MonthMarch 2022

Reading of the Week: Way Up – Alcohol-Related Deaths During the Pandemic (JAMA); Also, Addressing the Opioid Crisis (CJP) and the NYT on Grief

From the Editor

Three patients have recently told their stories to me. With his business failing, he turned to alcohol. When she couldn’t get hours at the restaurant because of the lockdown, she started drinking in the mornings. After a decade of sobriety, he explained that he found comfort in alcohol after his job loss.

These stories aren’t, unfortunately, surprising. With the pandemic, substance use appears to be on the rise. But what about substance-related deaths? In the first selection, we look at a new research letter from JAMA. Aaron M. White (of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism) and his co-authors examine alcohol-related deaths in the United States and the impact of the pandemic. They conclude: “The number and rate of alcohol-related deaths increased approximately 25% between 2019 and 2020, the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic.” We consider the paper and its clinical implications.

In the second selection, Dr. Tony P. George (of the University of Toronto) and his co-authors focus on the opioid crisis. In this Canadian Journal of Psychiatry commentary, they argue for a stronger approach to help those with opioid use disorder (OUD), specifically by improving the psychosocial interventions available. “While psychosocial interventions are often expensive and time consuming, they do make a difference in the lives of patients with OUD and those at risk for fatal opioid overdoses, especially when combined with broad psychosocial supports that address social determinants of health.”

And in the third selection, continuing our consideration of the first update to the DSM series in nine years, we look at a New York Times article, just published. Reporter Ellen Barry writes about prolonged grief disorder: “The new diagnosis was designed to apply to a narrow slice of the population who are incapacitated, pining and ruminating a year after a loss, and unable to return to previous activities.”

DG

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Reading of the Week: Resilience after Disaster – Lessons from Japan; Also, Schizophrenia & Spending (CJP) and Dr. Brandeland on Her Father & His Addiction (JAMA)

From the Editor

My patient was involved in a terrible car accident. Though physically unharmed, she’s never really recovered (mentally). Her co-worker, sitting in the seat beside her, barely took off any time from work.

Why are some people resilient and others aren’t?

In The British Journal of Psychiatry, Dr. Taku Saito (of the National Defense Medical College) and his co-authors explore this question, focusing on a natural disaster. Drawing on an impressive database of first responders involved in the 2011 Japanese earthquake rescue/recovery effort, they do a seven-year prospective cohort study. They find: “The majority of first responders… were resilient and developed few or no PTSD symptoms.” Of course, some did develop mental health problems. The risk factors? Older age, personal disaster experiences, and working conditions. We consider the big paper.

In the second selection, Andrew J. Stewart (of the University of Calgary) and his co-authors analyze health spending in a new Canadian Journal of Psychiatry paper. They focus on people with schizophrenia, looking at a 10-year period. “Healthcare spending among patients with schizophrenia continues to increase and may be partially attributable to growing rates of multimorbidity within this population.”

And, in the third selection, Dr. Megan Ann Brandeland (of Stanford University) writes about her father’s death. In JAMA, she discusses his struggles and notes that – early in his career as a physician – a patient had a tragic outcome. “My hope in sharing this story is to encourage more physicians to share their own stories, to reduce the stigma around mental health, trauma, and addiction among physicians, and to honor my father’s life and the goodness he brought to the world.”

Please note that there will be no Reading next week; we will resume on 31 March 2022.

DG

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Reading of the Week: ECT – the New NEJM Review; Also, Ethnicity & Drug Overdoses (JAMA) and Neil Seeman on His Father (CMAJ)

From the Editor

He has tried different medications, and yet he continues to struggle. The months have turned into years. When he was last well, he worked two jobs and was physically active, hoping to run the Boston marathon one day. When I saw him, he explained that he has difficulty following the plot of a TV show. Asked if he had ever considered ECT, his eyes widened. “They still do that?”

In the first selection, we look at a new review paper on ECT from The New England Journal of Medicine. Drs. Randall T. Espinoza (of the University of California, Los Angeles) and Charles H. Kellner (of the Medical University of South Carolina) provide a concise summary of the latest evidence. They conclude: “ECT is a valuable treatment for several severe psychiatric illnesses, particularly when a rapid response is critical and when other treatments have failed.” We consider the paper and the ongoing stigma associated with the treatment.

In the second selection, Joseph R. Friedman and Dr. Helena Hansen (both of the University of California, Los Angeles) draw on American data to consider overdose deaths and ethnicity. The JAMA Psychiatry paper concludes: “In this cross-sectional study, we observed that Black individuals had the largest percentage increase in overdose mortality rates in 2020, overtaking the rate among White individuals for the first time since 1999, and American Indian or Alaska Native individuals experienced the highest rate of overdose mortality in 2020 of any group observed.”

And in the third selection, Neil Seeman (of the University of Toronto) considers the life and death of his father, Dr. Philip Seeman, the celebrated scientist who studied schizophrenia. In this CMAJ essay, he comments on dopamine and his father’s life work. And he also writes about his relationship and dying. “It was that giving ice chips to my father will forever remind me of how the sensation of touch can stir love, fetch memories, and offer solace.”

DG

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Reading of the Week: TikTok is Popular & Cool But Good Mental Health Information? Also, Telemedicine and Practice (Psych Services)

From the Editor

Clever cats. Cool dancing videos. Tips on everything from calligraphy to home decorations.

A billion people are estimated to use TikTok on a monthly basis. The social media platform is incredibly popular here – and around the globe. And, as with other social media, people increasingly use it as a source of medical information.

To date, little research has been done on the credibility of that information. In a new Canadian Journal of Psychiatry paper, Dr. Anthony Yeung (of the University of British Columbia) and his co-authors focus on ADHD. They find uneven results: “In this analysis of popular TikTok videos about ADHD, there were over 2.8 million views per video and each video was shared on average 31,000 times. Approximately half of the videos analyzed (52%) were misleading…” We consider the paper and its clinical implications.

Continuing on the theme of technology and practice, in the second selection, we look at a new Psychiatric Services paper. Lori Uscher-Pines (of the RAND Corporation) and her co-authors do a qualitative analysis of why psychiatrists choose telemedicine for some patients and not others. The authors conclude: “psychiatrists did not perceive intermittent in-person visits as essential for high-quality care.”

DG

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