News Roundup From June

Robert Whitaker
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There are a number of bloggers that regularly send out news of the latest findings reported in psychiatric journals and other media, and I thought it might be helpful to periodically post summaries of those reports. Here’s a brief recap of notable findings from June:

1) Psychotropics can cause eye problems.

S. Richa. “Ocular adverse effects of common psychotropic agents.” CNS Drugs 24 (2010): 501-26.

All psychotropic drugs may induce numerous and diverse unwanted ocular effects. These unwanted effects include blurred vision, galucoma, retinopathy, eye-movement disorders, and decreased ability to perceive colors and to discriminate contrast.

2) It’s easy for college students to fake ADHD

MJ Sollman, “Detection of feigned ADHD in college students.” Psychol Assess 22 (2010): 325-35.

In this study by University of Kentucky researchers, college students, after briefly reviewing information about ADHD on the Internet, were able to successfully “fake” ADHD symptoms and thus obtain a prescription for a stimulant. “The study confirms that self-report ADHD checklists . . . are probably of no value in differentiating individuals with ADHD from those faking the disorder,” the researchers concluded.

3) Britain reports 1.5 million “involuntary addicts” to benzodiazepines

The Independent newspaper reported that there were1.5 million people in Britain addicted to benzodiazepines, and noted that “prolong use causes symptoms which could result in patients being unable to work.” People trying to withdraw from the addictive drugs can “get very ill,” the paper said.

(This is the sort of story that is virtually never reported in U.S. newspapers.)

4) Male neonates of mothers diagnosed with schizophrenia (and treated with antipsychotics) have abnormal brain volumes.

J. Gilmore. “Prenatal and neonatal brain structure and white matter maturation in children at high risk for schizophrenia.” American Journal of Psychiatry, published in advance online, June 1,2010.

In this NIMH-funded study, researchers reported that male neonates born to mothers diagnosed and treated for schizophrenia were found to have “several larger than normal brain volumes.” The researchers concluded that this was evidence that “prenatal and early neonatal brain development is abnormal in males at genetic risk for schizophrenia. “

 In other words, researchers saw this abnormality as evidence of a “schizophrenic” process already underway in the male neonates. But the mothers diagnosed with schizophrenia in this study were taking antipsychotics, which are known to cause changes in brain volumes. Thus, it may be that the abnormalities seen in the brains of the male neonates were due to the drugs, rather than to any underlying genetic risk for schizophrenia.

The female neonates born to mothers diagnosed with schizophrenia did not have “larger than normal brain volumes,” which of course leads to further doubt about any conclusions that can be drawn from this study.

 

Monday, July 5, 2010