptoms were evaluated using Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale (PANSS) and composite index at five points: at the onset of hospitalization; after 4, 6 and 10 weeks of treatment; and after 12 months. ß-endorphin plasma concentrations were assessed in patients at study enrollment and after 6 weeks of treatment. Data regarding rehospitalization during follow-up were also collected.
RESULTS: Patients had higher BE concentration than controls at study enrollment (P=0.002) and after 6 weeks (P=0.000). BE levels increased during treatment (mean 0.538ng/mL vs. mean 0.624 ng/mL; P=0.007). No correlation was found between BE concentration and PANSS subscale score at any stage of the study. A higher BE level at study enrollment was related to a predominance of negative symptoms after 1 year, measured with composite index (R=-0.404; P=0.045). Patients who were later hospitalized again were significantly more likely to demonstrate an increase in BE levels over 6 weeks (P=0.001).
CONCLUSIONS: Individuals with schizophrenia demonstrated higher BE concentrations than healthy controls; this tendency was particularly apparent in those affected by negative symptoms. The imbalance in the endogenous opioid system might adversely alter the course of disease and predispose patients to persistence of negative symptoms, despite antipsychotic treatment.

Keywords: Neuropeptides, Opioid Peptides, Psychotic Disorders, Schizophrenia