Tag: CMAJ

Reading of the Week: Visual Hallucinations & Outcomes – the New Schizophrenia Study; Also, Opioid Deaths in Canada and Dr. Roy Perlis on Antidepressants

From the Editor

Last week, I met a person who had deeply unsettling auditory hallucinations. I asked him the questions that we all ask: When did the voices start? How many voices do you hear? Do the voices tell you to do things? In contrast, while we know that people with psychotic illnesses can have visual hallucinations, we rarely inquire about them and if we do, it’s in a perfunctory manner, as I did with him. Clinicians aren’t the only ones to gloss over visual hallucinations; they tend to be under-researched, especially with regard to long-term outcomes.

In the first selection, Isabel Kreis (of the University of Oslo) and her co-authors look at outcomes and visual hallucinations in an impressive, new study published in Schizophrenia. They report on 184 people from Norway with first-episode psychosis, followed for ten years, with a focus on visual hallucinations and functionality, suicide attempts, and childhood trauma. “These findings highlight the relevance of assessing visual hallucinations and monitoring their development over time.” We consider the paper and its implications.

In the second selection from CMAJ, Shaleesa Ledlie (of the University of Toronto) and her co-authors report on opioid-related deaths in Canada. They drew from a national database and looked at several years of data, including over the start of the pandemic. “Across Canada, the burden of premature opioid-related deaths doubled between 2019 and 2021, representing more than one-quarter of deaths among younger adults.”

And in the third selection, Dr. Roy Perlis (of Harvard University) argues that the time has come for over-the-counter antidepressants in a STAT essay. He notes that many people with depression are untreated and that increasing the availability of these medications would be helpful. “With part of the solution hiding in plain sight, it’s time to do everything possible to give Americans another way to get treatment.”

DG

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Reading of the Week: Housing First & Mental Health Care – the new Health Affairs Paper; Also, Safe Supply & Outcomes and Antipsychotics for Delirium

From the Editor

With the shelter system overcrowded, my patient slept the previous four nights in the train station. “Where else was I to go?” Many major cities across North America have seen a rise in the number of those who are chronically homeless. Housing First – the idea that stable housing is needed for people to better access health care – is one option, though the concept has been increasingly criticized. Is it a good fit for our urban problems?

In the first selection from Health Affairs, Devlin Hanson and Sarah Gillespie (both of the Urban Institute) consider Housing First for a specific population: the chronically homeless population who have had frequent arrests and jail stays; most of them, not surprisingly, have major mental illness or substance problems. Hanson and Gillespie analyzed data from Denver, Colorado, where people were randomized into Housing First or a control group. “We found that within the two-year study period, people in the intervention group had significantly more office-based care for psychiatric diagnoses, fewer ED visits, more unique medications, and greater use of other health care than people in the control group.” We review the study and its implications.

Denver: mountains, fresh air, and Housing First

In the second selection, Hai V. Nguyen (of Memorial University) and his co-authors look at safe supply and opioid outcomes in British Columbia. In a JAMA Internal Medicine paper, they used data from that province, contrasting it with Manitoba and Saskatchewan, and focused on the number of prescriptions and hospitalizations. “Two years after its launch, the Safer Opioid Supply Policy in British Columbia was associated with higher rates of prescribing of opioids but also with a significant increase in opioid-related hospitalizations.”

Delirium is common in the elderly admitted to hospital, and antipsychotics are often prescribed. In the third selection, Dr. Christina Reppas-Rindlisbacher (of the University of Toronto) and her co-authors comment on use of this medication in aCMAJ Practice paper. They offer much advice, including: “They should be prescribed at the lowest effective dose for the shortest possible duration and be reevaluated at or shortly after discharge.”

DG

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Reading of the Week: Improving Self-Esteem in Youth – the New JAMA Psych Paper; Also, Black Females & Suicide and Dr. Jon Hunter on the End

From the Editor

Can we help youth before the onset of full disorders to build skills and avoid deeper problems? Several school-based efforts, offering DBT and mindfulness skills, have been tried without much success. Ecological momentary interventions (EMIs) – provided to patients during their everyday lives and in natural settings, giving unstructured recommendations with structured interventions – is a newer therapy that has gained attention.

But does it work? In a new paper for JAMA Psychiatry, Ulrich Reininghaus (of the University of Heidelberg) and his co-authors describe an RCT focused on youth with low self-esteem who have had past adversity, involving 174 Dutch participants. “A transdiagnostic, blended EMI demonstrated efficacy on the primary outcome of self-esteem and signaled beneficial effects on several secondary outcomes.” We consider the paper and its implications.

