AuthorDavid Gratzer

Reading of the Week: The Best of 2019

From the Editor

It’s an annual Reading of the Week tradition. As one year draws to a close and we start the next, we pause, take stock, and consider the best selections of the past 12 months.

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We can also think about the Readings, mental health care policy, and what to expect in 2020.

So, let’s start with the not-so-big picture: the Reading of the Week has completed another year. For the first time, in the spring, I did a formal evaluation with the help of Faisal Islam (of CAMH Education). Among the survey results: the Readings enjoy a 97% satisfaction rate. Nice. And many readers had good suggestions, which I’m looking forward to using.

And in the big picture: 2019 was a year when further progress was made in the public discourse on mental illness. More people spoke about their personal experiences. Governments across Canada committed themselves to mental health reforms. But it wasn’t all great: moments also reminded us of the work that must be done, especially around stigma, even among prominent Canadians.

The 2019 selections of the Readings included some sparkling and important research. As I have commented before, I find psychiatric journals to be more interesting and more relevant with each passing year (and, at this point, I’ve seen a few passing years).

Does cannabis help with the treatment of mental illness? How does Ramadan affect the mental health of our Muslim patients? Does VR and other new technologies offer hope in the treatment of anxiety and other mental disorders?

These important questions were asked by researchers, and their papers help inform our work as clinicians.

And so with an eye on the future, let’s look back at the last year. Enjoy.

Please note that there will be no Reading for the next two weeks.

DG

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Reading of the Week: Lithium Prescribing – Rare, Too Rare (CJP)? Also, Social Media & Medical Research (Nat Med) and Chocolate Survival Time (BMJ)

From the Editor

Lithium is effective as a medication. How often is it prescribed?

This week, there are three selections, and we open with a small paper with a big finding.

In the first selection, Dr. Scott B. Patten and Jeanne V. A. Williams (both of the University of Calgary) draw on national survey data to consider lithium prescribing in Canada. “The frequency of lithium use is surprisingly low,” they find.

lithium-on-the-periodic-tableLithium: on the Periodic Table, but not in the drug cabinet

In the second selection, we look at a Nature Medicine article that contemplates social media and medical research. Writer Nicole Wetsman quotes Dr. Esther Choo, an emergency physician who is prominent on Twitter: “It’s incredible medical education.”

Finally, for the third selection, we tip our hats to the holiday season, and consider a not-so-new BMJ paper on holiday chocolates. Published as part of a past Christmas issue – the popular, annual tradition that takes a light-hearted approach to inquiry – Bedford Hospital’s Parag R. Gajendragadkar and his co-authors ask a not-so-weighty question: how long do holiday chocolates last on hospital wards?

Note that there will be no Reading next week. Happy Holidays.

DG

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Reading of the Week: A Century After Osler, Is He Relevant (NEJM)? Also, AI & Diagnosis (CMAJ) and Ketamine & Safety (JAD)

From the Editor

A century after his death, is Dr. Osler still relevant?

This week, there are three selections. First, we start with a look back with an essay on Dr. William Osler. We then look forward: with papers on AI and ketamine.

In the first selection, Drs. Charles S. Bryan (the University of South Carolina) and Scott H. Podolsky (Harvard University) write in The New England Journal of Medicine about Dr. Osler on the 100th anniversary of his death. Contemplating his life and views, they note that he “gave physicians what certain national historians gave their countries: warm feelings of togetherness, pride, and purpose.”

nlc012022-v6William Osler

In the second selection, we look at a CMAJ paper. Considering AI and health care, University of Strasbourg’s Dr. Thierry Pelaccia and his co-authors write about the reasoning of mind and machine. They see a bright future: “AI can assume its place as a routine tool in medical practice.”

Finally, for the third selection, we consider a new paper on ketamine and safety from the Journal of Affective Disorders. Drawing on several studies, NIMH’s Elia E. Acevedo-Diaz and her co-authors conclude: “The results indicate that a single intravenous subanesthetic-dose ketamine infusion was relatively safe for the treatment of [treatment-resistant depression].”

DG

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Reading of the Week: Better PTSD Symptom Control, Less Diabetes (JAMA Psych)? Also, Buckley on Cannabis (Quick Takes), and the Life of Kajander (Globe)

From the Editor

Better PTSD symptom control, less diabetes? How do we talk to our patients about cannabis (and cannabis use disorder)? Who was Dr. Ruth Kajander?

