Aim: Duration of untreated psychosis (DUP) refers to the time elapsing between psychosis onset and treatment initiation. Despite a certain degree of consensus regarding the definition of psychosis onset, the definition of treatment commencement varies greatly between studies and DUP may be underestimated due to lack of agreement. In the present study, three sets of criteria to define the end of the untreated period were applied in a first-episode psychosis cohort to assess the impact of the choice of definition on DUP estimation.
Methods: The DUP of 117 patients admitted in the Treatment and Early Intervention in Psychosis Program Psychosis in Lausanne was measured using the following sets of criteria to define treatment onset: (i) initiation of antipsychotic medication; (ii) entry into a specialized programme; and (iii) entry into a specialized programme and adequate medication with a good compliance.
Results: DUP varied greatly according to definitions, the most restrictive criteria leading to the longest DUP (median DUP1 = 2.2 months, DUP2 = 7.4 months and DUP3 = 13.6 months). A percentage of 19.7 of the patients who did not meet these restrictive criteria had poorer premorbid functioning and were more likely to use cannabis. Longer DUP3 was associated with poorer premorbid functioning and with younger age at onset of psychosis.
Conclusion: These results underline the need for a unique and standardized definition of the end of DUP. We suggest that the most restrictive definition of treatment should be used when using the DUP concept in future research.