In the second selection, Victoria A. Joseph (of Columbia University) and her co-authors look at US suicide rates in Black females. In their American Journal of Psychiatry letter, they analyze suicides over two decades, drawing data on age and region from a national database. They conclude that: “increasing trends in suicide death among Black females born in recent years and underscores the need to increase mental health care access among Black girls and women, and to reduce other forms of structural racism.”

And in the third selection, Dr. Jon Hunter (of the University of Toronto) contemplates endings – including his ending – in a personal and moving paper for CMAJ. He notes the need to clean up his possessions. But what about his practice and the many patients that he has followed for years? “I’d rather not shy away from the uncertainty and loss of the ending, and to try to help one more time.”

DG

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Reading of the Week: Legal Cannabis at 5 – Considering Nonmedical Legalization with a CMAJ Commentary, Dr. Buckley’s Reflections and Major Papers

From the Editor

On Oct. 17, 2018, the government of Canada will launch a national, uncontrolled experiment in which the profits of cannabis producers and tax revenues are squarely pitched against the health of Canadians. When Bill C-45 comes into force in mid-October, access to recreational marijuana will be legal, making Canada one of a handful of countries to legalize recreational use of the drug. Given the known and unknown health hazards of cannabis, any increase in use of recreational cannabis after legalization, whether by adults or youth, should be viewed as a failure of this legislation.

 – Dr. Diane Kelsall, Editor-in-Chief, CMAJ, October 2018

On Tuesday, Canada’s experiment with the legalization of cannabis for nonmedical purposes turned five. Did use go up? What about health care utilization? Have there been benefits from justice and social justice perspectives? Is it the failure that Dr. Kelsall feared?

Now is a good time to pause and review the impact of this change. In this Reading, we try to do just that. 

We start with a CMAJ commentary just published. Benedikt Fischer (of Simon Fraser University) and co-authors look at the evidence, including studies on use and ED presentations, as well as statistics on purchases. “A consideration of the evidence 5 years after implementation suggests that success in meeting policy objectives has been mixed, with social justice benefits appearing to be more tangibly substantive than health benefits.”

Dr. Leslie Buckley (of the University of Toronto) mulls this moment with some comments about the CMAJ paper, and the larger discussion. “[T]he legal changes were enacted and resulted in positive outcomes while the preventive changes which would require more financial investment and tight regulation received less attention.”

Finally, we look at three important papers on cannabis that have been featured in this series over the past five years, and another one that we haven’t looked at before.

DG

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Reading of the Week: Mental Health Tsunami? The New BMJ Study on COVID; Also, Burnout & Professionalism (JAMA Health) and Buprenorphine (CMAJ)

From the Editor

How has COVID-19 impacted mental health? What to make of the forecasts of a mental health tsunami?

In a new BMJ paper, Ying Sun (of the Jewish General Hospital) and her co-authors do a systematic review and meta-analysis to try to answer these questions. Drawing on 137 studies, they consider mental and the pandemic. They find: “Most symptom change estimates for general mental health, anxiety symptoms, and depression symptoms were close to zero and not statistically significant, and significant changes were of minimal to small magnitudes…” We look at the paper and its clinical implications.

In the second selection, Dr. Dhruv Khullar (of Cornell University) writes about burnout and professionalism for JAMA Health Forum. He argues that burnout is common and costly, and points a way forward, in part by reducing clerical tasks. “A better path is one that strenuously removes the obstacles to physician and patient well-being and that actively promotes the deep work of doctoring.”

In the third selection, Dr. Ari B. Cuperfain (of the University of Toronto) and his colleagues consider extended-release buprenorphine, a subcutaneous monthly depot injection used to treat opioid use disorder in a short CMAJ paper. They make several observations about titration, effectiveness, and safety.

DG

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Reading of the Week: Amphetamines & ED Visits – the New CJP Paper; Also, Psilocybin for Depression (QT) and Anti-NMDAR Encephalitis (CMAJ)

From the Editor

Agitated, excited, violent – when intoxicated. But my patient is also pleasant and engaging when not using substance (crystal methamphetamine).

Amphetamine use seems more and more common. What does the data show? In a new paper for The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, James A. G. Crispo (of the University of British Columbia) and his co-authors look at amphetamine-related ED visits in Ontario. Drawing on administrative databases, they find a sharp rise over time: a 15-fold increase between 2003 and 2020. They write: “Increasing rates of amphetamine-related ED visits in Ontario are cause for concern.”

In the second selection, Dr. Ishrat Husain (of the University of Toronto) comments on psilocybin and depression in a new Quick Takes podcast. He goes into detail on the new NEJM study – which he co-authored. Dr. Husain discusses the literature and unanswered research questions. “It’s not necessarily all sunshine and rainbows.”

