Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Federal Government Slaps $520 Million Fine on AstraZeneca!

A Swedish news source called "The Local" reports that AstraZeneca, a major pharmaceutical manufacturer, has agreed to pay $510 million for illegally marketing off-label uses of the antipsychotic Seroquel.

"US authorities contended that AstraZeneca illegally marketed Seroquel for uses never approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) such as aggression, Alzheimer's disease, anger management, anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, bipolar maintenance, dementia, depression, mood disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and sleeplessness." It was approved originally for the short-term treatment of schizophrenia.

UPDATE: A CNN article says the fine was $520 million, not $510 million, as previously reported. We are shocked - SHOCKED - to learn that the pharmaceutical firm was "...accused of violating anti-kickback laws by paying doctors to refer the drug to patients, while at the same time bringing in money from government health care programs."

Validation at Last, for Something You May Have Suspected

An Associated Press-Petside poll disclosed that 18% of pet-owning married men and ONE-THIRD of pet-owning married women said their pets are better listeners than their spouses! The article went on to say that most people believe their pets are mentally stable and rarely suffer from depression.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Top 25 List of Psychotropic Drugs

Are the medications you take among the top 25? Check out this Psych Central article and find out. Here are the top 5:

1. Xanax
2. Lexapro
3. Ativan
4. Zoloft
5. Prozac

Food for thought: "The biggest declines we see are drugs that have gone off-patent, including Wellbutrin (a decline of 73 percent in prescriptions) and Paxil (which didn’t even make it on this year’s list). Strattera — prescribed for ADHD — lost 42 percent of the prescriptions it had in 2005. And despite Zoloft’s strong showing in 4th place — down from 2nd place four years ago — it also lost 28 percent of its previous prescriptions."

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Are Your Complaints About Side Effects Being Made Part of the Record?

Science Blog has this startling report that starts with this paragraph:

PROVIDENCE, RI -- A study from Rhode Island Hospital shows that patients report side effects from medication for the treatment of depression [up to] 20 times more than psychiatrists have recorded in the charts. The researchers recommend the use of a self-administered patient questionnaire in clinical practice to improve the recognition of side effects for patients in treatment. The study is published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, Volume 71, No. 4, now available online ahead of print...

Monday, April 19, 2010

Do Antidepressants Work - Or Don't They?

The following is the beginning of an article in Psychiatric Times, commenting on the Newsweek article of 8 February 2010:

Imagine, as a psychiatrist, hearing this story from a beloved friend or relative:

“I’ve been terribly depressed for the last month—can’t focus, can’t get out of bed, and I’m barely eating. Nothing really gives me pleasure anymore. I haven’t showered in 2 weeks. Sometimes I think I’d be better off dead. I asked my family doctor if an antidepressant might help. She said I’d do just as well taking a sugar pill, and it’s a lot cheaper!”

I hope you would be both alarmed and outraged by this doctor’s dismissive attitude. Yet if the doctor—or your loved one—had read the article on antidepressants in the February 8 Newsweek (The Depressing News About Antidepressants), she might well have concluded that antidepressants are largely worthless....

And here is Psych Central's rejoinder.

EDITORIAL NOTE: This may be dismissed as anecdotal, but I have seen how antidepressants have been life-savers for many people, and many failures can be attributed to lack of faith in the doctor or treatment, inadequate dosages, rapid changes in prescriptions (making it impossible to determine what effect a medication has on a person), or bipolar disorder (the antidepressant can trigger a manic attack).

