TagJAMA Psychiatry

Reading of the Week: Can Machine Learning Improve Psychotherapy? The New JAMA Psychiatry Paper; Also, Santa Ono on His Mental Illness

From the Editor

“Compared with treatment of physical conditions, the quality of care of mental health disorders remains poor, and the rate of improvement in treatment is slow. Outcomes for many mental disorders have stagnated or even declined since the original treatments were developed.”

Are there two sentences more disappointing to read? One in five Canadians will experience a mental health problem this year – and yet we have basic problems with quality (and access).

Could AI and machine learning help?

In the first selection, we consider a new JAMA Psychiatry paper which opens with the two sentences above. The University of Cambridge’s Michael P. Ewbankand his co-authors don’t simply bemoan the status quo but seek to change it – they “developed a method of objectively quantifying psychotherapy using a deep learning approach to automatically categorize therapist utterances from approximately 90  000 hours of [internet-delivered CBT]…” In other words, by breaking therapy down into a couple of dozen techniques and then employing machine learning, they attempt to match techniques with outcomes (patient improvement and engagement), with an eye on finding what works and what doesn’t. And, yes, you read that right: they drew on 90 000 hours of therapy. They show: “factors specific to CBT, as well as factors common to most psychotherapies, are associated with increased odds of reliable improvement in patient symptoms.”

machinelearninginmarketing-1621x1000Can computers (and machine learning) improve human therapy?

In the second selection, we consider the comments of University of British Columbia President Santa Ono about school and the stresses of school. Ono speaks about his own struggle with depression. “I’ve been there at the abyss.”

DG

 

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Reading of the Week: Behavioural Economics & Mental Illness – the New JAMA Psychiatry Paper; Also, the Strange History of Lithium

From the Editor

Can we nudge people to better choices? Economists, psychologists, and psychiatrists have all considered this idea. Though early work looked at pensions and finance, more recent studies in behavioural economics have considered topics in health care, like helping smokers quit.

This week, we open with a new paper that considers the concept of delay discounting in people with major mental illness. “Delay discounting” is a clunky term for the value that people place on rewards over time. Take two individuals, Paul and Peter, offered the same deal: they can be given $100 today or $200 in three months – Paul wants the $100 now while Peter is willing to wait for the bigger reward of $200. Paul, then, has more delay discounting than Peter.

Existing literature shows delayed discounting for people who have addiction and ADHD diagnoses. But what about others with mental disorders? McMaster University’s Michael Amlung and his co-authors study delay discounting by doing a meta-analysis, pulling data from 43 studies involving eight psychiatric disorders in this new JAMA Psychiatry paper. “To our knowledge, this meta-analysis is the first quantitative synthesis of delay discounting findings in psychiatric disorders, except ADHD and addictive disorders. This meta-analysis provides relatively strong evidence that delay discounting is a transdiagnostic process in psychiatric disorders.”

4-nudge_elephantBehavioural economics (and nudging): different for those with mental disorders

In our second selection, we consider a longer essay on lithium for bipolar and its first champion. The University of Groningen’s Douwe Draaisma, a professor of the history of psychology, writes about urine, guinea pigs, and the beginning of the psychopharmacological era.

DG

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Reading of the Week: PTSD & Treatment – What’s Evidence Based? JAMA Psychiatry’s New Network Meta-analysis

From the Editor

Just over a century ago, Dr. Charles Myers wrote “A Contribution To The Study Of Shell Shock” in The Lancet, the first paper on shell shock. Today, our understanding of PTSD has greatly evolved.

But what’s the most effective treatment for people with PTSD?

This week, we consider the new paper by the University of Basel’s Jasmin Merz and her co-authors. They use a network meta-analysis to determine whether patients do better with medications, psychotherapy, or both; in other words, they attempt to analyze different studies in this area, but not necessarily those that do direct comparisons (that’s my Twitter-length biostatistical summary). They find: “The available evidence is sparse and appears not to support the use of pharmacological therapy as first-line treatment for posttraumatic stress disorder…”

ptsd

We also consider an editorial that runs with the study. Murray B. Stein and Sonya B. Norman, both of University of California San Diego, are critical, commenting that aspects of the study may be “hard to swallow.”

