Tagopioid

Reading of the Week: Health Care Workers’ Mental Health – There’s an App for That; Also, Treating Opioids (BMJ) & Dr. Bhushan on Her Bipolar (LA Times)

From the Editor

With the pandemic dragging on, health care workers report more and more burnout; some complain of depression and anxiety.

What could help? Dr. Sam N. Gnanapragasam (of King’s College London) and his co-authors consider an app designed to provide CBT and mindfulness techniques in a new British Journal of Psychiatry paper. The RCT study involves 16 English sites with over 1000 health care workers. They conclude: “our study suggests that the app was of modest benefit with no adverse effects for a sample of HCWs in England.” We look at the paper.

How to respond to the opioid crisis? In a new analysis paper for BMJ, Dr. Robert A. Kleinman (of the University of Toronto) and his colleagues argue for a different approach to the prescribing of opioid agonist therapy, drawing on the changes made in response to the pandemic. “Embracing a more flexible model of buprenorphine-naloxone dosing would allow better alignment of prescribing practices with the needs and preferences of clients.”

And in the third selection, Dr. Devika Bhushan writes about bipolar disorder for the Los Angeles Times. The essay is very personal: the pediatrician, who serves as California’s acting surgeon general and graduated from Harvard, describes her own experiences. As she notes, during her training, she “had a secret.” Now, however, she speaks openly about her illness. “Today, I live with bipolar disorder as a chronic and manageable health condition.” 

DG

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Reading of the Week: Buprenorphine for Opioids – the New AJP Paper; Also, Cannabis & Hospitalizations (CJP) and Dr. Rosenberg’s Career & Illness (NYT)

From the Editor

A rise in substance use. Staff shortages and burnout. Waits for care.

The problems of the pandemic on mental health care have been clear and unfortunate. But how has care changed – and possibly improved – over the pandemic? In the first selection, Lewei Lin (of the University of Michigan) and her co-authors look at buprenorphine treatment before and during the pandemic. In a new paper for The American Journal of Psychiatry, they find a shift in care and a success story: “The number of patients receiving buprenorphine continued to increase after the COVID-19 policy changes, but the delivery of care shifted to telehealth visits…” We consider the paper and its clinical implications.

In the second selection, drawing on Canadian data, Chungah Kim (of Brock University) and her co-authors look at cannabis legalization and cannabis-related hospitalizations. In this new Canadian Journal of Psychiatry brief report, they find: “the initial legalization was followed by clinically significant increases in cannabis-related hospitalizations; however, the subsequent increase in retail stores, availability of cannabis edibles, and COVID-19 pandemic was not associated with a further increase in hospitalizations in Ontario.”

In the third selection, we consider the life and legacy of Dr. Leon E. Rosenberg with the obituary from The New York Times. Dr. Rosenberg had a storied career – a pioneer in genetics research, a dean of Yale, and the chief science officer at Bristol Myers Squibb. He’s also a person who had bipolar disorder and took lithium. “I am proof that it is possible to live a highly successful career in medicine and science, and to struggle with a complex, serious mental illness at the same time.”

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

DG


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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: 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: Three Essays on Mental Illness

From the Editor

As stigma fades, we are as a society talking more and more about mental illness. And we are also writing more on the topic.

This week, the Reading features three essays that ask three provocative questions. Does naloxone access save lives? What’s it like to be depressed and in medical school? How do involuntary commitment laws affect the families of those with mental illness?

These essays are very different in part because they reflect very different perspectives on our collective experience with mental illness: the perspectives of providers, patients, and families.

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Enjoy.

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Reading of the Week: “Taking On the Scourge of Opioids” – Dr. Sally Satel’s New Essay

From the Editor

Today, the addicted are not inner-city minori­ties, though big cities are increasingly reporting problems. Instead, they are overwhelmingly white and rural, though middle- and upper-class individuals are also affected. The jarring visual of the crisis is not an urban ‘gang banger’ but an overdosed mom slumped in the front seat of her car in a Walmart parking lot, toddler in the back.

So writes Dr. Sally Satel, an addiction psychiatrist, about the opioid epidemic.

Dr. Satel is writing about the United States, but these problems are also seen north of the 49th parallel. Canadians remain the second highest per-capita consumers of opioids in the world; for the record, only our southern neighbours best us. And, like in the U.S., opioid use has soared in recent years – and so has misuse.

Opioids: little pills, big problems

How did we get here? And where do we go?

This week’s selection: a new essay by Dr. Satel. Drawing on the words of Nicholas Eberstadt, she describes “a new plague for a new century.” Dr. Satel writes about the roots of this drug problem and considers options moving forward.

DG

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Reading of the Week: Drugs, Drugs, Drugs – Vermont Tries To Break The Addiction Cycle, and Minister Philpott Weighs In On Opioids

From the Editor

“I don’t think that we can sit back and be complacent for one moment,” said Toronto Mayor John Tory in a media interview in which he called for an ‘all hands on deck’ approach to dealing with opioids.

It’s a comment on our times when the mayor of Canada’s largest city is focused on the use (and abuse) of opioids. And so are others – opioid addiction has sparked conversations across North America, from big city Canada to rural America. In 2014, Peter Shumlin, governor of the second smallest state in the U.S., devoted his annual address to the opioid problem striking “every corner” of Vermont.

Vermont: hills, lakes, opioids

How we deal with opioids is complicated, touching on everything from drug regulation to clinician education. But the legal response is particularly interesting – the intersection of the law, addiction, and public policy. And so, in this Reading, we look at the Green Mountain State. In a Wall Street Journal essay, reporters Jennifer Levitz and Scott Calvert discuss Vermont’s experimentation with mandatory treatment for minor drug-related crimes – and the struggles of a young user.

We also consider federal Minister of Health Jane Philpott’s recent essay on the opioid issue, which ran in The Globe and Mail last week. She calls on us to address the roots of the issue – which “are tangled and deep.”

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