Media madness for Tuesday

Reading material from the last few days:

  • The Carlat Psychiatry Blog: The Psychiatrists Whupped the Psychologists — Daniel Carlat gives some tantalizing ideas about his new book — In doing so, I felt a bit like Salman Rushdie, whose 1988 book, Satanic Verses, so unnerved the Islamic orthodoxy that the Ayatollah Khomeini issued Rushdie a fatwa (a death sentence). My own version of “Satanic Verses” is called Unhinged: The Trouble with Psychiatry (Simon and Schuster, due out May 18, but who’s counting?). The book is not about psychologists prescribing, but rather about the loss of psychotherapy from psychiatry. Nonetheless, it will likely enrage more than a few psychiatric jihadists, because in the last chapter I outline my prescription for reform, and it involves a fairly radical restructuring of psychiatric training. In this scheme, psychiatrists will be more competent than they are now, but they will unfortunately lose two crucial letters after their names: an “M” and a “D.” I anticipate some resistance.


  • Jerry Siegel, Ph.D.: Are Sleeping Pills Good For You? — This is about benzos and the Z-drugs (Ambien, Lunesta) that are related to benzos. Yeah, they’re all fraught with problems. — Most sleeping pills are taken to relieve insomnia. According to several epidemiological studies, people with insomnia either do not have any marked shortening of lifespan relative to those reporting normal sleep or actually have a somewhat increased lifespan (see my prior blog “How Much Sleep Do We Actually Need”). — Many cases of insomnia are linked to depression. However, studies in which insomnia subjects were randomly assigned to either placebo or benzodiazepine sleeping pills, reported that the rate of depression was doubled in those who took sleeping pills (6). Suicide rates are increased in those who had taken hypnotic mediations (7). Benzodiazepines were reported to have caused 3.8 percent of all deaths by drug overdose (8). Other troubling consequences of sleeping pill use are memory problems, falls, aggressiveness, and confusion. Sleepwalking, sleep eating and driving while not fully awake are common side effects (9, 10). Those taking sleeping pills can be expected to feel a short term relief from insomnia when they first begin taking the pills. However, short term usage frequently leads to chronic usage and dependence (11). — The most troubling consequence of chronic sleeping pill is an apparent reduction in lifespan in chronic sleeping pills users relative to those reporting equivalent insomnia who did not take sleeping pills. Chronic sleeping pill use might be roughly comparable to cigarette smoking in its effect on lifespan. The life shortening effect of chronic sleeping pill usage has now been reported in at least 12 studies published in respected peer reviewed publications. Two studies have reported no effect of hypnotic usage on lifespan. No study has reported any lifespan or overall health benefit of chronic sleeping pill usage, which is striking considering that so much of the research on sleeping pills is funded by the drug companies producing them.
  • Mind Hacks: Psychosis podcast and the Mind Hacks recursion — Voices are part of normal human experience, but people don’t know it. — The research was motivated by the fact that although anomalous psychosis-like experiences are common (for example, about a third of people report naturally occurring hallucinations) those who end up in front of mental health professionals are more likely to have assumed that these psychological distortions are uncontrollable, unacceptable or dangerous. — Imagine if you started occasionally hearing voices. The majority of people who hear voices don’t become mentally ill, they’re absolutely fine. But if you didn’t know this you might automatically think you were ‘going mad’ or ‘losing your mind’ and become, understandably, very distressed.
  • Patriot Ledger Rebecca Riley’s doctor on the defenseNow the spotlight is on the controversial doctor who testified in both trials in exchange for immunity. Kifuji and her employer, Tufts Medical Center, face a malpractice lawsuit filed by Norwell attorney Brian Clerkin, the court-appointed administrator for Rebecca’s estate, which was created for the benefit Rebecca’s brother and sister, who are now 14 and 9.

About Monica Cassani

Author/Editor Beyond Meds: Everything Matters