DG

 

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Reading of the Week: Cutting-Edge Care – Esketamine for Depression (NEJM), Digital Psychiatry for Suicide Prevention (JAMA Psych), Asylums for All (AJP)

From the Editor

This time of year, many doctors take to social media to offer advice to young colleagues as they start their specialty training (#TipsForNewDocs). Generally, the tweets give solid suggestions on everything from the importance of mentorship to doing regular exercise. For those new grads beginning psychiatry training, I offer: read more, the field is evolving. Since I started my psychiatry residency 19 years ago this month, we have seen new antidepressants placed into the drug cabinets of our patients, mental-health apps populate their smart phones, and clinical guidelines enter our practices, helping us better manage their mental illness.

This week’s Reading focuses on cutting-edge care, and there is plenty to read.

In our first selection, we consider a new paper from The New England Journal of Medicine. Written by Dr. Jean Kim and four other FDA officials, the authors discuss esketamine for depression. “The drug represents an important addition to the treatment options for patients with treatment-resistant depression.”

nasal-spray-sEsketamine: from club drug to depression care

In our second selection, Dr. John Torous (of Harvard Medical School) and Rheeda Walker (of the University of Houston) consider digital psychiatry and suicide prevention, reviewing the field with cautious optimism. The paper opens with a single sentence that puts these efforts in perspective: “Because the rates of suicide attempts and deaths have recently increased to 50-year highs,new solutions are needed.”

And, in our third selection, we look at a not-so-new editorial from The American Journal of Insanity that calls for better treatment of the poor.

Enjoy.

DG

 

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Reading of the Week: Many Medications, Better Outcomes? Paul Kurdyak on the New JAMA Psychiatry Paper Considering Antipsychotics and Schizophrenia

From a Contributing Editor

For individuals with schizophrenia who are failed by trials of single antipsychotics, what’s next?

This week, we discuss a paper that addresses a treatment controversy. Antipsychotic polypharmacy (the use of more than one antipsychotic) is generally discouraged because the efficacy evidence is weak, and there is risk of increasing adverse events and effects with the addition of a second antipsychotic. Choosing Wisely is an initiative that seeks to advance a national dialogue on avoiding unnecessary medical tests, treatments and procedures; among their psychiatric recommendations is to avoid the use of multiple antipsychotics. The American Psychiatric Association contributed this to the Choosing Wisely initiative:

Research shows that use of two or more antipsychotic medications occurs in 4 to 35% of outpatients and 30 to 50% of inpatients. However, evidence for the efficacy and safety of using multiple antipsychotic medications is limited, and risk for drug interactions, noncompliance and medication errors is increased. Generally, the use of two or more antipsychotic medications concurrently should be avoided except in cases of three failed trials of monotherapy, which included one failed trial of Clozapine where possible, or where a second antipsychotic medication is added with a plan to cross-taper to monotherapy.

 This is where this week’s selection comes in. The study, “Association of Antipsychotic Polypharmacy vs Monotherapy With Psychiatric Rehospitalization Among Adults With Schizophrenia,” is from Finland by Karolinska Institutet’s Jari Tiihonen and his colleagues. This paper uses Finnish population-based health administrative data to evaluate the association between antipsychotic polypharmacy and psychiatric hospitalization. They conclude: “These results indicate that rational antipsychotic polypharmacy seems to be feasible by using 2 particular antipsychotics with different types of receptor profiles.”

kakslauttanen_aurora_augustFinland: home to big Northern Lights (and big databases)

In this Reading, we consider this paper and wonder if it should change our prescribing choices.

Paul Kurdyak, MD, PhD, FRCPC

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Reading of the Week: Can Social Connectedness Prevent Suicides? The New JAMA Psychiatry Paper on Caring Contacts in the Military

From the Editor

Social disconnectedness contributes to suicide. Past studies have tried to connect with people at risk, using simple tools like postcards.

This week, we look at a JAMA Psychiatry paper. The University of Washington’s Katherine Anne Comtois and her co-authors use a text message-based intervention (Caring Contacts) to try to reduce suicidal thoughts and behaviours in active military personal. They find: “Although the primary hypotheses were not supported, Caring Contacts was found to be a simple, scalable intervention that may be effective in reducing the occurrence of suicide ideation and attempts.”

Military man texts using smart phone in the city Suicide prevention by text: clever? Too clever?

We consider the paper and two editorials. We also consider a New York Times essay that asks: “If suicide is preventable, why are so many people dying from it?”

DG

 

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Reading of the Week: CBT for Depression – What Really Works? The New JAMA Psychiatry Paper

From the Editor

“It changed my life.”

A few years ago, a patient described to me how helpful cognitive behavioural therapy was for him. CBT wasn’t his only treatment – he had a couple of medication trials – but he found the psychotherapy to be very helpful.

