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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?

Alcohol sanitizer and medical mask with copy space,Corona virus,Covid-19 prevention.Protection from physical health problems, but mental health?

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: How Do University Students Use Cannabis? Also, the Life and Legacy of Richard Green, and Scott Gottlieb on E-Cigs

From the Editor

I don’t quite remember when I changed my interview questions, but at some point – more than a decade ago – I stopped assuming that if I asked about street drugs, patients would tell me about cannabis. Long before legalization, people stopped seeing cannabis as illicit. Today, not only is cannabis legal for recreational use, many see it as a drug to be taken for their health.

In a new Canadian Journal of Psychiatry paper, the authors write about cannabis use for medicinal purposes among Canadian university students. Drawing on a survey, they find wide use – but not exactly the use that follows the guidelines.

We also consider two other pieces: an obituary for Dr. Richard Green, a prominent psychiatrist who challenged the DSM’s inclusion of homosexuality, and an interview with Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the outgoing FDA Commissioner, who worries about e-cigarettes.

508221091 Use – but medicinal use?

Enjoy these selections.

And an invitation: the Reading of the Week series invites guest contributions. If this is of interest to you, please let me know.

DG

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Reading of the Week: Do E-Cigarettes Help with Smoking Cessation? The New NEJM Paper

From the Editor

Last week, I spoke to a patient who wanted passes off the ward so that he could smoke. When I suggested that we could help him reduce his nicotine use – and maybe even help him quit – he responded: “I’ve been smoking for 40 years. I’ll never quit.”

As much as the comment is disappointing, it is all too familiar. Nicotine is highly addictive, and it’s very challenging for our patients to quit.

What then to make of e-cigarettes? While they have been marketed well for smoking cessation, the evidence to date has been lacking. Do they offer a pathway to ending nicotine use? Or are e-cigarettes another type of nicotine product – addictive and ultimately unhelpful?

This week, we look at a paper just published in The New England Journal of Medicine. Queen Mary University of London’s Peter Hajek and his co-authors report on a “pragmatic, multicenter, individually randomized, controlled trial” comparing e-cigarettes to nicotine replacement therapy (NRT). It’s the first adequately powered study on this topic. And this Very Big Paper comes with a Very Big Result: e-cigarettes offered a strong advantage over NRTs.

e-cigGreat ad, great product?

In this week’s Reading, we look at the Hayek et al. paper and consider e-cigarettes.

Have thoughts on the Readings of the Week? Please take this 15-question survey to make the Readings better: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/GP5XXMB.

DG

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