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Treatment of schizophrenia frequently includes prolonged benzodiazepine administration despite a lack of evidence of its use. It is often difficult to discontinue benzodiazepines because of the development of dependence. We aim to assess if melatonin can facilitate the withdrawal of prolonged benzodiazepine administration in patients with schizophrenia. Furthermore, we aim to investigate the association of benzodiazepine dose reduction with the following clinically important variables: sleep, psychophysiology, cognition, social function, and quality of life.
Randomized, blinded, two-armed, parallel superiority trial. We plan to include 80 consenting outpatients diagnosed with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder, 18-55 years of age, treated with antipsychotic drug(s) and at least one benzodiazepine derivative for the last three months before inclusion. Exclusion criteria: currently under treatment for alcohol or drug abuse, aggressive or violent behavior, known mental retardation, pervasive developmental disorder, dementia, epilepsy, terminal illness, severe co morbidity, inability to understand Danish, allergy to melatonin, lactose, starch, gelatin, or talc, hepatic impairment, pregnancy or nursing, or lack of informed consent. After being randomized to prolonged-release melatonin (Circadin®) 2 mg daily or matching placebo, participants are required to slowly taper off their benzodiazepine dose. The primary outcome measure is benzodiazepine dose at 6 months follow-up. Secondary outcome measures include sleep, psychophysiological, and neurocognitive measures. Data are collected at baseline and at 6 months follow-up regarding medical treatment, cognition, psychophysiology, sleep, laboratory tests, adverse events, psychopathology, social function, and quality of life. Data on medical treatment, cognition, psychophysiology, adverse events, social function, and quality of life are also collected at 2 and 4 months follow-up.
The results from this trial will examine whether melatonin has a role in withdrawing long-term benzodiazepine administration in schizophrenia patients. This group of patients is difficult to treat and therefore often subject to polypharmacy which may play a role in the reduced life expectancy of patients compared to the background population. The results will also provide new information on the association of chronic benzodiazepine treatment with sleep, psychophysiology, cognition, social function, and quality of life. Knowledge of these important clinical aspects is lacking in this group of patients.