Tag: The New York Times

Reading of the Week: Depression & Lived Experience – the new World Psych Paper; Also, the Life of Dr. John Talbott and Chairs & Patient Satisfaction

From the Editor

“For me, it feels like gravity just starts working on my body harder than it works everywhere else in the world.”

So comments a person with depression about his experience. Typically, we describe depression with a list of symptoms from the DSM-5. But how do patients understand their illness? In a new World Psychiatry paper, Dr. Paolo Fusar-Poli (of King’s College London) and his co-authors attempt to answer that question with a “bottom-up” approach. “To our best knowledge, no [depression] studies have adopted a bottom-up approach (from the lived experience to theory), whereby a global network of experts by experience and academics are mutually engaged in co-writing a joint narrative.” We look at the paper and its implications.

In the second selection, from The New York Times, reporter Trip Gabriel writes an obituary for Dr. John A. Talbott, an American psychiatrist who had championed deinstitutionalization, only to later regret the move away from hospital care. Dr. Talbott once wrote: “The disaster occurred because our mental health delivery system is not a system but a non-system.”

At this time of year, The BMJ runs its light-hearted Christmas issue, featuring much British humour. In the third selection, Ruchita Iyer (of the University of Texas Southwestern) and her co-authors describe a deception trial that increased patient satisfaction without increasing physician time. The “nudge” intervention involved: “Chair placement, defined as positioning the chair within 3 feet (0.9 m) of the bedside and facing the bed.” 

There will be no Readings for the next two weeks. We will return with force (though no British humour) on 11 January 2024.

All the best in the holiday season.

DG

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Reading of the Week: An Exercise App for Burnout – the New JAMA Psych Paper; Also, Pandemic Mental Health Use and Szalavitz on Portugal

From the Editor

A recent CMA survey found that more than half of physicians report high levels of burnout; surveys of other health care disciplines show a similar result. Not surprisingly, burnout is much discussed. What can be done for health care workers?

In the first selection, Vincent Gosselin Boucher (of the University of British Columbia) and his co-authors consider that question, offering an app-based intervention featuring exercises that can be done at home. The resulting study, just published in JAMA Psychiatry, included 288 health care workers in an RCT. “[A] 12-week app-based exercise intervention yielded significant reductions in depressive symptoms among HCWs that became more pronounced as time progressed.” We review the paper and its implications.

In the second selection, Jonathan H. Cantor (of the RAND Corporation) and his co-authors look at mental health utilization and spending before and during the pandemic, drawing on almost 1.6 million mental health insurance claims in the US. “[U]tilization and spending rates for mental health care services among commercially insured adults increased by 38.8% and 53.7%, respectively, between 2019 and 2022.” 

Finally, in the third selection, author Maia Szalavitz writes about the decriminalization of low-level drug crimes in Portugal. In a New York Times essay, she argues that critics don’t understand what Portugal accomplished – and, in contrast, how many Americans go untreated in correctional facilities. She concludes: “Shifting priorities and funding to provide high-quality treatment and other supports for recovery like housing takes time. Our failure is a century of criminalization – not much-needed attempts to end it.”

DG

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Reading of the Week: tDCS vs Sham for Depression – the New Lancet Paper; Also, US Ketamine Seizures and Dr. Lamas on Medical Practice & AI

From the Editor

He’s tried several medications, but still struggles with his depression. The story is too familiar. Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) is an option, and increasingly the focus of research. With relatively few side effects and the possibility of doing the treatment at home, the advantages of tDCS are clear.

But how do patients taking antidepressants respond? In the first selection, from the pages of The Lancet, Dr. Gerrit Burkhardt (of the University of Munich) and his co-authors report the findings of an impressive study, with a comparison against sham treatment, across eight sites, and involving triple blinding. “Active tDCS was not superior to sham stimulation during a 6-week period. Our trial does not support the efficacy of tDCS as an additional treatment to SSRIs in adults with MDD.” We consider the paper, an accompanying Comment, and the implications.

In the second selection, Joseph J. Palamar (of New York University) and his colleagues analyze data on US ketamine seizures in a Research Letter for JAMA Psychiatry. They view seizures as a measure of recreational and nonmedical use, and conclude: “These data suggest increasing availability of illicit ketamine.”

And in this week’s third selection, Dr. Daniela J. Lamas (of Harvard University), an internist, writes about AI for The New York Times. In thinking about medical practice, she sees artificial intelligence doing more and more, and ultimately helping with diagnosis. She also sees trade-offs. Still, she concludes: “Beyond saving us time, the intelligence in A.I. – if used well – could make us better at our jobs.”

Note that there will be no Reading next week.

DG

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Reading of the Week: Lithium Prescribing – the New CJP Paper; Also, AI vs. Doctors (JAMA Int Med) and Bergner on Compulsory Mental Health (NYT)

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.”

DG

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Reading of the Week: Bipolar & Med Adherence – the New Journal of Affective Disorders Study; Also, Sleep (QT) and Sheff on Involuntary Treatment (NYT)

From the Editor

You wrote a prescription, but did he actually take the medications? For those with bipolar disorder, pharmacotherapy is an essential part of care. Studies have noted poor adherence. 

To date, though, there hasn’t been a big cohort study. And there are good questions to ask: what drugs are more linked with adherence? Who is more likely not to take the medications? In a new paper just published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, Dr. Jonne Lintunen (of the University of Eastern Finland) and his co-authors attempt to answer these questions. They draw on Finnish data, covering more than three decades and including over 33 000 patients. “The majority of patients with bipolar disorder do not use their medications as prescribed.” We consider the paper and its clinical implications.

