It is becoming increasingly clear that longer duration of untreated psychosis (DUP) is associated with adverse clinical outcomes in patients with psychosis spectrum disorders. Because this association is often cited when justifying early intervention efforts, it is imperative to better understand underlying biological mechanisms. We enrolled 66 antipsychotic-naïve first-episode psychosis (FEP) patients and 45 matched healthy controls in this trial. At baseline, we used a human connectome style diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI) sequence to quantify white matter integrity in both groups. Patients then received 16 weeks of treatment with risperidone, 51 FEP completed the trial. We compared whole-brain fractional anisotropy (FA), mean diffusivity, axial diffusivity (AD), and radial diffusivity between groups. To test if structural white matter integrity mediates the relationship between longer DUP and poorer treatment response, we fit a mediator model and estimated indirect effects. We found decreased whole-brain FA and AD in medication-naive FEP compared with controls. In patients, lower FA was correlated with longer DUP (r = −0.32; p = 0.03) and poorer subsequent response to antipsychotic treatment (r = 0.40; p = 0.01). Importantly, we found a significant mediation effect for FA (indirect effect: −2.70; p = 0.03), indicating that DUP exerts its effects on treatment response through affecting white matter integrity. Our data provide empirical support to the idea the DUP may have fundamental pathogenic effects on the natural history of psychosis, suggest a biological mechanism underlying this phenomenon, and underscore the importance of early intervention efforts in this disabling neuropsychiatric syndrome.