Saturday, January 3, 2009

72-Hour Observations

Weekend Psych News

CNN wants therapy records on mother
CNN host Nancy Grace and lawyers for the network are seeking the mental health treatment records of a patient to defend themselves against a wrongful death lawsuit. Melinda Duckett had reported her toddler missing in August 2006. Following news coverage about the event, the 21-year-old mother committed suicide, triggering a wrongful death lawsuit from Duckett's family against the network, who they claim "intentionally inflicted emotional distress." According to documents filed December network, records of Duckett's treatment from LifeStream Behavioral Center in Leesburg, Florida will prove relevant to the case. Read more about this developing story at Central Florida News 13 and the Orlando Sentinel.

Wyoming considers making the incompetent ready to stand trial
When Wyoming's legislature reconvenes on Janauary 13, lawmakers will consider legislation mandating serious criminal offenders take psychotropic medications if they've been declared incompetent to stand trial. Backers of the bill say it will bring state law into conformity with Supreme Court precedent. For more details, visit Montana's News Station site.

A few key mental health proponents won't be back in Congress
Some of the strongest champions of mental health legislation will be noticeably absent when the new Congress convenes on January 6. They include Rep. Jim Ramstad (R-Minn.), Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.), and Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.). Read more at the American Psychiatric Association's website.

Hoarding as a crime
Fifty-two-year-old Cincinnati resident Charles O'Bryan is on probation for hoarding. The Daily Gleaner reports that O'Bryan was indicted on one count of aggravated arson and three counts of arson after a small fire had to be extinguished outside his house. He may one of the city's compulsive hoarders required to undergo counseling as a condition of probation, or face jail time.
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Friday, January 2, 2009

A brighter New Year for mentally ill prisoners in Hawaii, New York

Aloha: friendly, hospitable, welcoming
According to the US Department of Justice, Hawaii has been anything but the Aloha State for the mentally ill incarcerated. After launching an investigation in 2005 of the O’ahu Community Correctional Center, the feds in 2007 declared the facility had glaring deficiencies when it came to treating mental health and later filed suit against the state.
On December 31, the Honolulu Advertiser reported that the state reached a settlement agreement with the DOJ. Among the changes to be made:
• A ban on “therapeutic lockdowns” in which inmates were routinely isolated from staff or mental health professionals.
• Mandating that inmates placed in “individualized seclusion” be assessed by an appropriate mental health professional within four hours and routinely checked afterwards.
• Improving suicide watches.
• Increasing control of psychotropic medications.

New York’s state of mind

Seeing that 10% of their prison population is diagnosed with a psychiatric illness, New York’s Office of Mental Health and the Department of Correctional Services are unveiling a new “wellness self-management” program.
Starting in February, inmates will attend seminars to learn about coping with their mental health conditions, managing medications and side effects, and how to improve communication with clinicians.
The initiative begins at Fishkill Correctional Facility in Beacon followed by the Sing Sing and Bedford Hills prisons.
Read more about this at the Poughkeepsie Journal.
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Thursday, January 1, 2009

