From the Editor

Does decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of street drugs reduce overdoses? Proponents argue yes because those who use substances can seek care – including in emergency situations – without fear of police involvement and charges. Opponents counter that decriminalization means fewer penalties for drug use, resulting in more misuse and thus more overdoses. The debate can be shrill – but lacking in data.

Spruha Joshi (of New York University) and co-authors bring numbers to the policy discussion with a new JAMA Psychiatry paper. They analyze the impact of decriminalization in two states, Oregon and Washington, contrasting overdoses there and in other US states that didn’t decriminalize. “This study found no evidence of an association between legal changes that removed or substantially reduced criminal penalties for drug possession in Oregon and Washington and fatal drug overdose rates.” We consider the paper and its implications.

In the second selection, Dr. Ashwin Nayak (of Stanford University) and his co-authors look at AI for the writing of patient histories. In a new research letter for JAMA Internal Medicine, they do a head-to-head (head-to-CPU?) comparison with ChatGPT and residents both writing patient histories (specifically, the history of present illness, or HPI). “HPIs generated by a chatbot or written by senior internal medicine residents were graded similarly by internal medicine attending physicians.”

And in the third selection, medical student Howard A. Chang (of Johns Hopkins University) wonders about “good” psychiatry in a paper for Academic Psychiatry. He reflects on the comments of surgeons, pediatricians, and obstetricians, and then mulls the role of our specialty. “I have gleaned that a good psychiatrist fundamentally sees and cares about patients with mental illness as dignified human beings, not broken brains. The good psychiatrist knows and treats the person in order to treat the disease.”


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