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Podcast on ADD/ADHD Available

Dr. David Van Nuys in the Wise Counsel podcast interviewed an expert on ADD/ADHD, Dr. Ari Tuckman, author of the book and podcast, More Attention, Less Deficit. He says that attention deficit (and/or) hyperactivity disorder is not limited to children and can complicate the treatment of other mental disorders.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Article on Mind-Boggling Psychiatric Treatments

Neatorama has some neat (in other words exotic to strange) psychiatric treatments that went in and out of style over the years: insulin-coma therapy, trepanation, rotational therapy, hydrotherapy, mesmerism, malaria therapy, chemically induced seizures, hysteria therapy, phrenology, and lobotomy.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Often Victory Comes to Those Who Hold Out a Little While Longer

“We would never learn to be brave and patient if there were only joy in the world.” - Helen Keller

Although we are painfully aware of the limitations of motivational literature, this article in "World of Psychology" stands out because of the rather lengthy reader comment by "Allison" at the end.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

"Next to Normal" Awarded Pulitzer Prize

"Next to Normal," a Broadway musical about a typical American family trying to deal with a mother who has bipolar disorder, can now add a Pulitzer Prize to the three Tony Awards it has received, according to this BBC News article. Our sister blog, "Bloodthirsty Warmonger," jumped on the bandwagon early with this coverage, dated 13 October 2009. Or you can eliminate the middleman and proceed directly to the "Next to Normal" Web site.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Highly Sensitive People Have a Different Thought Process

Brain scan (left) - Highly sensitive (compared to less highly sensitive) individuals show greater brain activation in visual attention areas of the brain when making judgments of subtle changes in scenes.

SATURDAY, April 10 (HealthDay News) -- Because their brains process the world around them in a different way, introverted or shy people respond differently to physical and emotional stimuli than other people, according to a new study.

About 20 percent of people are "highly sensitive," an inborn trait that can be seen in children who are reserved, need little disciplining, cry easily, ask unusual questions or have especially deep thoughts, explained Elaine and Arthur Aron and colleagues from Stony Brook University in New York and in China....

UPDATE1: Dr. David Van Nuys interviews a leading expert on highly sensitive people, Dr. Ted Zeff, on Shrink Rap Radio.

UPDATE2: Our main interest in focusing on highly sensitive people is that their characteristics frequently overlap with the symptoms of depression.

Note to Holocaust Deniers: Have You Talked With These Survivors?

MSNBC ran this story set in Shaar Menashe Mental Health Center in northern Israel. It has patients suffering from PTSD and mental illness caused by their experiences in the Nazi concentration camps.

Today about 220,000 survivors are still alive in Israel. About 200 are in Shaar Menashe and the other two homes.

"These are the forgotten people. These are the ones who have been left behind, the people who have fallen between the cracks," said Rachel Tiram, the facility's longtime social worker.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Enemy Is Closer Than You Think

Health Day reminds the public that we have paid much attention to the threat posed to children by strangers - but not to relatives and friends of the family, who are more likely to rape, molest, or otherwise take advantage of your kids.

"At least 85 percent of the child sexual abuse is perpetrated by relatives, or by individuals who are known -- but not related -- to the child," study lead author Esther Deblinger, co-director of the Child Abuse Research Education and Services Institute at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey -- School of Osteopathic Medicine, said in a university new release.

"But more than 90 percent of parents in our survey identified strangers as the biggest danger when talking to their children about sexual abuse," Deblinger said. "More than a third of parents failed to identify adults the child knows and more than 55 percent did not mention relatives as potential abusers. These are essentially the same mistakes parents were making 25 years ago."

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Simple Facts on Panhandling

NOTE: These words of wisdom were written by a representative of a faith-based nonprofit in Colorado Springs; nevertheless, most of the advice applies to how to handle homeless people in general, many of whom suffer from mental illness. I could add from personal observation that most panhandlers are genuinely surprised when you offer them a chance to do some work or buy them a meal instead of handing them some money. Don't be startled or offended if they turn you down.

"The difference between what we are doing and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world’s problems." - Gandhi

Focus – On what matters most

Execution – Making it happen

Lyn Harwell
Springs Rescue Mission

What do you do when you see someone holding up a sign, "Will Work for Food"? Do you roll down your window and give them money? Do you pretend you didn't see them? Most people don’t like to be confronted by the homeless - their needs often seem too overwhelming - but we all want to treat them fairly and justly. Here are some simple guidelines to equip you to truly help the homeless people you meet:

1. Never give cash to a homeless person
Too often, well intended gifts are converted to drugs or alcohol - even when the "hard luck" stories they tell are true. If the person is hungry, buy them a sandwich and a beverage.