The dopamine connection in risk-taking

News Item
For risk-takers and impulsive people, New Year’s resolutions often include being more careful, spending more frugally and cutting back on dangerous behavior, such as drug use. But new research from Vanderbilt University finds that these individuals—labeled as novelty seekers by psychologists—face an uphill battle in keeping their New Year’s resolutions due to the way their brains process dopamine. The research reveals that novelty seekers have less of a particular type of dopamine receptor, which may lead them to seek out novel and exciting experiences—such as spending lavishly, taking risks and partying like there’s no tomorrow.
The research was published Dec. 31, 2008, in the Journal of Neuroscience.
The neurotransmitter dopamine is produced by a select group of cells in the brain. These dopamine-producing cells have receptors called autoreceptors that help limit dopamine release when these cells are stimulated.
“We’ve found that the density of these dopamine autoreceptors is inversely related to an individual’s interest in and desire for novel experiences,” David Zald, associate professor of psychology and lead author of the study, said. “The fewer available dopamine autoreceptors an individual has, the less they are able to regulate how much dopamine is released when these cells are engaged. Because of this, novelty and other potentially rewarding experiences that normally induce dopamine release will produce greater dopamine release in these individuals.”
Dopamine has long been known to play an important role in how we experience rewards from a variety of natural sources, including food and sex, as well as from drugs such as cocaine and amphetamine. Previous research has shown that individuals differ in both their number of dopamine receptors and the amount of dopamine they produce, and that these differences may play a critical role in addiction. Zald and his colleagues set out to explore the connection between dopamine receptors and the novelty-seeking personality trait.
“Novelty-seeking personality traits are a major risk factor for the development of drug abuse and other unsafe behaviors,” Zald and his colleagues wrote.
“Our research suggests that in high novelty-seeking individuals, the brain is less able to regulate dopamine, and this may lead these individuals to be particularly responsive to novel and rewarding situations that normally induce dopamine release,” Zald said.
Previous research in rodents showed that some respond differently to novel environments. Those who explore novel environments more are also more likely to self-administer cocaine when given the chance. Dopamine neurons fire at a higher rate in these novelty-responsive rodents, and the animals also have weak autoreceptor control of their dopamine neurons. Zald and colleagues speculated that the same relationships would be seen in humans.
The researchers used positron emission topography to view the levels of dopamine receptors in 34 healthy humans who had taken a questionnaire that measured the novelty-seeking personality trait. The questionnaire measured things such as an individual’s preference for and response to novelty, decision-making speed, a person’s readiness to freely spend money, and the extent to which a person is spontaneous and unconstrained by rules and regulations. The higher the score, the more likely the person was to be a novelty seeker.
The researchers found that those that scored higher on the novelty-seeking scale had decreased dopamine autoreceptor availability compared to the subjects that scored lower.
The National Institute of Drug Abuse funded the research. Zald is a Vanderbilt Kennedy Center for Research on Human Development investigator and is a member of the Vanderbilt Center for Integrative and Cognitive Neuroscience. His Vanderbilt co-authors were Ronald Cowan, Ronald Baldwin, M. Sib Ansari, Rui Li, Evan Shelby, Clarence Smith, Maureen McHugo and Robert Kessler from the departments of Psychology, Psychiatry and Radiological Sciences. Patrizia Riccardi, Albert Einstein College of Medicine in Bronx, New York, was also a co-author of the paper.
PHOTO: Duchessa
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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The high risks of homophobia

A new study published in the December 29 online edition of Pediatrics adds further evidence that parental attitudes toward their gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered children can have deleterious effects on the youth.
Based on their sample of 224 gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered adults in California, researchers found that teens rejected by their families were eight times more likely to attempt suicide, six times more likely to struggle with depression, and three time more likely to engage in high risk drug and sexual behaviors.
Two additional notes of interest: First, gay Latinos encountered the most negative reactions from their families and had the highest risk factors for HIV and mental health problems.
Second, the study found that forbidding a gay teen from socializing with their gay peers carried the same risk as physical or verbal abuse.
You can read more about the study at Discover.
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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Defining mental illness again

As the American Psychiatric Association prepares the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM), a chorus of criticism about the closed-door process continues to crescendo. The Los Angeles Times ran a story on December 29 titled “DSM psychiatry manual's secrecy criticized” detailing the arguments of Dr. Robert Spitzer and others in favor of publicly airing the decision-making process of what qualifies as mental illness.
The venerable Dr. Spitzer, who edited the third edition of the DSM, widely considered the version to beat, argues for l’gealite as a prophylactic against big pharmaceutical interests who may want to pathologize and ultimately medicate the most trivial of human behavior. Although psychiatrists working on the DSM V are limited to $10,000 annually from big pharma, such a restriction may be too little, too late.
Dr. David Kupfer, who is overseeing the newest edition, told the Times that he wants to reduce the number of diagnoses.
Let’s hope he can hold this ground.Sphere: Related Content
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