Tag: MAiD

Reading of the Week: Cannabis-Related Disorders – the new NEJM Paper; Also, Surgeons & Opioid Prescribing and MAiD & Mental Illness

From the Editor

Cannabis use is increasingly common. Should you be screening for misuse? What’s the role of drug testing? Do short interventions work?

In the first selection, we look at the new paper on cannabis-related disorders, published in The New England Journal of Medicine. Dr. David A. Gorelick (of the University of Maryland) comments on cannabis use disorder, offering practical suggestions, drawing on the latest in the literature (with 76 references). “Cannabis use disorder and heavy or long-term cannabis use have adverse effects on physical and psychological health.” We discuss the paper and its takeaways.

In the second selection, Jason Zhang (of the University of Michigan) and his co-authors consider surgeons and the prescribing of opioids. Given past problems, are surgeons more frugal when they reach for the prescription pad? Drawing on an impressive US database, they analyzed dispensed opioids from 2016 to 2022 in a new JAMA Network Open research letter, finding a step in the right direction – but just a step. “Despite large reductions in opioid prescribing, surgical opioid stewardship initiatives remain important.”

And in the third selection, The Globe and Mail weighs in on the recent decision to delay the expansion of medical assistance in dying, or MAiD, for mental disorders. In an unsigned editorial, the authors recognize the suffering of some, but argue that not enough has been done to define the term irremediable. “A delay is not enough.”


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Reading of the Week: Catatonia – the new NEJM Review; CBD for Bipolar and Dr. Samuels on Medical Assistance in Dying

From the Editor

Catatonia has been well described but is poorly understood.

So write Drs. Stephan Heckers and Sebastian Walther (both of Vanderbilt University) in a new review. We could add: catatonia is often striking. I remember a patient who literally sat for hours in his chair with catatonia secondary to schizophrenia. His family, in some denial, had insisted that his poor eating was related to hospital food and that his lack of activity had to do with the boredom of the ward.

Drs. Heckers and Walther’s review, just published in The New England Journal of Medicine, notes: “Catatonia is common in psychiatric emergency rooms and inpatient units,” with an estimated prevalence of 9% to 30%. They describe the diagnosis and treatment. We consider the paper and its implications.

Waxy flexibility (from catatonia) in an undated photo

Interest in CBD has surged in recent years. Can it help with the tough clinical problem of bipolar depression? In the second selection, Dr. Jairo Vinícius Pinto (of the University of São Paulo) and his co-authors attempt to answer that question in a new Canadian Journal of Psychiatry paper. They describe a pilot study, with 35 patients randomized to CBD or placebo, finding: “cannabidiol did not show significantly higher adverse effects than placebo.”

And in the third selection, Dr. Hannah Samuels (of the University of Toronto) discusses medical assistance in dying in a paper for Academic Psychiatry. This resident of psychiatry describes a patient who, dealing with pain, opted for MAiD. Dr. Samuels considers the decision but her ambivalence in part stemming from her training. “I felt sad, confused, and morally conflicted. Mrs. L never faltered in her confidence that this was the right decision for her, but I could not understand it.”


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Reading of the Week: MAiD, Suicide & the Patient-Family Perspective – the new CJP Paper; Also, AI & Misinformation, and Palus on Mental Health Merch 

From the Editor

In March, medical assistance in dying will be expanded in Canada to include those with mental illness. Not surprisingly, many people feel strongly about it, with some seeing the change as a natural extension of basic rights and others arguing that it will be a profound mistake. 

What do patients and family members think? How does it relate to their views of suicide in general? Lisa Hawke (of the University of Toronto) and her co-authors attempt to answer these questions in a new Canadian Journal of Psychiatry paper. They do a qualitative analysis, interviewing 30 people with mental illness and 25 family members on medical assistance in dying when the sole underlying medical condition is mental illness (or MAiD MI-SUMC). “Participants acknowledge the intersections between MAiD MI-SUMC and suicidality and the benefits of MAiD MI-SUMC as a more dignified way of ending suffering, but also the inherent complexity of considering [such] requests in the context of suicidality.” We consider the paper and its implications.