2. Talk to the person with respect
Taking time to talk to a homeless person in a friendly, respectful manner can give them a wonderful sense of civility and dignity. And besides being just neighborly, it gives the person a weapon to fight the isolation, depression and paranoia that many homeless people face.

3. Recognize that homeless people (and their problems) are not all the same
The homeless are as diverse as the colors of a rainbow. The person you meet may be a battered woman, an addicted veteran, someone who is lacking job skills...the list goes on.

4. Share God's love whenever you can
If Jesus were walking the earth today, He would certainly spend time with the homeless. He would speak with them, heal them, and help them. Today, Jesus chooses to work through those who believe and follow Him. Jesus instructs us all in Matthew 25 to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and visit the sick and imprisoned.

5. Pray for the homeless
Exposure to the elements, dirt, occasional violence, and lack of purpose all drain years from a person's life. God can use your prayers and the brutality and the futility of life of the street to bring many of the broken to Himself.

6. Take precautions for your own safety
Some living on the streets are criminals and fugitives running from the law. Always be prudent while talking with street people. Stay in areas where other people can see you. Don't take unnecessary chances.

7. Encourage the homeless to get help through your local Rescue Mission
Springs Rescue Mission offers immediate food, clothing and shelter referrals to the homeless. We offer free year-long rehabilitation programs that deal with the root causes of homeless. Marion House, and Salvation Army are other local providers that can help the homeless. Also, in El Paso county, you can simply dial “211” to receive a complete local listing of agencies offering services to those in crisis.

8. Print out and carry this Free Meal coupon [distributed by Springs Rescue Mission and other nonprofits] to give away
This coupon can be given to homeless people and can be exchanged at the Mission for a nutritious meal and a safe place to get out of the weather and to talk with counselors about further help and assistance.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

FAA Allows Pilots to Fly on Antidepressants!

A Wall Street Journal article announced:

"The Federal Aviation Administration will let some pilots who take four popular antidepressants [Prozac, Zoloft, Celexa or Lexapro] return to the skies, saying Friday that it is easing its long-standing ban on psychiatric medications.

"The old policy stemmed in part from concerns over possible side effects of psychiatric drugs, including sedation. But newer medications have fewer side effects, and pilots' associations have pressured the agency to reconsider the ban...."

Gene Mutation May be Linked to Schizophrenia

A Reuters/MSNBC article began with the words:

"A genetic mutation linked to schizophrenia appears to rupture communication between the two areas of the brain believed to be responsible for memory and may be an underlying cause of the brain disorder, U.S. researchers suggested in a study published on Wednesday...."

The connection with mood disorders: Persons affected by schizoaffective disorder have bipolar and schizophrenic symptoms, and this finding could affect the direction of research and treatment.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Where I Stand

Where I Stand, An Editorial
By Charles M. Sakai

You may be wondering, how can someone who’s a political conservative and can talk about the need for a strong defense all day long be a mental health advocate?

The explanation is quite simple: I am, above all, a pragmatist, more interested in what works than in any particular ideology. Both depression and bipolar disorder run in my family, and I myself have survived the agony and isolation of depressive episodes that lasted weeks or months at a time. That leaves two possibilities: I can either deny that there is anything wrong, meaning that those of my relatives who suffered and died because of these disorders did so in vain – or I can ask myself, “What lesson can we learn from our experience?” and try to make life better for people in similar situations as well as myself.

The fiscal conservative in me rankles at the waste of resources one finds whenever mental illness is criminalized. It takes more money to feed, clothe, guard, and medicate ONE inmate with a mental disorder than it does to fund the operations of DBSA [Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance] Colorado Springs for an entire year! And yet we have the potential to bless hundreds, even thousands of lives, so our operation is highly cost-effective.

