Psychosis and Symbiosis: Microbiome and Schizophrenia

Fascinating new research links the gut and brain in sickness and health.

Schizophrenia is a neurodegenerative disorder that affects about 1 percent of the world population and tends to strike in the prime of life. Preventing this disease could help tens of millions of families throughout the world, so finding the risk factors for early diagnosis and treatment are paramount. We know there are genetic risks that, at the moment, can’t be changed (and as the disorder is polygenic, we will not find a single “schizophrenia gene”). Other major risk factors, such as prenatal infection, also can’t be changed 18-35 years later when the disease shows up. We know there are risk factors that can be addressed, such as using large amounts of high-THC marijuana in adolescence. But are there other factors that predispose people to schizophrenia that we may be able to address, such as changes in the microbiome?  more

7 Myths You Might Believe About Antipsychotic Medications

When mental illness is depicted on TV shows and movies, it’s not always kind. While Crazy Ex-Girlfriend got a lot right, for instance, 13 Reasons Why, not so much. And when it comes to medications, like antipsychotics or antidepressants, realistic depictions are often lacking. For instance, they may show a character whose antipsychotics make them act like an entirely different person (not the case), or they’ll show someone who is immediately “cured” after a day on antidepressants (also not the case).

These media stereotypes—mixed with the lack of quality information online—contribute to misinformation and myths about mental illnesses and the drugs used to manage them, particularly antipsychotics, David Brendel, M.D., PhD, a psychiatrist based in Boston, tells SELF. “Many of these mental health conditions have been treated as problems with people’s personalities rather than as medical conditions, and so there’s been a lot of resistance and judgement about many of these medications,” he says.  more

This Huge New Genetic Study On Bipolar Disorder Could Change The Way We Treat The Mental Illness

This could be a revolution for diagnosing and treating the disorder

Cayenne Barnum is a 24-year-old artist and designer who has bipolar disorder.
While she was officially diagnosed at 20, Barnum struggled throughout her teenage years to get a clear diagnosis of her mental illness. “It takes so long to diagnose because it manifests in so many different ways,” she told BuzzFeed News.

Barnum is currently in the process of weaning herself off Seroquel, an antipsychotic drug that she was originally prescribed for her manic periods, but that had taxing side effects for her body. “It turned out that it had made me put on 18 kilos or something, so right now I’m getting off that and I’m on a weight-loss supplement that people with diabetes take so they’re not hungry.”

Bipolar disorder is a chronic mental health condition that’s characterised by extreme mood changes; people with the disorder cycle between manic, hypomanic, and depressive periods that can last a week or longer and severely affect thought patterns and behaviour.  more

Antipsychotic Drugs Don’t Ease ICU Delirium Or Dementia

Powerful drugs that have been used for decades to treat delirium are ineffective for that purpose, according to a study published online Monday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Antipsychotic medications, such as haloperidol (brand name, Haldol), are widely used in intensive care units, emergency rooms, hospital wards and nursing homes.

“In some surveys up to 70 percent of patients [in the ICU] get these antipsychotics,” says Dr. E. Wesley “Wes” Ely, an intensive care specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. They’re prescribed by “very good doctors at extremely good medical centers,” he says. “Millions of people worldwide are getting these drugs to treat their delirium.”

But the drugs can have serious side effects. And Ely says there is no solid researchshowing that they are effective at treating delirium.  more

A Call for Caution on Antipsychotic Drugs

You will never guess what the fifth and sixth best-selling prescription drugs are in the United States, so I’ll just tell you: Abilify and Seroquel, two powerful antipsychotics. In 2011 alone, they and other antipsychotic drugs were prescribed to 3.1 million Americans at a cost of $18.2 billion, a 13 percent increase over the previous year, according to the market research firm IMS Health.

Those drugs are used to treat such serious psychiatric disorders as schizophreniabipolar disorder and severe major depression. But the rates of these disorders have been stable in the adult population for years. So how did these and other antipsychotics get to be so popular?  more

What Really Happens When You Drink While on Psych Meds?

When people combine stimulants with alcohol, Karpyak says, the rush of energy and seeming invincibility leads them to consume significant amounts of alcohol—much larger than they’re used to or normally capable of, which leads to “miscalculations.” But of greater concern than alcohol and stimulants is actually alcohol and sedatives, or a combination of sedatives with each other.

You’ve probably heard that combining alcohol and Ambien can make you act weird—loopy, irrational, generally embarrassing—because people are always getting kicked off airplanes after trying too hard to relax. (Occasionally a nun will consume a glass of altar wine and then try to fall asleep before waking up in a different state with no recollection of how she got there or how she managed to crash a car into a building.) Benzodiazepines, the popular class of medication for anxiety, are also frequently prescribed for insomnia. These include Klonopin, Valium, Ativan, and, of course, America’s long-standing psychiatric favorite, Xanax.   more

The Treatment of Hallucinations in Schizophrenia Spectrum Disorders

Schizophrenia can be accompanied by hallucinations in any of the sensory modalities. In 70% of the cases they are auditory in nature, and in 50% of those cases visual hallucinations are also experienced at some point. Other types of hallucination are less prevalent. But whatever the sensory modality in which they are experienced, hallucinations can be such a burden that they require expert treatment. Treatment usually consists of psychoeducation, medication, psychosocial interventions, psychotherapy, and in some instances transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) or electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).

The present article will focus on medication, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), TMS, and ECT. We will summarize the existing literature and offer recommendations for the treatment of hallucinations in schizophrenia.  more