TagCanadian Journal of Psychiatry

Reading of the Week: Does Opioid Agonist Treatment Save Lives? Also, the Problem with Decriminalization of Illicit Drugs (CJP)

From the Editor

Methadone was invented in the 1930s. The first legal injection site opened its doors nearly two decades ago. Yet our challenges with opioids seem to have only worsened with time. Consider, for example, that in a new, two-year study, the authors found that opioid-related deaths rose almost 600% between 2015 and 2017 in Canada.

What can we do? This week, we consider two selections.

In the first, Thomas Santo Jr (of the University of New South Wales) and his co-authors do a systematic review and meta-analysis for opioid agonist treatment for those with opioid dependence. They write in JAMA Psychiatry: “Our findings suggest a potential public health benefit of OAT, which was associated with a greater than 50% lower risk of all-cause mortality, drug-related deaths, and suicide and was associated with significantly lower rates of mortality for other causes.” We consider the big paper and its implications.

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And in the other selection, Benedikt Fischer (of the University of Toronto) and his co-authors weigh the recent interest in decriminalizing illicit drug use. In a new Canadian Journal of Psychiatry commentary, they note their hesitation, writing: “while ‘decriminalization’ proposals for illicit drug use are popular and largely well-intended, their overall merits require cautious analysis and scrutiny.”

DG

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Reading of the Week: Alcohol – with Papers from Lancet Oncology and CJP, and Coverage from NYT

From the Editor

This week, we focus on alcohol, with two papers and a news article. Obviously, alcohol isn’t new – distilling probably started in the 13th century – but the three selections offer fresh and important information that is clinically relevant.

In the first selection, we consider the link to cancer. In a new Lancet Oncology paper, Harriet Rumgay (of the International Agency for Research on Cancer) and her co-authors conduct a population-based study. “Globally, about 741 000, or 4.1%, of all new cases of cancer in 2020 were attributable to alcohol consumption.” We review the big paper and mull its clinical implications.

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In the second selection, Dr. Daniel Myran (of the University of Ottawa) and his co-authors look at ED visits due to alcohol. Drawing on administrative data, they write: “We found that that current patterns and temporal trends in ED visits due to alcohol show large disparities between urban and rural regions of Canada and by socioeconomic status.”

And in the third selection, reporter Anahad O’Connor writes about alcohol use disorder for The New York Times. In this highly readable article, he focuses on the struggles of a retired manager: “But this past winter, with the stress of the pandemic increasingly weighing on him, he found himself craving beer every morning, drinking in his car and polishing off two liters of Scotch a week.” O’Connor writes about several resources that may be helpful to patients and their families.

DG

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Reading of the Week: Canada Day – With Papers on Cannabis, Chatbots, Depression, Nutraceuticals and Benzodiazepines in Pregnancy

From the Editor

It’s Canada Day.

Let’s start by noting that not everyone has a day off. Some of our colleagues are working – perhaps in hospitals or vaccine clinics. A quick word of thanks to them for helping our patients on a holiday.

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Appropriately, this week’s selections will focus on Canadian work.

What makes a paper “Canadian” for the purposes of this review? That is, how do we define Canadian? Things could get complicated quickly when considering journal papers. Does the second author order “double double” at Tim Hortons? Has the senior author eaten poutine for breakfast? Is the journal’s action editor hoping that the Canadiens bring the Cup home?

Let’s keep things simple: all the papers selected this week have been published in a Canadian journal and the papers are clinically relevant for those of us seeing patients in Canada.

There are many papers that could have been chosen, of course. I’ve picked five papers – a mix of papers that have been featured previously in past Readings, and some new ones. All but one of the selected papers are recent.

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

DG

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Reading of the Week: Suicide and Gender in Canada; Also, Access and Immigrants (CJP), and Chok on Variations on a Theme (CMAJ)

From the Editor

This week, we have three selections; all are from Canadian publications.

Suicide rates have been declining in this country. In the first selection, Sara Zulyniak (of the University of Calgary) and her co-authors look at suicide by age and gender, drawing on almost two decades’ worth of data. In their analysis, there is a surprising finding: “The suicide rates in females aged 10 to 19 and 20 to 29 were increasing between 2000 and 2018. In comparison, no male regression results indicated significantly increasing rates.” This research letter, just published in The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, is short and relevant.

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In the second selection, also from The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, Joanna Marie B. Rivera (of Simon Fraser University) and her co-authors consider access to care. They focus on immigrants and nonimmigrants, noting differences in the way care is provided for those with mood disorders. “People with access to team-based primary care are more likely to report mental health consultations, and this is especially true for immigrants. Unfortunately, immigrants, and especially recent immigrants, are more likely to see a doctor in solo practice or use walk-in clinics as a usual place of care.”

