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Category: mental illness

There are only two things you need to know about medicines and ADHD:

Some kids get medicine when they shouldn't. And some kids don't get medicine when they should.

The first of those is reported over and over and over again. The second is almost never mentioned.

The New York...

There are only two things you need to know about medicines and ADHD:

Some kids get medicine when they shouldn't. And some kids don't get medicine when they should.

The first of those is reported over and over and over again. The second is almost never mentioned.

The New York Times has run a series of stories, mostly on the front page, about the overuse of ADHD medications. You will rarely find it mention--even in passing--the tragedy of children with ADHD who are not getting treatment that would help them.

If it sounds as though I'm taking sides, it's only to fight back against the widespread prejudice among journalists that the problem with drugs and ADHD is solely a problem of overmedication. I don't know how to diagnose ADHD, I don't know what medicines to use to treat it, and I'm not advocating more use of medication...

Andrew Solomon, the author of The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression, has done what I think is the first interview with the father of Adam Lanza since the December...

Andrew Solomon, the author of The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression, has done what I think is the first interview with the father of Adam Lanza since the December, 2012 day when Adam killed his mother, 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School, and himself. The interview appears online at The New Yorker.

Solomon elicits some riveting admissions and observations from Peter Lanza, who ultimately tells Solomon he wishes Adam had never been born. "That didn’t come right away. That’s not a natural thing, when you’re thinking about your kid. But, God, there’s no question," he said.

Peter showed Solomon a picture of himself with Adam and his brother, Ryan, who was initially suspected to be the killer. "One thing that struck me about that picture is that it's clear...

In the nearly two decades since he declared the end of science, the science writer John Horgan is still finding things to...

In the nearly two decades since he declared the end of science, the science writer John Horgan is still finding things to write about, which suggests that reports of science's death were greatly exaggerated.

We're fortunate that Horgan is still in the game, because he's a most intelligent and thoughtful contrarian. I always find him interesting to read, although it's a rather curious experience. I agree with much of what he writes, but I rarely come to the same conclusions.

His Aug. 20 takedown of optogenetics in his Scientific American blog is a case in point. Optogenetics is a new technique in which neurons...

Even when research shows that stimulants such as Ritalin and Adderall given to children with ADHD do nothingAlan Schwarz at The New York Times finds a way to slam the drugs once again.

In...

Even when research shows that stimulants such as Ritalin and Adderall given to children with ADHD do nothingAlan Schwarz at The New York Times finds a way to slam the drugs once again.

In a story in yesterday's Times, Schwarz reports that a new study has found that children with ADHD who take stimulants "do not have a lower risk over all for later substance abuse." This, he reports, contradicts "the longstanding and influential message" that the drugs "tend to deter" later abuse of other drugs.

Note the negative message: The drugs, thought to deter later drug abuse, do not do so.

Indeed, Schwarz argues, the drugs actually encourage later drug abuse. He writes that prescribing...

Last week, I chastised New Scientist for describing...

Last week, I chastised New Scientist for describing a blog post from the National Institute of Mental Health as "a bombshell."

Andy Coughlan and Sara Reardon wrote the following lede off of the post, written by the NIMH director, Thomas Insel:

The world's biggest mental health research institute is abandoning the new version of psychiatry's "bible" – the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, questioning its validity and stating that "patients with mental...

Michelle Boorstein, a religion writer at The Washington Post, writes that following the...

Michelle Boorstein, a religion writer at The Washington Post, writes that following the suicide of the son of the megachurch pastor Rick Warren, "evangelical Christian leaders have begun a national conversation about how their beliefs might sometimes stigmatize those who struggle with mental illness."

Matthew Warren, who was 27, shot himself Friday, shocking even many close friends of his father's, who didn't know that his son "had long been suicidal," Boorstein writes.

Boorstein's story reports that evangelical leaders are calling "for an end to the shame and secrecy that still surrounds mental illness." The story portrays this as a welcome willingness to deal with an issue long...

[Update: adds mention of Time magazine story.]

A team of researchers who analyzed genetic data on 33,000 people with mental illness and 28,000 controls discovered that the five most common mental illnesses--depression, autism, attention-deficit disorder, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder--share...

[Update: adds mention of Time magazine story.]

A team of researchers who analyzed genetic data on 33,000 people with mental illness and 28,000 controls discovered that the five most common mental illnesses--depression, autism, attention-deficit disorder, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder--share some of the same genetic abnormalities.

The finding, while it does not immediately lead to better treatment for any of these severe illnesses, does move researchers closer to understanding their causes. As Lauran Neergaard wrote for the AP:

"These disorders that we thought of as quite different may not have such sharp boundaries," said Dr. Jordan Smoller of Massachusetts General Hospital, one of the lead researchers for the international study appearing in The Lancet.

...

On Sunday, Mark Roth of the Pittzburgh Post-Gazette launched an ambitious three-part series on schizophrenia, looking at its toll on...

On Sunday, Mark Roth of the Pittzburgh Post-Gazette launched an ambitious three-part series on schizophrenia, looking at its toll on individuals; the efforts to understand and treat the disease; and its connection to violent behavior. 

The series is part of an even bigger project, a year-long effort to explore five brain disorders. In addition to schizophrenia, they are autism, depression, phobias, and chronic  traumatic encephalopathy, the disorder that is now increasingly being found in former football players. This is a stunning exercise in advance planning, and it apparently means that Roth can't take a day off until sometime in 2014. It might also mean that Roth's services will not be available for spot news coverage of mental illness or other medical stories. But that is the...

Many people think there are no answers to the problem of violence and mental illness, including such journalist luminaries as Gwen Ifill of PBS Newshour. As I've noted here, that's not the case;...