This week, there are three selections. The first two deal with timely and relevant topics: the intersection of physical and mental health and the use of cannabis post-legalization. The third reminds us of the youth of our field.

In the first selection, Saint Louis University School of Medicine’s Jeffrey F. Scherrer and his co-authors consider PTSD and diabetes, asking if improvement with the mental health disorder results in a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. Drawing on Veterans Health Affairs data involving nearly 1 600 people, they find that “clinically meaningful reductions in PTSD symptoms are associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes.”

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In the second selection, we draw on a podcast interview with the University of Toronto’s Dr. Leslie Buckley, the chief of addictions division at CAMH, on cannabis. What advice would she give clinicians about cannabis use? “Try to have that long conversation with [patients] about their use and make sure that they know the harms – because I feel like most people don’t.”

Finally, with an eye on yesterday and not today, we look at the recent Globe obituary for Dr. Ruth Kajander, a psychiatrist who served in many roles, and was a member of the Order of Canada.

DG

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Reading of the Week: The Advocates – Beattie on Her Illness (Lexpert), Goldbloom on Progress Made (CBC Radio)

From the Editor

Sick with depression, he decided that the burden was too great. The suicide attempt failed, but after he was admitted – when I met him on the inpatient ward – he told me that his family wouldn’t visit. He explained that they couldn’t accept that he had mental illness.

He was right.

Times have changed, but stigma continues. This week, we consider the comments of two advocates.

In the first selection, lawyer Beth G. Beattie describes her illness and her fears. She also discusses her decision to speak out. Noting how few lawyers talk about mental illness – in part, because of the fear of job loss – she has written for a law publication. “The profession is in desperate need of role models, namely, lawyers who live with mental illness and are well established in our positions and prepared to share our stories.”

A waiting crowd in front of a microphone and podium

In the second selection, the University of Toronto’s Dr. David Goldbloom, a CAMH psychiatrist, remembers the silence on the topic of mental illness not so long ago. In an interview with CBC Radio’s Metro Morning, he notes that the silence was due to “secrecy, shame, stigma.” He weighs the progress that’s been made in recent years and he mulls the work to be done, particularly to reach “all communities.”

DG

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Reading of the Week: Cannabis in America (and Canada) – the New JAMA Psychiatry Paper with Commentary

From the Editor

It’s legal. Are people using more? And has cannabis use disorder become more common?

This week, we look at a new paper considering cannabis legalization and use. The authors draw on American data where legalization is increasingly found across different states though not as extensively as in Canada; to date, 11 US states have legalized recreational cannabis, with 33 (and D.C.) having legalized medical marijuana.

In a new JAMA Psychiatry paper, Magdalena Cerdá and her co-authors use the National Survey on Drug Use, a major survey involving more than half a million participants, considering marijuana use, frequent use, and cannabis use disorder. What effect does legalization have? They find that cannabis use disorder is more common in adolescents after legalization and for adults who are 26 years of age and older, use, frequent use, and substance use are all up.

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We consider the paper. We also discuss the commentary that accompanies it. Finally, with an eye closer to home, we ask: are the findings relevant here in Canada?

DG

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Reading of the Week: Cannabis for Mental Illness: Popular and Promoted by Industry – But Evidenced? The New Lancet Psychiatry Paper

From the Editor

“It’s the only thing that helps with my anxiety.”

It’s closing in on midnight, and the ED patient I’m seeing is adamant that cannabis has helped him with his generalized anxiety disorder. My day has been long, but I choose to push a bit. Why cannabis? He notes how challenging it was to access mental health care. When he finally did see a psychiatrist, he feels he was offered a prescription after only a few minutes, and the trial of sertraline left him feeling more anxious. Cannabis, in contrast, helps him sleep and takes an edge off the anxiety.

More and more, our patients are talking up cannabis. Google “medical marijuana,” and there are over 166 million hits. And, yes, industry has noticed. There are a half a dozen cannabis dispensaries within a 10-minute walk from the CAMH ED, where I work. In the spring, a former prime minister joined the board of Acreage Holdings, a marijuana company, explaining that he was excited by the potential of cannabis to treat PTSD.

But is any of this evidence based?

This week, we look at a new paper from The Lancet Psychiatry. University of New South Wales’ Nicola Black and her co-authors do a systematic review and meta-analysis. Considering a variety of psychiatric disorders including depression, they draw on the literature to try to understand the effectiveness and safety of cannabinoids. “There is scarce evidence to suggest that cannabinoids improve depressive disorders and symptoms, anxiety disorders, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, Tourette syndrome, post-traumatic stress disorder, or psychosis.”

