Tagvaccine

Reading of the Week: Aromatherapy for Insomnia? Also, Ramadan and Mental Health and Responding to Vaccine History

From the Editor

“Sleep is one of the indispensable needs of human beings and is essential for maintaining physical and mental health.”

So writes Yueheng Tang (of the Huazhong University of Science and Technology) and co-authors in a new paper on insomnia. That topic is always relevant; with a third wave and the ongoing stresses of the pandemic, more people than ever seem to be struggling with insomnia. In the past few weeks, I’ve received a flurry of questions from patients and non-patients about remedies for insomnia.

What to make of aromatherapy? It’s trendy – but is it evidence based? In a new paper for the Journal of Affective Disorders, Tang et al. consider aromatherapy which “has a long history in China, and it has been used to strengthen the body and treat diseases since ancient times.” They conduct a meta-analysis, drawing on sixteen articles. They find: “Aromatherapy has a significant effect on improving sleep quality.” We consider the paper and ask: should we recommend this to our patients?

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In the second selection, we look at a new podcast that explores Ramadan and its clinical implications. In this Quick Takes episode, I’m joined by Drs. Juveria Zaheer and Zainab Furqan (both of the University of Toronto). They discuss fasting, mental disorders, and offer some suggestions. For example, with drug regiments: “if a medication is dosed twice daily, we can ask if it can be given safely during the interval when the interval between doses is shortened? So can we give it then in the evening or at dawn and then at sunset again? Or can we give it as one dose? And we need to think about the side effects of the medication.”

Finally, in our third selection, a reader writes us. Dr. Suze G. Berkhout (of the University of Toronto) responds to the paper by Drs. Angela Desmond and Paul A. Offit considering the history of vaccines. “The story the authors tell is history as it is written by the victors: emphasizing the hard work and successes of scientists, while failing to acknowledge the ways in which vaccine technologies have also been part of an exclusionary politics of biomedicine.”

Note that there will be no Reading next week.

DG

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Reading of the Week: Mass Murder & Mental Illness – the New Psych Med Study; Also, Vaccinations in the EU (Lancet Psych), and Domise on MAiD and His Illness

From the Editor

“Mental illness may have been a factor.”

It’s just seven words, but they so often accompany reports of mass murder. And psychosis is mentioned more often than not. The message is clear: mental disorders, particularly psychotic disorders, are highly tied to violence.

In the first selection, we look at a new paper that reviews 120 years worth of mass murder, and distinguishes between gun violence and non-gun violence. Just published in Psychological Medicine, Gary Brucato (of Columbia University) and his co-authors have written an extraordinary paper. They also reach an important conclusion: “These results suggest that policies aimed at preventing mass shootings by focusing on serious mental illness, characterized by psychotic symptoms, may have limited impact.” We look at the big paper.

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In the second selection, from The Lancet Psychiatry, Dr. Livia J. De Picker (of the University of Antwerp) and her co-authors consider European countries and vaccination prioritization, with a focus on mental disorders. “Only four countries (Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, and the UK) had some form of higher vaccination priority for outpatients with severe mental illness.”

And, in the third selection, writer Andray Domise considers mental illness and medical assistance in dying. In a personal essay for The Globe and Mail, he raises objections. Start here: he would have opted to die when he was unwell. He argues the whole legislative approach is wrong: “This is a country that continues to fail in respecting the humanity of people with disabilities. And rather than find strength of character to improve ourselves, the Canadian government is set to fall back on egregious historical precedent by offering death instead.”

DG

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Reading of the Week: Lithium vs. Newer Meds for Bipolar – What’s Best? Also, Nudging Vaccines and Beale on Her Illness Experience & Being a Doctor (BMJ)

From the Editor

In the past, lithium had a large role – in the treatment of bipolar, yes, and before that, as a general remedy for a variety of conditions. Indeed, lithium could be found in various things, including pop (see the picture of the ad for 7 Up below). But times have changed. Lithium prescriptions are less common, and bipolar management increasingly involves other medications. (And, no, 7 Up doesn’t contain that salt anymore.)

How does lithium compare to these medications for people with bipolar? Dr. Jens Bohlken (of the University of Leipzig) and his co-authors do a retrospective study drawing on a national database from Germany. “When treatment failure was defined as discontinuing medication or the add-on of a mood stabilizer, or antipsychotic, antidepressant, or benzodiazepine, lithium appears to be more successful as monotherapy maintenance treatment than olanzapine, citalopram, quetiapine, valproate, and venlafaxine.” We look at the big study, and mull its implications on this side of the Atlantic.

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Can we nudge people to vaccinate? As the world works to get more shots in arms, Dr. Mitesh Patel (of the University of Pennsylvania) argues that behavioural economics will be important. In Nature, he writes that we have a golden opportunity to learn from the vaccine roll-out: “Each institution should report its vaccination efforts and performance, and conduct rapid experiments on how best to encourage people to get their vaccines – especially their second doses.”

Finally, some physicians have commented that being touched by illness has helped them become better doctors. Dr. Chloe Beale, a British psychiatrist, agrees to disagree in a blog for BMJ. “I can’t give the expected, tidy narrative of emerging stronger for having my illness.”

DG

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