Others have had a similar experience, but CBT isn’t widely available in Canada; Puyat et al. found in a Canadian Journal of Psychiatry paper that the vast majority of people with depression don’t receive any form of psychotherapy or counseling. How can we address this access gap? Could different forms of CBT work including those that are less resource intensive? What to make of self-help?

In this Reading, we consider a new paper by Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam’s Pim Cuijpers and his co-authors that seeks to answer these questions. They use a network meta-analysis to compare five treatment formats with each other and control conditions (waiting list, care as usual, and pill placebo). Their conclusion: “This study suggests that group, telephone, and guided self-help treatments are effective interventions that may be considered as alternatives to individual CBT.”

dr-aaron-beck-at-work-595048284-5af62b4dae9ab80036aca7faAaron Beck: How to deliver the CBT he has championed (and should we all wear a bow tie)?

In this Reading, we consider the big paper and its big result, and the accompanying editorial by the University of Pittsburgh’s Dr. Holly A. Swartz and Jay Fournier.

DG

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Reading of the Week: Cancer and Suicide – the New JAMA Psychiatry Paper

From the Editor

When I worked closely with cancer patients, we would often speak of that moment – the moment they were diagnosed, when they officially became cancer patients. Many recalled their first emotions: the disbelief, the shock, the anger. A few could even tell me sparkling details, like the way the doctor looked at them or what she was wearing. And, for all, that moment had been life altering.

That moment is followed by challenges, and for some, depression and even suicide.

What is the risk of suicide after the cancer diagnosis? In this week’s Reading, we look at a new JAMA Psychiatry paper. Drawing on English data, and involving 4.7 million people, Public Health England’s Katherine Henson and her co-authors look at cancer and suicide. They find: “Despite low absolute numbers, the elevated risk of suicide in patients with certain cancers is a concern, representing potentially preventable deaths.”

popepaintingBig diagnosis, big risk?

In this Reading, we consider the paper on this important topic, as well as an editorial.

DG

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Reading of the Week: VR for Phobias? The New JAMA Psychiatry Paper. Also: Lancet Psychiatry on the Potential & Pitfalls of Digital Health

From the Editor

At the end of medical school, I spent some time working with an attending psychiatrist who was keen on behavioural interventions. He asked me to see a patient with acrophobia, a fear of heights, and told me to take the patient for an elevator ride for a “real-world experience.” For the record, the patient declined. (Having had no background in behavioural interventions, I’m not sure who was more anxious about that possible elevator ride, the patient or me.)

For people with phobias, exposure can be helpful. And so, therapists have taken their patients on plane trips and to visit tall buildings, and encouraged them to sign up for public speaking classes. As technology advances, we can ask: could virtual reality, or VR, work?

In the first selection, we consider a new paper from JAMA Psychiatry. Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam’s Tara Donker and her co-authors use VR for acrophobia. They choose a very basic intervention – an app and cardboard google glasses. They find: “A low-cost fully self-guided app-based virtual reality cognitive behavioral therapy with rudimentary virtual reality goggles can produce large acrophobia symptom reductions.”

googlecardboard-580x358

The future of psychiatry? Maybe – and certainly recyclable

In the second selection, we look at a new editorial from The Lancet Psychiatry. While the authors are keen on digital psychiatry – the sort of work that Donker and her team do – they also warn about potential problems.

DG

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Reading of the Week: A Statin a Day Keeps the Doctor Away? The New Hayes et al. JAMA Psych Paper

From the Editor

Statins can help prevent MIs in people with high cholesterol. Can they also prevent psychiatric admissions for those with schizophrenia?

The question may seem odd, but there is evidence that statins can reduce symptoms in people with schizophrenia – though the evidence is light. That may not be as surprising as it seems: statins are anti-inflammatories, and a growing literature suggests neuro-inflammation is involved in major mental illness.

So should our patients receive medications like statins? The concept of repurposing common medications has gained attention.

This week, we look at a paper just published in JAMA Psychiatry. In their study, University College London’s Joseph F. Hayes and his co-authors consider the effect of statins, calcium channel blockers, and biguanides (such as metformin). Spoiler alert: they find that these medications reduce psychiatric hospital admissions and self-harm in people with serious mental illness.

statins-understandingthehypeStatins for schizophrenia?

In this Reading, we review the new paper about the not-so-new meds. We also take a quick look at another paper (on ketamine).

DG

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