Many people think there are no answers to the problem of violence and mental illness, including such journalist luminaries as Gwen Ifill of PBS Newshour. As I've noted here, that's not the case; her brief commentary on the issue was wrong

Now David Brown of The Washington Post shows up with a story that makes my point. He reports that there is a lot known about the links between mental illness and violence, and that researchers have identified things--such as alcohol and drug abuse--that can increase the risk of violence in people who are mentally ill. 

Spoiler: No, there is no screening test that will...

In November, I praised "a chilling story" by Peter Whoriskey in The Washington Post [that] shows how drug companies have misused their influence and their expertise to corrupt...

In November, I praised "a chilling story" by Peter Whoriskey in The Washington Post [that] shows how drug companies have misused their influence and their expertise to corrupt and distort research on new drugs." It was an important piece.

Now he is back with another pharmaceutical industry story, which leads with whether antidepressants should be prescribed to people suffering from grief such as that produced by the loss of a spouse. This time, I think Whoriskey has missed something important.

Both stories are part of a Post special report entitled "Can Medical Research Be Trusted?" These are important stories, and we need this kind of tough reporting on the powerful pharmaceutical industry. The stories detail suspicious practices by the pharmaceutical industry that have led to increased profits--sometimes at the...

It now appears that Washington will engage in a debate over gun control, and possibly go beyond a feckless "national conversation" and actually do something. Gun control is on the agenda: but beware who is controlling the agenda.

Much of the talk in the first two business days after the Newtown, CT...

It now appears that Washington will engage in a debate over gun control, and possibly go beyond a feckless "national conversation" and actually do something. Gun control is on the agenda: but beware who is controlling the agenda.

Much of the talk in the first two business days after the Newtown, CT shooting involves suggestions to restrict the use of guns by people with mental illness, as reported in Science Times by Richard A. Friedman, a professor of psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College in Manhattan and a regular Times contributor.

It's hard to argue with that. Guns shouldn't be in the hands of crazy people who are likely to use them to commit murder. But there are two problems with this emerging "national conversation" about guns and mental illness. 

First,...

Before we says anything about Newtown, a moment of silence.

As science reporters sit down at their desks on this very sad Monday morning (I'm sure I'm not the only one still in the emotional grip of this thing), we need to get to work. It's essential that we do not hand over this story to the...

Before we says anything about Newtown, a moment of silence.

As science reporters sit down at their desks on this very sad Monday morning (I'm sure I'm not the only one still in the emotional grip of this thing), we need to get to work. It's essential that we do not hand over this story to the political reporters, who will be interested in which party has leverage on gun control, how the NRA is mobilizing, what the prospects are for passage of a gun-control bill, and whether opponents of a bill will predicate their support on cuts in health care or entitlements or another unrelated issue. Political reporters are more likely than science reporters to repeat, without challenge, the myth and misinformation that will surely bubble from politicians' mouths.

There is plenty for science reporters to write about here. Why are the killers so often young adult men? What is it about schools that has led them to replace post offices as frequent scenes of mass...

On his director's blog, Thomas R. Insel, the director of the National Institute of Mental Health, has listed what, in his view, were the top 10 advances in mental health and neuroscience in 2012. It's an interesting list not only because of what it includes, but because Insel shares...

On his director's blog, Thomas R. Insel, the director of the National Institute of Mental Health, has listed what, in his view, were the top 10 advances in mental health and neuroscience in 2012. It's an interesting list not only because of what it includes, but because Insel shares his interpretations and some brief ruminations on the findings, along with his suggestions of what is likely to continue to be important in the coming years.

Manipulating the epigenome to treat brain disorders is one intriguing development that I missed. I also liked his description of 2012 as "the year of genomic weirdness," which apparently is some sort of technical term. Under "weird," he includes the notion that "cancer might be a useful model for understanding autism or schizophrenia," that women can carry their offspring's cells in their brains, and that "microDNA segments could be transmitted independently of chromosomes...

Tim is a 27-year-old homeless man you might encounter on the streets of San Francisco. He's tall, gaunt, and unshaven, with wild curly hair. People who see him are afraid of him.

You might wonder where his family is. Why don't they take him in? Tim's father, Paul Gionfriddo, is a...

Tim is a 27-year-old homeless man you might encounter on the streets of San Francisco. He's tall, gaunt, and unshaven, with wild curly hair. People who see him are afraid of him.

You might wonder where his family is. Why don't they take him in? Tim's father, Paul Gionfriddo, is a former Connecticut state legislator who served as the legislature's expert on mental health. How is it possible that he cannot get treatment--and find a home--for his son?

In a moving article in Health Affairs, Gionfriddo blames the policies that he helped create:

..it’s the policies of my generation of policy makers that put that adorable toddler—now a troubled adult, six feet, five inches tall—on the street. And unless something changes, the policies of today’s generation of policy makers are what will keep him there...

The authors of an article on the website of Scientific American Mind are entitled to their opinion on whether or not children can get bipolar disorder. They are not entitled to dress up their...

The authors of an article on the website of Scientific American Mind are entitled to their opinion on whether or not children can get bipolar disorder. They are not entitled to dress up their opinion as reporting.

The article, by  Scott O. Lilienfeld and Hal Arkowitz, is headlined "Do Kids Get Bipolar Disorder?" That promises a broad examination of the topic. But that's not what we get.

The authors begin their story with a boy with behavior problems. But he's a fabrication. The story begins: "Imagine an eight-year old boy whom we will call Eric..." Imagination is a beautiful thing, but we should be wary of imagining characters in nonfiction. (Although it's a lot easier than finding real kids.)

They then recite statistics showing that the diagnosis of bipolar disorder in children has risen sharply in...