Update: Massachusetts Benzodiazepine Bill Hearing

The hearing for Bill H4062: Informed Consent for Benzodiazepines and Non-benzodiazepine Hypnotics took place on Monday – in the middle of an April snowstorm! The discussion clarified some important points in the legislation and gave survivors an opportunity to tell their stories. I was so proud to be there and witness the courage, camaraderie, resilience, advocacy, and vulnerability of fellow survivors. This legislation is our chance to be heard. As one survivor said, through tears, to the committee, “Do not let my suffering be in vain. I beg you to pass this bill.”
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“Social Media Use and Depression Linked in Large Study”

New research coming out of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine suggests that the more time young adults spend on social media, the more likely they are to be depressed.  “Participants who spent the most total time on social media had 1.7 times the risk of depression, compared with those who spent less time on social media sites.”

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Air Pollution Exposure During Pregnancy Linked to Emotional and Behavioral Problems in Childhood

Prenatal exposure to air pollution, known as PAH (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons), is associated with ADHD symptoms, anxiety, inattention, and poor self-regulation in children, according to a new study in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. Researchers at the Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Health found that the common emissions from motor vehicles, power generation, smoking, and coal may lead to poor social skills and difficulty managing emotions and impulses.

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“Young Americans Have Been Getting More Anxious and Depressed, Why?”

According to Jesse Singal, “ever since the 1930s, young people in America have reported feeling increasingly anxious and depressed. And no one knows exactly why.” Researchers speculate that “modern life doesn’t give us as many opportunities to spend time with people and connect with them, at least in person, compared to, say, 80 years ago or 100 years ago.”

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 “Why are More Children Being Prescribed Antidepressants? Funding Cuts”

Eleanor Morgan writes in the Guardian opinions that the long waiting times for talk therapy and the increasing use of drugs in the UK is a result of the declining budget for child and adolescent mental health services. According to a leaked report, on average, a child had to wait twenty-one weeks (nearly half a year) to see a mental health specialist.

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Relatively Younger Age Leads to ADHD Diagnosis

A study of 378,881 subjects aged 4-17 years by the Taiwan National Health Insurance Research Database found that the likelihood of receiving an ADHD diagnosis and treatment was higher for those born in August (the youngest) compared with those who were born in September (the oldest). The researchers conclude that "relative age, as an indicator of neurocognitive maturity, is crucial in the risk of being diagnosed with ADHD and receiving ADHD medication among children and adolescents. Our findings emphasize the importance of considering the age of a child within a grade when diagnosing ADHD and prescribing medication for treating ADHD."

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Is Long-term Use of Benzodiazepines a Risk for Cancer?

A large study of the population in Taiwan reveals that long-term use of benzodiazepine drugs, commonly prescribed for anxiety, significantly increases the risk for brain, colorectal, and lung cancers. The research, published open-access in the journal Medicine, also identifies the types of benzodiazepines that carry the greatest cancer risk.

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“Study Links Mobile Device Addiction to Depression and Anxiety”

A study published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior found that addictions to mobile devices are linked to anxiety and depression in college students. "People who self-described as having really addictive style behaviors toward the Internet and cellphones scored much higher on depression and anxiety scales," according to the researchers.

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Benzodiazepine Prescriptions Increase with Overdose Deaths

A recent article in the American Journal of Public Health calls for policy level interventions to reduce the use of benzodiazepines, drugs commonly prescribed for anxiety, after presenting data on their increased use and the high rate of overdose deaths. Tracking medical data from 1996 to 2013, the researchers conclude the benzodiazepine prescriptions and overdose deaths have increased considerably.

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In Case You Missed This

On November 12th, 2015, the third anniversary of the day that I abruptly stopped taking benzodiazepines, my dear friend, J. Doe, published a two-part article here on Mad in America examining the language that is commonly used to describe benzodiazepine (benzo) iatrogenesis. I wanted a summary of these articles captured in a Youtube video so that those in the thick of benzo neurotoxicity could tune into these ideas in a way that might be more easily digestible. I hoped more benzo sufferers would begin to question how they describe (and allow others to describe) an illness that remains decades behind in understanding and recognition. I also wanted to draw attention to the content again in hopes that more medical professionals would read and understand the crucial distinctions in language surrounding this problem.
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“Too Many PA Foster Children are on Psychiatric Meds”

For Philly.com, staff writer Stacey Burling reports on the PolicyLab analysis of psychiatric drug use among Pennsylvania children on Medicaid.  “Many children in foster care have already been abused or neglected, then are taken from the only family they have known. Inappropriately prescribing them medications compounds their problems."

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Omega-3 Screening for Psychiatric Symptoms?

There is a substantial body of evidence suggesting that not getting enough omega-3 fatty acids in your diet may be connected to a diverse array of psychiatric symptoms. In a new study published this month, psychiatrist Robert McNamara and Erik Messamore provide an overview of the evidence and call for screening of omega-3 deficiency in people experiencing symptoms associated with ADHD, depression, mood disorders, and psychosis.

