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February 2023 marks the passing of the great psychiatrist and widely-cited expert on schizophrenia, Martin Harrow.

Few individuals have contributed so much to the literature on treatment and recovery for this debilitating illness, and Harrow—through his extensive research and long career in psychiatry—was certainly among the most influential contributors, whose work will be remembered for years to come.

Coming across the work of Martin Harrow

I first came across Harrow’s work when researching the long-term effects of antipsychotic treatments for schizophrenia. Upon first glance, there is nothing remarkable about his research. Most of it focuses on a relatively conventional topic in psychiatry: antipsychotic treatment for schizophrenia—a treatment most psychiatrists assert is effective and necessary, with little objection.

The deeper I went into Harrow’s research, the more I noticed how much he challenged these deep-rooted assertions. Perhaps most importantly, Harrow noticed something strange in his longitudinal studies: schizophrenia patients not treated with antipsychotics showed significantly better outcomes over the long term and were less likely to relapse. Harrow was cautious about jumping to conclusions, but in a 2018 paper he co-authored with his colleague, Thomas Jobe, he finally made the jump. Postulating that extended antipsychotic use may be responsible for the poor recovery outcomes we see today, Harrow challenged a firmly-held belief in psychiatry: that antipsychotics are necessary and effective for recovery from schizophrenia.

Commitment to science

Today, I remember Martin Harrow for his lifelong commitment to science. Though his work remains widely-cited, he never got to witness the full impact of his revolutionary findings in his lifetime. But many great minds were only recognized long after their passing, and Harrow provided us with a path forward, towards a better framework for treating schizophrenia. We owe it to him to make sure his work is not forgotten. Rest in peace Dr. Martin Harrow, 1933-2023

photo credits: Gidi Rosenfeld

Gidi Rosenfeld wrote this blog/ in memoriam for PsychosisNet

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