I am not yoked to any single school of thought when it comes to treating mental illness. Unlike Freud, I don’t think it’s all about sex, and don’t always see the need to pry into the deep, dark secrets of an individual in order to help him or her. I do believe in treating the whole person, not the symptom, and that one must look at the patient as a human being with a genetic heritage, unique life experiences (usually of the dysfunctional variety), capacity for spiritual regeneration, and a propensity to suffer from chemical imbalances and/or defects in brain structure. I see a lot of merit in holistic medicine, as there is a definite mind-body connection that has been arbitrarily dismembered by traditional western medicine. So whatever works is fine with me.

My faith has instilled in me a strong sense of stewardship, not only for obvious responsibilities such as work, family, and friends, but also for the well-being of society. When I see someone who is poor, homeless, and struggling, my first impulse is to lend a helping hand rather than a kick in the teeth, thinking, “There but for the grace of God go I.” I’m convinced that we are obligated to help people who are less fortunate than ourselves, and will be accountable to our Maker for any sins of omission.

On the other hand, I am skeptical of government programs. Even when they’re well-funded, they have a one-size-fits-all mentality and lack the flexibility to respond to individual needs. Any program that promotes dependency rather than self-reliance is bad for the patient. Furthermore, it is the nature of government programs to perpetuate themselves and grow indefinitely, unless action is taken to prune away the excess. And we all know that politicians are fickle, more interested in which direction the winds of public opinion are blowing than in providing support and direction to the cause of mental health for all. It will not do for these programs to go through alternating periods of feast or famine, because the problem of mental illness is with us every day!

It should come as no surprise that I am friendly to therapies and programs that encourage people to become independent, contributing members of society. But if there is no other way, I will urge people who need government assistance to persevere in applying for SSI/SSDI and medical coverage from Social Security, as they usually decline applications the first time around, no matter how impressive the documentation, to discourage parasites trying to game the system. Sometimes one may need to call in a lawyer to expedite the process

There is much we can do as individuals to further the cause. The basic building block of progress is strengthening the family. A history of abuse and lack of coping skills are common denominators for many “mental” cases. Also, a thorough physical is a standard procedure in any well-run hospital; your mental problem may not be all “in your head,” and could well have a physical cause. Be prepared to educate all those who are willing to hear and enlist their cooperation in your own recovery. I know, this is easier said than done, but this has to be our starting point. We also need to continue teaching, encouraging, and empowering individuals to where they can start rebuilding their lives. A greater challenge is educating members of the news media and even the medical field, as they are usually the ones with the most entrenched prejudices against people with mental disorders. It may sound like a harsh judgment to charge them with perpetuating the stigma against mental illness, but they hold the keys to changing public perceptions, and I have not heard them turning in our behalf.

Although I accept the wisdom of DBSA choosing to limit its involvement in the political process (leaving advocacy mainly to NAMI and other organizations), we can still act as individuals. So much attention has been paid to bad politics, corruption, and general sleaziness that we often forget that there is a positive side. By getting involved, we can see to it that the strong do not prey on the weak, and that our elected officials do not sell themselves to the highest bidder. These two undesirable situations seem to be the default position whenever the public slips into apathy.

Politics is a craft like any other. Regardless of what party you’re affiliated with, there are certain things that need to be done: literature to be written, printed, and distributed, hands to shake, people to meet, and relationships to be established. Above all, we must always be aware of the needs, dreams, and aspirations of the public. Before we can run candidates for elective office who are willing to promote our cause, we should populate the political parties with foot-soldiers who mingle with so-called “normal” party members and convince them that we can be contributing members of society.

Grassroots, letter-writing campaigns are another way to get the attention of office-holders. As long as each letter is individually written (politicians have gotten wise to generic, computer-generated letters or e-mails) they are justified in believing that for each person who takes the trouble to write, there are many others who are in agreement, but didn’t get around to putting their thoughts on paper.

The choice is clear: we can either keep spinning our wheels, and leave our fate to the decisions of people who lack understanding – or we can seize destiny by the neck and fight for the dignity, respect, and opportunity that are rightfully ours. We have the talent and organizational ability – what we need is the will and energy to sustain this effort.

(This essay was originally written for a conservative publication in May 2007, but is not partisan.)