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“Sugar May be as Damaging to the Brain as Extreme Stress or Abuse”

“The fact that drinking sugar or exposure to early life stress reduced the expression of genes critical for brain development and growth is of great concern.”

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Therapy Changes the Brain, Reduces Anxiety

After undergoing a nine-week cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) treatment for social anxiety, patients show changes to both the physical structure of their brain and its activity, according to a new study published in Translational Psychiatry. The amygdala is most closely associated with the experience of fear and this study found that patients receiving CBT with reduced social anxiety had significant changes to this section of the brain.

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“Is It Her Hormones?” A Case of Psychiatry Missing the Mark

The case of “Beth” depicts, almost innocently, the trials and tribulations of a well-adjusted, talented 15-year-old who developed depression, paranoia, panic attacks, and self-injurious and homicidal behavior, and “bipolar disorder” after being prescribed antidepressants, and then antipsychotics. After Beth decided – on her own – to discontinue psychotropic medications in favor of hormone therapy, she remained free of psychiatric symptoms.
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“I am 16 and the Education System is Destroying my Health”

“This is an article about how our education system is ruining young people’s lives. Nobody is listening to the teachers who say it, so perhaps someone will listen to me,” sixteen-year-old Orli writes in the Guardian. “Nothing is so important that it’s worth risking your health over, not even the piece of paper you get, age 16, to tell you whether or not you’re good enough.”

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Anxiety: The Price We Pay for Consciousness

In his NY Times article “A Drug to Cure Fear,” Richard Friedman noted: “It has been an article of faith in neuroscience and psychiatry that, once formed, emotional memories are permanent.” This has not been a principle of these disciplines, including clinical psychology, for many years. Consolidation-reconsolidation-extinction models have been around for some time now, applied in particular to persons suffering from traumatic memories; e.g., Holocaust survivors, war and genocide survivors, etc.
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Storytelling Therapy for Trauma and Bullying

A study out of the University of Buffalo explores the use of Narrative Exposure Therapy to treat youth PTSD and substance abuse. “Trauma is like a book on a shelf full of memories that a person has no control over in terms of when or how it is experienced,” says Volpe, PhD, assistant professor in the UB School of Nursing. “Narrative exposure therapy helps reestablish the link between memories that were destroyed by trauma, allowing people to have more control over the book.”

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“Cortisol Levels in Children’s Hair May Reveal Future Mental Health Risk”

The Guardian covers research out of Australia that found that levels of the “stress hormone” cortisol in the hair of 70 nine-year-old children corresponded to the number of traumatic events experienced by the child. “Childhood is an imperative and sensitive period of development, and when things go wrong it can have lifelong consequences, not just on mental health, but also on general health.”

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Experts Decry Dangerous Use of Antipsychotics in Children

In a featured article for Psychiatric Services, psychiatrists from Dartmouth raise the alarm on the increasing numbers of children prescribed dangerous antipsychotic drugs. Despite the fact that data on the safety of long-term use of these drugs in this vulnerable population “do not exist,” the rate of children and adolescents being prescribed antipsychotic drugs have continued to increase over the past fifteen years.

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“Is the Drive for Success Making Our Children Sick?”

In the SundayReview section of the New York Times Vicki Abeles discusses Stuat Slavin’s research on depression and anxiety in US schools. “Many of the health effects are apparent now, but many more will echo through the lives of our children,” says Richard Scheffler, a health economist at the University of California, Berkeley.

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“Why Are So Many Children on Antipsychotic Drugs?”

“Do they make people less aggressive? Yes, sometimes they do. Will they sedate people? Absolutely. Will they make kids easier to manage? They will,” Robert Whitaker tells Liz Spikol for Philadelphia Magazine. “But I know of no study that shows that medicating these kids long-term will help them grow up and thrive. The developing brain is a very delicate thing. The narrative is that these side effects are mild, and that’s just not true, and that the benefits are well-established, and so often they’re not.”

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Being Bullied by Age Eight Linked to Depression in Adulthood

There is a growing body of evidence suggesting that being exposed to bullying in childhood can contribute to mental health problems later in life. In a new study, published in JAMA Psychiatry, the researchers found that children who reported being bullied at age eight were significantly more likely to seek treatment for mental health problems by age twenty-nine.

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“Wage Gap May Help Explain Why More Women Are Anxious and Depressed Than Men”

“According to a new study, the consequences of this wage gap extend beyond the checking account: women who earn less than their male peers are at greater risk for anxiety and depression than those who are fairly compensated.”

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“Was Sexism Really Responsible for the FDA’s Hesitancy to Sign Off on Flibanserin?”

“The Food and Drug Administration’s approval of pharmaceutical treatment for low sexual desire in women has launched a heated debate over the dangers and benefits of medicalizing sex,” Maya Dusenbery writes in the Pacific Standard. Is “female Viagra” a feminist victory or a product of clever faux-feminist marketing by Big Pharma?

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