TagThe Lancet

Reading of the Week: Are Benzodiazepines Misunderstood? Also, Lizotte on Mental Health Support, and The Lancet on Those Doctors Lost to COVID

From the Editor

In a recent conversation with a resident, we discussed benzodiazepines. “I’ve never prescribed one,” he explained.

This class of medications is very much out of fashion. But, after decades of overuse, have we swung to the other extreme, and forgotten an important tool in our pharmacologic toolkit? In the first selection, we consider a British Journal of Psychiatry editorial. Dr. Edward Silberman (of Tufts University School of Medicine) and his co-authors argue that benzodiazepines are underappreciated. The selection ties well into a commentary that recently appeared in The American Journal of Psychiatry. Dr. Jerrold F. Rosenbaum (of Harvard Medical School) writes: “My own son, a first-year resident in psychiatry, looks at me as if I served on the wrong side in the Spanish Civil War when I speak of benzodiazepines.” Is there a clinical takeaway here?

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In the second selection, writer and comedian Andrew Lizotte discusses the challenges of being a patient in our mental health system. He shares some jokes – but, ultimately, notes ongoing stigma and power imbalances. “We see how mental illness is portrayed in the media. We are scared of being shot by police during a ‘routine health check.’ We see the lack of empathy. Then people wonder why we don’t ask for help.”

Finally, with an eye on COVID-19, we look at a short paper in The Lancet about those doctors who have lost their lives in the pandemic. “These lives are also a reminder of the ongoing dedication and service of those who continue to care for patients at a time when COVID-19 cases and deaths are increasing in many countries.”

DG

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Reading of the Week: Exposure to COVID & Mental Health (JAMA Netw Open); Also, the Psych Impact of Quarantine (Lancet) and Inspiring Docs (NYT)

From the Editor

We read often about the physical health effects of COVID. But how does this pandemic affect mental health?

This week’s Reading has three selections, with two focused on this question.

In the first selection, we consider the psychological effects of COVID on health care workers. In a new JAMA Network Open paper, Jianbo Lai (of Zhejiang University School of Medicine) and co-authors look at mental health outcomes and the factors associated with them in China. “Among Chinese health care workers exposed to COVID-19, women, nurses, those in Wuhan, and front-line health care workers have a high risk of developing unfavorable mental health outcomes and may need psychological support or interventions.”

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During this pandemic, many Canadians are self-isolating; in the coming weeks, many could be quarantined. In the second selection, we consider a new Lancet paper on quarantine and its psychological impact. Samantha K. Brooks (of King’s College London) and her co-authors write: “Given the developing situation with coronavirus, policy makers urgently need evidence synthesis to produce guidance for the public. In circumstances such as these, rapid reviews are recommended by WHO.”

Finally, in the third selection, we look at a NYT essay by Dr. Donald Berwick (of Harvard Medical School). He discusses the way health care providers have risen to the challenge of COVID. “We are witnessing professionalism in its highest form, skilled people putting the interests of those they serve above their own interests.”

DG

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Reading of the Week: On D-Day, Three Papers on Shell Shock, One by Dr. Charles Myers

From the Editor

Today is the 75th anniversary of D-Day.

Ceremonies are planned across the country, and across Europe; Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is in France. During these anniversaries, people comment on the importance of the moment. US President Barack Obama noted: “much of the progress that would define the 20th century, on both sides of the Atlantic, came down to the battle for a slice of beach only six miles long and two miles wide.” And people speak of the loss of life. US President Ronald Reagan, on a past anniversary, talked about “the boys of Pointe du Hoc” who had tried to take “these cliffs” off the beaches, noting that the majority were killed.

But the damage of war is not only in the loss of life.

In this week’s Reading, we consider shell shock and PTSD starting with the first paper on the topic, written by Dr. Charles S. Myers for The Lancet, published just over a century ago. Dr. Myers writes about three cases of shell shock, noting the similarities in their presentations.

La pointe du Hoc en Normandie (Calvados, Basse-Normandie, France)

We also consider a recent paper, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, discussing a more modern presentation – but perhaps not a profoundly different presentation. Finally, we consider a summary of recent published guidelines.

DG

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Reading of the Week: Do Antidepressants Work? The New Cipriani Study

From the Editor

Last week, I spoke to a patient about antidepressants. “But do they really work?” she asked. While antidepressants are commonly prescribed, many patients wonder about them. That’s not surprising: in popular culture, these medications are often portrayed as risky and unhelpful. Just a few weeks ago, the most popular women’s fitness magazine in the world described fawningly how a woman quit her medications and felt better (“I felt more alive and in control of my emotions with each passing day”). A few years ago, a major study suggested that antidepressants basically match placebo in efficacy; 60 Minutes covered it.

And now there is the new Cipriani et al. paper. “We found that all antidepressants included in the meta-analysis were more efficacious than placebo in adults with major depressive disorder…”

Is this the biggest psychiatry paper of the year? Certainly, it may be one of the most impressive. It took six years of effort. Oxford University’s Andrea Cipriani and his co-authors drew from all available data – published and unpublished, and covering more than 500 trials.

The media coverage has been incredible. The Guardian summarized the paper with the first two words of its article: “Antidepressants work.”

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In this Reading, we look at the big study and mull the big implications.

DG

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