Finally, in our third selection from CMAJ, Dr. Rozalyn Chok (of the University of Alberta), a pianist who is now a resident of paediatrics, describes a performance at a mental hospital. “I still hear exactly how it sounded on that tinny upright piano. I feel the uneven weighting of the keys, remember how difficult it was to achieve the voicing – the balance of melody and harmony – I wanted.” She reflects on the piece she played, and its impact on a patient.

DG

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Reading of the Week: How Will Venture Capital Change Psychiatry? Also, Gambling in Canada (CJP) and Dr. Bagley on Her Anxiety (JAMA)

From the Editor

Recently, one of patients raved about an app that she started to use. Talkspace offers her access to psychotherapy, unbound by geography, with a variety of therapist options.

The catch: she’s paying for it. In her opinion, it’s a good investment in her mental health. In Wall Street’s opinion, it’s a good investment in their financial health: that app has raised more than $110 million (USD) in venture capital. Other popular apps have also caught the eye and the backing of Wall Street – think Calm ($144 million USD) and Headspace ($167 million USD).

Is venture capital changing mental health care? And what are the potential problems? In the first selection, we consider a new Viewpoint paper by Drs. Ravi N. Shah (of Columbia University) and Obianuju O. Berry (of New York University). They write: “Although the value of this trend is yet to be fully realized, the rise in venture capital investment in mental health care offers an opportunity to scale treatments that work and address mental illness at the population level. However, quality control, privacy concerns, and severe mental illness are major issues that need to be addressed.”

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In our second selection, we look at a new paper by Robert J. Williams (of the University of Lethbridge) and his co-authors on gambling and problem gambling in Canada. Drawing on survey data, they find a surprising result: “Gambling and problem gambling have both decreased in Canada from 2002 to 2018 although the provincial patterns are quite similar between the 2 time periods.”

Finally, in our third selection, Dr. Sarah M. Bagley (of Boston University) discusses the problems of a newborn baby and its impact on his mother. The pediatrician isn’t writing about anyone – she is writing about her own experiences, and the resulting anxiety she experienced. “My story continues, but I hope that by sharing the issue of postpartum health can be better addressed among my colleagues and patients.”

DG

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Reading of the Week: Tweets for a Good Cause, But Suicide Prevention? Also, Racism in Mental Health (QT), and Rap & Awareness (JAMA Peds)

From the Editor

It’s an incredible campaign. With each passing year, Bell Let’s Talk Day gains more recognition, with many, including the Prime Minister, tweeting for a good cause.

But does the campaign affect suicide? In the first selection, we look at new paper from The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry. David Côté (of the University of Toronto) and his co-authors study the tweet contents of Bell Let’s Talk Day and suicide completions. “There was no associated change in suicide counts.” We mull the big campaign and the big paper.

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In the second selection, we look at a new podcast that explores race and racism in mental health. In this Quick Takes episode, I’m joined by Drs. Amy Gajaria and Saadia Sediqzadah (both of the University of Toronto). “Racism exists and it exists in the lives of our patients.” The podcast covers some big topics – but it is also practical, with solid clinical advice.

And in the third selection, Alex Kresovich (of the University of North Carolina) and his co-authors wonder about the cultural discussion of mental health. To that end, they review popular rap songs in a JAMA Pediatrics paper. “The findings of this qualitative study suggest that mental health discourse has been increasing during the past 2 decades within the most popular rap music in the US.”

DG

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Reading of the Week: Cannabis and Inpatients – the New CJP Paper; Also, Alexander on Her Loss and Her Patient’s (JAMA)

From the Editor

First, there was decriminalization; then, legalization.

How have these major legal shifts influenced the presentation of our patients? In the first selection, we consider a new paper from The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry. Taylor McGuckin (of the University of Waterloo) and her co-authors look at cannabis use and inpatient care, drawing on databases. “This study identified a significant increase in the proportion of patients who used cannabis within 30 days of their first admission to inpatient psychiatry in Ontario, Canada, between 2009 and 2017, compared to 2007.”

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How do our biases affect the care we provide? In a moving and personal essay, Karen Alexander (of Thomas Jefferson University) discusses the loss of her baby. She thinks about another time, when a patient of hers was in a similar situation, and she mulls her own views and biases. “The weeping woman was always much more than someone who was grieving, but I never really knew her as a person until I mourned the loss of my own child.”