And in the third selection, Dr. Candace Marsters (of the University of Alberta) and her colleagues consider the unusual presentation of young adult with first-episode psychosis in a new paper for CMAJ. With time and diagnostic testing, they conclude that she has anti-N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor (NMDAR) encephalitis, and offer observations about that diagnosis and the limitations of testing. “Anti-NMDAR encephalitis is a rare but important differential diagnosis of first-episode psychosis among young adults.”

DG

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Reading of the Week: Cannabis for Mood Disorders – the New CJP Paper; Also, Dr. Insel on Mental Health (QT) and Transgender Adolescents & Suicidality (CMAJ)

From the Editor

He smokes before bed to help with sleep; she finds that the edibles take an edge off from her lows.

Our patients routinely tell us about the benefits of cannabis for mood disorders. But is there any evidence in the literature? In the first selection from The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, Dr. Smadar V. Tourjman (of the Université de Montréal) and her co-authors consider that question with a systematic review, drawing on data from 56 studies, focused on bipolar and major depressive disorders, for a CANMAT task force report. They conclude: “cannabis use is associated with worsened course and functioning of bipolar disorder and major depressive disorder.” We consider the paper and its implications.

In this week’s second selection, we look at new Quick Takes podcast interview with Dr. Thomas Insel (of the Steinberg Institute). Dr. Insel, a psychiatrist and former director of NIMH, speaks about the progress in neuroscience but the need for mental health reform. “We must think about more than just the classic medical model borrowed from infectious disease: simple bug, simple drug.”

Finally, in the third selection, Mila Kingsbury (of the University of Ottawa) and her co-authors consider the risk of suicidality among trangender and sexual minority adolescents; they draw from a nationally representative, cross-sectional survey. “Gender and sexual minority adolescents, particularly those who identify as transgender and gender-nonconforming, appear to be at greater risk of suicidal ideation and suicide attempt than their cisgender and heterosexual peers.”

There will be no Reading next week.

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: Lithium – Anti-Suicidal Qualities? Also, Dr. Tim Graham on His Illness & Recovery (CMAJ)

From the Editor

Our patients complain about the hand tremor. Some feel fatigued when they take this medication. And toxicity is always a risk.

Lithium, in other words, is tough to work with – the Callas or Pavarotti of psychotropic medications, if you will. And yet, it’s arguably the best mood stabilizer, helping people with bipolar get back their lives. Some have gone so far as to claim that all of us should take a little lithium.

Among the purported benefits of lithium: anti-suicidal effects. But does this medication really help our suicidal patients? In a new paper, Dr. Ira R. Katz (of the University of Pennsylvania) and his co-authors ask this question, armed with an impressive dataset. In a JAMA Psychiatry paper, they report the findings of a double-blinded, placebo-controlled randomized clinical trial. “The addition of lithium to usual Veterans Affairs mental health care did not reduce the incidence of suicide-related events in veterans with major depression or bipolar disorders who experienced a recent suicide event.” We consider the paper and its clinical implications.

photo-1567693528052-e213227086bbLithium: the psychotropic that’s as old as the earth

In the second selection, Dr. Tim Graham (of the University of Alberta) writes about his training and work as an ED physician, and his burnout. In a raw, highly personal essay for CMAJ, he speaks about his suicidal thoughts – and the decision to get help. He writes: “If you die tomorrow, your employer will replace you, but your loved ones cannot.” Dr. Graham also offers some practical suggestions for staying well.

DG

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Reading of the Week: Suicidal Ideation in a 37-Year-Old Woman – A NEJM Case; Also, Goldbloom on Innovation (QT) and Purdy on Her Brother (CMAJ)

From the Editor

She presents with suicidal thoughts and had a challenging course with COVID-19.

She could be a patient in your afternoon clinic. In fact, she was seen and treated at Massachusetts General Hospital. And her case was discussed at psychiatry grand rounds, and then written up for The New England Journal of Medicine.

In our first selection, Dr. Carol S. North (of the University of Texas Southwestern) and her co-authors consider this patient’s story. They detail her history and course in hospital. They also note the complexities: “This case highlights the importance of attending to the intricate, multilevel, systemic factors that affect the mental health experience and clinical presentation of patients, especially among patients such as this one, who identified as Latina.”

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Dr. David Goldbloom (of the University of Toronto) joins me for a Quick Takes podcast interview. We discuss his new book about innovations in mental health care. “I wrote the book because like so many people who work in our profession, so many people who are on the receiving end of care, and for the families who support those individuals, there is a shared sense that the status quo isn’t good enough.”

In the third selection, Dr. Kaylynn Purdy (of the University of Alberta), a resident of neurology, writes about her brother and his illness in the pages of the CMAJ. He develops schizophrenia and becomes homeless in Vancouver. She talks about his life and death. “When you meet somebody living on the streets, remember my brother.”

DG

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