From the Editor

For patients with bipolar disorder, lithium is an important medication, shown to reduce hospitalizations and suicides better than newer agents. But has it fallen out of fashion? International reports suggest that it has.

In the first selection, Samreen Shafiq (of the University of Calgary) and her co-authors try to answer this question with Canadian data in a new paper for The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry. They draw on a decade of Alberta prescription data with more than 580,000 lithium scripts. “This population-based study suggests that the overall number of new and prevalent lithium users is decreasing in Alberta between the years of 2009 and 2018, but the observed pattern suggests that this decrease may have stopped by the end of our study interval.” We consider the paper and its clinical implications.

In the second selection, John W. Ayers (of University of California San Diego) considers AI-generated responses to health care questions posted on social media, like the need to seek medical attention after a minor head injury with a presentation of a lump and a headache. In a JAMA Internal Medicine paper, they compare ChatGPT answers to those of physicians in terms of quality and empathy. “In this cross-sectional study, a chatbot generated quality and empathetic responses to patient questions posed in an online forum.”

The debate over coercive care is hot, with proposals to rebalance patients’ rights actively discussed in New York City, Alberta, and California. In the third selection, author Daniel Bergner writes that we should look for alternatives to medications. In a New York Times essay, he argues that antipsychotics are problematic. “By doubling down on existing methods, we’re only beckoning more failure.”


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