In this month’s issue of the journal Brain a new study investigates whether the drugs prescribed to control seizures can increase the risk of psychotic symptoms in some people. After reviewing over ten years of medical records of patients treated for epilepsy, the researchers concluded that up to one in seven cases of patients with epilepsy who were later diagnosed with psychosis could be attributed to an adverse effect of the anti-epileptic drugs.
Throughout the ages, convulsions, contortions of the body and face, including the tongue, super-human strength, catatonic periods, long periods of wakefulness or sleep, insensitivity to pain, speaking in tongues, and a predilection for self-injurious behaviours have all been offered as physical evidence of possession. The modern day interpretation, however, comes with a plot twist befitting a media spectacle. There is growing consensus in the medical community that many prior accounts of “demonic possession” may have represented original accounts of what is now broadly known as autoimmune encephalitis.
Despite the fact that clinical practice guidelines specifically recommend against the use of more than one antipsychotic at once, new research reveals that as many as 12% of all psychiatric patients are discharged with multiple prescriptions for these drugs. The latest study, published open-access this week in the Journal of Psychiatric Practice, finds that the prescription of multiple antipsychotics continues to be an issue affecting nearly ten thousand patients every year in psychiatric hospitals alone.
Long-term treatment with antipsychotic drugs is currently considered the standard treatment for patients diagnosed with ‘schizophrenia.’ A new study challenges this practice, however. The results, published this month in Psychological Medicine, reveal that patients who were not taking antipsychotic drugs had significantly higher levels of functioning than medicated patients.
Many experts expressed concern when the rate of antipsychotic prescriptions to children in foster care showed a rapid increase, peaking in 2008, and new recommendations and policies have tried to curb the use of these drugs. While the rate has plateaued, a new study points out that the “new normal” prescription levels are still dangerously high. The data reveals that almost one in ten children in foster care are currently being prescribed antipsychotic drugs with dangerous side-effects, many for diagnoses like ‘ADHD’ and disruptive behavior.
A new study, published in BMJ Open-Access this week, found a significant link between the level of air pollution in a community and the mental health of the children living there. After controlling for socio-economic status and other potential variables, researchers in Sweden discovered a strong association between the concentration of air pollution in a neighborhood and the amount of ‘antipsychotic’ and psychiatric drugs prescribed to children. The link remained strong even at pollution levels well below half of what is considered acceptable by the World Health Organization (WHO).
In the first study of its kind, researchers from Finland found the “most definitive evidence to date” that smoking during pregnancy is associated with the eventual diagnosis of schizophrenia in offspring. After controlling for other potential variables, the study, published ahead of print in The American Journal of Psychiatry, revealed a 38% increased odds of developing symptoms diagnosed as schizophrenia in young adults who were exposed to high levels of nicotine in utero.
For The Conversation, psychologist John Done, from the University of Hertfordshire, explains his approach to discussing delusions with his patients. Done recommends more qualitative research on semi-structured interviews that get the patient to assess the rationality of their beliefs.
A new study in press in the Journal of Schizophrenia Research finds that patients who actively resist the negative stigma associated with mental health diagnoses may have better outcomes. According to the researcher's meta-analysis of previous studies, stigma resistance is related to reduced symptoms and improved functioning, self-efficacy, quality of life, recovery, and hope.
A new study out of Kings College London found that twelve sessions of a group mindfulness-based therapy relieved distress associated with hearing voices while reducing depression over the long-term. The person-based cognitive therapy (PBCT) intervention had significant effects on depression, voice distress, voice controllability and overall recovery.
The producers of “Healing Voices” ‐ a new social action documentary about mental health ‐ are releasing the film via community screening partners in a coordinated global event. The movie will screen in more than 130 locations across the US, Canada, UK, New Zealand, and Australia on and around April 29th as part of the movie’s “ONE NIGHT, ONE VOICE” grass roots release.
Why, despite the fact that the vast majority of people diagnosed with a mental illness have suffered from some form of childhood trauma, is it still so difficult to talk about? Why, despite the enormous amount of research about the impact of trauma on the brain and subsequent effect on behaviour, does there seem to be such an extraordinary refusal for the implication of this research to change attitudes towards those who are mentally ill? Why, when our program and others like it have shown people can heal from the effects of trauma, are so many people left with the self-blame and the feeling they will never get better that my colleague writes about below?