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We consider this big paper on the hot topic.

We also discuss the comment paper that accompanies this study. Yale University’s Deepak Cyril D’Souza writes: “The process of drug development in modern medicine is to first demonstrate efficacy and safety in clinical trials before using the drug clinically. With cannabinoids, it seems that the cart (use) is before the horse (evidence).” For the record, I don’t think Acreage Holdings will be distributing either paper to shareholders.

Please note that there will be no Reading next week.

DG

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Reading of the Week: Are the Pills Safe? JAMA Psychiatry on Antidepressants, NICE on Withdrawal Symptoms

From the Editor

They are popular, but are they safe?

It’s the question that patients often ask about antidepressants. Though SSRIs have been on the market for decades – and older antidepressants for much longer – people continue to question their overall safety. Online forums relate stories of problems; news articles have linked them to suicidal thoughts in youth and other issues; regulatory agencies have acted on their doubts – the FDA, as an example, issued a black box warning for SSRIs use in adolescents.

This week, in our first selection, we consider a new paper from Linköping University’s Elena Dragioti and her co-authors. In this JAMA Psychiatry paper, the authors use a systematic umbrella review, drawing on meta-analyses of observational studies. “This study’s findings suggest that claimed adverse health outcomes associated with antidepressants may not be supported by strong evidence and may be exaggerated by confounding by indication; no absolute contraindication to the use of antidepressants was found to be currently supported by convincing evidence.”

We discuss the paper and the methodology.

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In the second selection, we draw from the recently revised UK NICE guideleines, which provide advice on withdrawal symptoms and tapering strategies. “There is substantial variation in people’s experience…”

DG

 

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Reading of the Week: More Sleep, Fewer Suicidal Thoughts? New AJP Paper; Also, Is Depression like Cancer (NYT)? Admissions & Ethnic Minorities (EPS)

From the Editor

Can a sleep intervention reduce suicidal thoughts in those with depression and insomnia?

When seeing people with depression, we often tend to focus on the Big Problem: that is, the major depressive disorder itself. But should we also consider trying to provide early symptomatic relief, with, say, a sleep medication?

In the first selection, we look at a new paper from The American Journal of Psychiatry. Dr. William V. McCall of the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University and his co-authors write about the REST-IT study, a randomized controlled trial of zolpidem-CR for those with MDD and insomnia. “The results do not support the routine prescription of hypnotic medication for mitigating suicidal ideation in all depressed outpatients with insomnia…”

sleeping-babySleeping Like a Baby: Fewer Suicidal Thoughts?

In the second selection, the University of Western Ontario’s Rebecca Rodrigues and her co-authors consider involuntary psychiatric admissions and ethnic minority groups in the context of early psychosis. Spoiler alert: “African and Caribbean groups were the most likely to experience an involuntary admission…”

And in the third selection, phyisician Jill Halper wonders: is depression like cancer? “My rabbi said that my husband, like a dying cancer patient, had been in hospice care. We just didn’t realize it.”

DG

 

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Reading of the Week: When Physical Medicine Met Mental Health; New Papers from General Hospital Psychiatry and JAMA Neurology

From the Editor

In my last hospital job, an afternoon might involve seeing a gentleman with poorly controlled diabetes, a woman who wasn’t participating in her post-hip physiotherapy, and an ICU patient with multiple problems. The common thread: they all had psychiatric diagnoses (PTSD, depression, and delirium, respectively).

Patients with physical and mental health problems can be costly and complicated. They also pose a challenge for a health care system that is designed for the simplicity of tackling one problem at a time.

This week, we look at a couple of papers on this interface between mental and physical health.

In the first paper, the University of Rochester’s Mark A. Oldman and his co-authors wonder if proactive psychiatric consultations can reduce hospital length of stay. With a systematic review, they conclude: “Our review indicates that proactive models of CL psychiatry whose screening is enriched by clinical expertise in mental health care and that deliver enhanced, proactive mental health services appear to reduce LOS, with preliminary cost-benefit analyses reporting favorable returns on investment that more than offset the increased costs of providing this level of enhanced care.”

hospitalGood Hospital, Good CL Service?

In the second paper, the University of Toronto’s Matthew J. Burke, a neurologist, considers patients who present with symptoms unexplained by medical disease. “The irony of ‘it’s all in your head’ is that although this phrase is often used inappropriately and dismissively, it is technically correct.”

DG

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