DG

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Reading of the Week: More COVID, More Mental Health Problems? Also, e-Cigarette Use (CJP) and Pappas on Her Olympics & Her Depression (NYT)

From the Editor

Will there be a pandemic after the pandemic? Some have wondered about the mental health consequences of COVID-19 – speculating that, in the future, there will be significant mental health problems. In a recent JAMA paper, Simon et al. argued: “The magnitude of this [mental health] second wave is likely to overwhelm the already frayed mental health system, leading to access problems, particularly for the most vulnerable persons.” (That paper was discussed in a past Reading.)

In the first selection, we consider a new paper from Lancet Psychiatry. Kuan-Yu Pan (of Vrije Universiteit) and co-authors did a survey of people with psychiatric disorders, as well as people without. “We did not find evidence that there was a strong increase in symptoms during the COVID-19 pandemic in those with a higher burden of disorders. In fact, changes in scores from before to during the pandemic indicated increasing symptom levels in people without mental health disorders, whereas changes of symptom levels were minimal or even negative in individuals with the most severe and chronic mental health disorders.” Should we be reassured by the Pan et al. study?

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In the second selection, we consider a research letter from Dr. Scott B. Patten (of the University of Calgary) and his co-authors. Drawing on survey data, they describe the pattern of use of e-cigarettes, noting that they were originally intended for harm reduction. “In 2017, 15.5% of e-cigarette users reported that they had never smoked, suggesting a de novo pattern of substance use. By 2019, this proportion had more than doubled to 36.7%.”

Finally, in the third selection, Olympian Alexi Pappas speaks about her mental health in a New York Times opinion video. The comments are very personal, and touch on her illness and recovery. “After the Olympics, I was diagnosed with severe clinical depression. And it nearly cost me my life. But it doesn’t have to be that way.”

Please note that there will be no Reading for the next two weeks. Enjoy the holidays. And if you are looking for a last-minute gift for, perhaps, Hanukkah or Christmas or a way to thank co-workers after a tough year, consider CAMH’s Pet Therapy Calendar, available for just $15 (with the promotion code). Proceeds go to a good cause: the CAMH Volunteer Resources Pet Therapy Program. The calendar is beautifully done, and features great dogs, including Toulouse (my BFF). Here’s the link: https://store-camh.myshopify.com/products/pvol-cal.

DG

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Reading of the Week: Substance Problem, Quality of Care Problem? Also, Interventional Psychiatry (CJP) and an Underused Addiction Treatment (NYT)

From the Editor

In terms of depression treatment, do people with substance use problems get worse care than those without?

The answer should be a resounding no. In the first selection, we consider a new paper, just published in The American Journal of Psychiatry, which suggests otherwise. Lara N. Coughlin  (of the University of Michigan) and her co-authors draw on Veterans Affairs data involving more than 53,000 patients. “In this large national sample, we found that patients with comorbid depression and substance use disorders receive lower quality care than those with depression but without substance use disorders.”

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In the second selection, we consider a Canadian Journal of Psychiatry research letter. Dr. Peter Giacobbe (of the University of Toronto) and his co-authors surveyed senior residents, asking about their familiarity and comfort with first line recommendations for the treatment of depression. Spoiler alert: just one in four felt that they had achieved competency in ECT.

Finally, in the third selection, we look at a new essay by journalist Abby Goodnough. With many Americans (and Canadians) struggling with substance problems, she writes about contingency management – that is, rewarding substance users with cash and prizes for sobriety. The concept has evidence in the literature, but lacks political support. She quotes a patient: “Even just to stop at McDonald’s when you have that little bit of extra money, to get a hamburger and a fries when you’re hungry. That was really big to me.”

Note: there will be no Reading next week.

DG

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Reading of the Week: Trump on Trump & the Goldwater Rule; Also, Chatbots Reviewed (CJP)

From the Editor

Should psychiatrists comment on the possible mental health problems of President Donald Trump? His niece thinks so.

In our first selection, we consider an essay by Mary L. Trump. In this Washington Post essay, the psychologist discusses the Goldwater Rule, which prevents members of the American Psychiatric Association from commenting on political figures. Trump feels that psychiatrists should speak up. “Adopting a notionally neutral stance in this case doesn’t just create a void where professional expertise should be – it serves to normalize dysfunctional behavior.” We consider the essay and the questions it raises.

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In the other selection, we pick another current topic, but this time we draw from a journal, not a newspaper, considering a new paper from The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry. Aditya Nrusimha Vaidyam (of Harvard University) and his co-authors do a review of chatbots for mental health; that is, “digital tools capable of holding natural language conversations and mimicking human-like behavior in task-oriented dialogue with people” (think Siri or Alexa, but for mental disorders). “This review revealed few, but generally positive, outcomes regarding conversational agents’ diagnostic quality, therapeutic efficacy, or acceptability.”

DG

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