A new study out of the University of Manchester found that personalized exercise programs significantly reduced the symptoms of young people suffering from their first episode of psychosis. Researchers also conducted an accompanying qualitative analysis and found that the participants experienced improved mental health, confidence, and a sense of achievement and felt that autonomy and social support were critical to their success.
A new study to be published in the next issue of Schizophrenia Research examines patients suffering from a first-episode of psychosis who stop taking any antipsychotic drugs. The researchers attempt to identify variables that may predict the successful discontinuation of antipsychotics. They find, for example, that those who discontinue the drugs have, on average, the same outcomes as those who stay on them, and that those who have better social integration are more likely to discontinue without relapse.
Columnist Nev Jones writes about the lack of adequate care for people in the US experiencing a first-episode of psychosis. “Evidence-based (or informed) psychotherapies for psychosis are widely unavailable in the U.S., and clinicians often lack any training in psychosocial approaches specific to voices and other specific symptoms.,” she writes. “Family members are provided little or nothing in the way of targeted supports, and warnings to ‘get (a loved one) on SSI as soon as possible since they will likely be disabled for life’ are the norm rather than reassurance and encouragement that recovery is not only likely, but what families should expect.”
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."
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.
A pathbreaking new study out of Finland suggests that early intervention programs for youth experiencing psychotic-like symptoms may see the greatest improvement when treatment works within the home rather than in a hospital setting. The research, to be published in next month’s issue of Psychiatry Research, found greater improvement in functioning, depression, and hopelessness among teens in a new need-adapted Family and Community oriented Integrative Treatment Model (FCTM) program.
A study published in this month’s issue of the Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology found that perceived discrimination related to minority status may precede the emergence of psychosis. These findings support social defeat theory, which explains that chronic feelings of outsider status or subordination may lead to a sensitization of the dopamine system and the experience of psychotic symptoms.
"It's no secret that stimulant medications such as Adderall that are prescribed to treat symptoms of ADHD are sometimes used as 'study drugs' aimed at boosting cognitive performance. And emergency room visits linked to misuse of the drug are on the rise, according to a study published Tuesday in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.”
Benedict Carey of the New York Times reports on the success of new schizophrenia and psychosis programs that provide family counseling and job and educational supports and treat patients as equals in decisions about care. “One way to think about it is to ask, if this program were a drug, would we pay for it? And the answer is yes.”
"Eleanor Longden started hearing voices when she was 18. She was drugged and hospitalised, then told she was schizophrenic. A psychiatrist even told her she would have been better off with cancer, because it would have been easier to cure. Most people assume mental illness is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. But, she argues, mental illness is not random, it is a response to traumas we have been through in the past"
MIA contributor Jonathan Leo, writing for Slate, weighs in on the research that claims to have discovered a genetic basis for schizophrenia. “We now know that biomarkers or specific genes for psychological conditions do not exist, that this research will not lead to magic pharmacological bullets, and that many of our assumptions about mental illness were wrong,” he writes. “The message for the psychiatry community is to rethink how it treats patients, how it allocates research money, and its emphasis on the biological treatments of psychological conditions.”
Last week, the headlines blared: “Schizophrenia breakthrough as genetic study reveals link to brain changes!” We heard that our best hope for treating “schizophrenia” is to understand it at a genetic level, and that this new breakthrough would get us really started on that mission, as it showed how a genetic variation could lead to the more intense pruning of brain connections, which is often seen in those diagnosed with schizophrenia. “For the first time, the origin of schizophrenia is no longer a complete black box,” said one (while admitting that “it’s still early days”). The acting director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) described the study as “a crucial turning point in the fight against mental illness.” But is all this hype justified?
In a study published yesterday, researchers from the Nippon Medical School in Tokyo bring attention to a condition known as neuroleptic-induced deficit syndrome (NIDS) brought on by the adverse mental effects of antipsychotic drugs. They express concern that NIDS can resemble the negative symptoms associated with schizophrenia and psychosis, leading to misdiagnosis and ineffective treatments.
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