In the second selection, Dr. Scott Monteith (of Michigan State University) and his co-authors write about artificial intelligence and misinformation in a new British Journal of Psychiatry paper. They note the shift in AI – from predictive models to generative AI – and its implications for patients. “Misinformation created by generative AI about mental illness may include factual errors, nonsense, fabricated sources and dangerous advice.”

And in the third selection, writer Shannon Palus discusses the rise of “mental health merch” – clothing items and other merchandise that tout mental health problems, including a pricey sweatshirt with “Lexapro” written on the front (the US brand name for escitalopram). In Slate, Palus discusses her coolness to such things. “As a person who struggles with her own mental health, as a Lexapro taker – well, I hate this trend, honestly! I find it cloying and infantilizing.”

Note that there will be no Reading next week.


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Reading of the Week: Mass Murder & Mental Illness – the New Psych Med Study; Also, Vaccinations in the EU (Lancet Psych), and Domise on MAiD and His Illness

From the Editor

“Mental illness may have been a factor.”

It’s just seven words, but they so often accompany reports of mass murder. And psychosis is mentioned more often than not. The message is clear: mental disorders, particularly psychotic disorders, are highly tied to violence.

In the first selection, we look at a new paper that reviews 120 years worth of mass murder, and distinguishes between gun violence and non-gun violence. Just published in Psychological Medicine, Gary Brucato (of Columbia University) and his co-authors have written an extraordinary paper. They also reach an important conclusion: “These results suggest that policies aimed at preventing mass shootings by focusing on serious mental illness, characterized by psychotic symptoms, may have limited impact.” We look at the big paper.


In the second selection, from The Lancet Psychiatry, Dr. Livia J. De Picker (of the University of Antwerp) and her co-authors consider European countries and vaccination prioritization, with a focus on mental disorders. “Only four countries (Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, and the UK) had some form of higher vaccination priority for outpatients with severe mental illness.”

And, in the third selection, writer Andray Domise considers mental illness and medical assistance in dying. In a personal essay for The Globe and Mail, he raises objections. Start here: he would have opted to die when he was unwell. He argues the whole legislative approach is wrong: “This is a country that continues to fail in respecting the humanity of people with disabilities. And rather than find strength of character to improve ourselves, the Canadian government is set to fall back on egregious historical precedent by offering death instead.”


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Reading of the Week: Ethics & Medical Assistance in Dying – the new Simpson Paper. Also, Exercise for the Cognitive Symptoms of Depression?

From the Editor

It may soon be the law… but is it ethical?

In 2016, Parliament passed Bill C-14, legalizing doctor-assisted suicide. The legislation represents a major change in many ways: from public policy to the practice of medicine. And, in the coming years, it’s quite possible that the scope of this legislation will be expanded, and could include those with mental illness.

In this week’s Reading, Dr. Wayne (Sandy) Simpson of CAMH weighs in on the ethics of medical assistance in dying (MAiD) and mental illness in this provocative “perspective” paper just published by The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry. He considers the nature of mental illness before concluding: “[A]cting as a partner in helping people recover as well as acting as an agent in a patient’s death is an impossible burden that is not ethically justifiable or legally necessary.”


Also, this week, we consider another recent paper by The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry that considers the impact of exercise on cognition in patients with depression.


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Reading of the Week: Pushing Past the Headlines – Substances & Health Services, and Medically Assisted Death & Cost Savings

From the Editor

It makes sense that those with substance use problems and mental illness consume more health resources – but how much more? As Canadians opt for medical assistance in dying, what will the impact be on health spending?

Readings don’t necessarily follow a theme. But this week, we push past newspaper headlines to consider two topical issues in more detail, tapping the latest in the literature.

Pushing past the headlines

In the first paper, Graham et al. consider health costs and utilization for people with mental health and/or substance use problems. Spoiler alert: these individuals are much more likely to use health services, resulting in higher costs. That’s not exactly a surprise, but Graham et al. provide a detailed analysis in an area that has been understudied.

In the second paper, drawing from Dutch data, Trachtenberg and Manns estimate the savings from medically assisted death.

Both papers are timely. Both reach interesting conclusions.

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