In the second selection, Dr. Michael Mak (of the University of Toronto) comments on sleep in a new Quick Takes podcast interview. In this sleep “update,” we talk about meds, CBT, and the mobile apps that he recommends to patients and their families. We also explore the history of sleep medicine and mull the growing role apps and wearables are playing in both diagnosis and therapy. “The lines between sleep, health, and mental health in general are blurred.”

In the third selection, author David Sheff talks about his son’s addiction and recovery – and involuntary treatment. In a New York Times’ essay, he notes the challenges of engaging those with substance problems. He sees several ways forward, including involuntary treatment. “Many people in the traditional recovery world believe that we must wait for people who are addicted to hit bottom, with the hope that they’ll choose to enter treatment. It’s an archaic and dangerous theory.”

DG

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Reading of the Week: rTMS – the New JAMA Psych Paper; Also, Opioid Overdoses (JAMA Net Open) and Green on Peak Mental Health (NYT)

From the Editor

She’s an accomplished person who had succeeded in business and then writing, all the while raising three children; she also has an amazing smile and lights up the room when talking about her kids. But in my office, sick with depression, she can only focus on her losses and failings; the smile is absent.

Depression is common and disabling. Those who are affected in late-life are particularly challenging to treat. Is there a better way? In the first selection from JAMA Psychiatry, Dr. Daniel Blumberger (of the University of Toronto) and his co-authors consider theta burst stimulation, a newer form of rTMS which has shown promise in earlier work. Their study is a randomized noninferiority trial, directly comparing the two versions of rTMS in elderly patients with depression. The result? “We showed that bilateral TBS was noninferior to standard bilateral rTMS in improving depression, and similarly well tolerated, in a real-world sample of older adults with TRD [treatment resistant depression]…” We review the paper and its clinical implications.

In the second selection, Lori Ann Post (of Northwestern University) and her co-authors draw on CDC data to look at opioid overdoses in the United States with a focus on geography. In a JAMA Network Open research letter, they find: “Overall, opioid-involved overdose deaths rates increased steadily in counties of every urbanicity type, although there were distinct temporal wave patterns by urbanicity.”

And in the third selection, Huw Green (of the University of Cambridge) wonders about mental health and mental illness – and worries that the terms are becoming blurred together. Writing in The New York Times, the psychologist concludes: “When we move away from a focus on psychological problems and toward ‘mental health’ more broadly, clinicians stumble into terrain that extends beyond our expertise. We ought to be appropriately humble.”  

This month, the Reading of the Week enters its ninth year. A quick word of thanks for your ongoing interest.

DG



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Reading of the Week: Anxiety Screening for Adults – Helpful or Not? Also, Bram on His Depression & His Chatbot (NYT)

From the Editor

“A panel of medical experts on Tuesday recommended for the first time that doctors screen all adult patients under 65 for anxiety, guidance that highlights the extraordinary stress levels that have plagued the United States since the start of the pandemic.”

So reports The New York Times late last month with news of the US Preventive Services Task Force’s draft recommendation. The article quotes panelist Lori Pbert (of the University of Massachusetts): “Our only hope is that our recommendations throw a spotlight on the need to create greater access to mental health care – and urgently.”

In the first selection, we look at the recommendation. In making it, the USPSTF reviewed the literature and weighted the advantages and disadvantages of screening. If finalized, the recommendation would have implications on primary care in the United States – and beyond. “The USPSTF concludes with moderate certainty that screening for anxiety in adults, including pregnant and postpartum persons, has a moderate net benefit.” Is this a step in the right direction? Is this well intentioned but problematic?

In the second selection, Barclay Bram writes about his experiences with a therapist bot, working with the Woebot app. In a long New York Times essay, he talks about his depression and his therapy bot. He writes: “Using Woebot was like reading a good book of fiction. I never lost the sense that it was anything more than an algorithm – but I was able to suspend my disbelief and allow the experience to carry me elsewhere.”

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: Cannabis & Driving – a New RCT; Also, Prolonged Grief Disorder (JAMA Psych) and the Life and Legacy of Alan A. Stone (NYT)

From the Editor

It’s legal. It’s readily available. What are the implications for road safety?

Cannabis is the focus of more and more research. Little, though, has been studied for its effects on driving. In the first selection, Thomas D. Marcotte (of the University of California San Diego) and his co-authors consider cannabis and driving performance. In a new paper for JAMA Psychiatry, they report on an RCT: “In a placebo-controlled parallel study of regular cannabis users smoking cannabis with different THC content ad libitum, there was statistically significant worsening on driving simulator performance in the THC group compared with the placebo group.” We consider the paper and its clinical implications.

Next month, the American Psychiatric Association releases DSM-5-TR, the first major update to the DSM series in nine years. Though the diagnostic criteria of several disorders have been revised, there is only one new disorder: prolonged grief disorder. In the second selection, Holly G. Prigerson (of Cornell University) and her co-authors write about it for JAMA Psychiatry. “PGD is a serious mental disorder that puts the patient at risk for intense distress, poor physical health, shortened life expectancy, and suicide.”

Finally, in the third selection, we consider the life and legacy of Dr. Alan A. Stone, a psychiatrist who passed at the age of 92. In his obituary for The New York Times, reporter Clay Risen describes his incredible career – as a psychoanalyst, a Harvard professor (in both the faculties of law and medicine), and a former president of the American Psychiatric Association who championed dropping homosexuality as a psychiatric disorder.

DG

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