Is It Time to Give Hallucinogenic Drugs for Medical Use Another Try?

Magic Mushrooms
The hallucinogenic compound found in psilocybin mushrooms like these is getting a fresh look as a medicine to help patients cope with terminal illness.

Hallucinogen Shows Promise In Helping Cancer Patients Cope

Some researchers in California make that case in a study of a dozen patients with advance cancer. The patients, 11 women and 1 man, received a low dose of psilocybin, the active ingredient in “magic mushrooms” in one session and a placebo, consisting of water and the B vitamin niacin, which causes flushing, in another.

On a couple of measures of mental health, the patients showed less anxiety months after treatment and a big improvement in mood even a half-year after a single psychedelic session.

To be sure, this study, billed as a pilot test, had some flaws, most notably that each patient served as his or her own point of comparison, or control. And the researchers concede that it was pretty much impossible for the patients not to know pretty quickly whether they were getting the drug or the dummy medicine in a given session.

Also, among the patients, all volunteers, eight had previously taken hallucinogenic drugs. Four of them had tried such drugs decades before the experiment.

Still, nobody had a bad trip, the researchers said, and there was no evidence of physical or mental harm during the study, the first since the 1970s to explore the possible usefulness of psychedelic drugs in helping seriously ill patients cope with anxiety and the end of life.

The results were just published online by the Archives of General Psychiatry.

The scientists conclude the findings are strong enough to support further research. And there are some other studies already under way, including one at New York University that aims to enroll 32 patients.

One of the funders of the pilot study and the bigger one at NYT is the Heffter Research Institute, a nonprofit that specializes in the science of hallucinogenic drugs.

Article originally posted at:

Prescription Drug Use on the Rise in U.S.

Prescription Drug AbuseStudy Shows About 48% of Americans Take at Least 1 Prescription Drug

Prescription drug use in the U.S. has been rising steadily in the past decade and the trend shows no signs of slowing, the CDC says in a new report.

The study, published in the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics Data Brief No. 42, says the percentage of Americans who took at least one prescription drug rose from 43.5% in 1999-2000 to 48.3% in the 2007-2008 period.

The use of two or more drugs increased from 25.4% to 31.2% over the same decade, and the use of five or more prescription medications jumped from 6.3% to 10.7%.

The report also says that in the 2007-2008 period:

  • One of every five children and nine out of 10 older Americans reported using at least one prescription drug in the month prior to being surveyed.
  • 22.4% of kids up to age 11 used at least one prescription drug.
  • 29.9% of young people 12-19 used at least one prescription drug.
  • 48.3% of people between 20 and 59 used at least one prescription medication.
  • 88.4% of Americans age 60 and over used at least one prescription drug, more than 76% used two or more prescription drugs in the past month, and 37% used five or more.

People without health insurance or a regular place to go for medical problems had less prescription drug use compared to those with such benefits.

Age and Gender Are Key

The report notes that prescription drug use increased with age, that women were more likely to use such medications than men, 53.3% to 43.2%, and the non-Hispanic white population had the highest prescription drug use at 54.3%, compared to 42% of black non-Hispanics and 33.9% of Mexican-Americans.

The CDC also says that:

  • People with a regular place for health care were 2.7 times as likely to have used prescription drugs in the past month compared to those without the benefit.
  • People with health insurance were about twice as likely to have used at least one prescription medication in the past month as those without health insurance.
  • People with prescription drug benefits in their health insurance plans were 22% more likely to use prescription medications than those who did not have that benefit.

Most Common Prescribed Drugs

According to the 2007-2008 data, the most commonly used drugs were:

  • Bronchodilators for children up to age 11.
  • Central nervous system stimulants for youths 12-19.
  • Antidepressants for people 20-59.
  • Cholesterol lowering drugs for adults 60 and older.
  • Among kids under age 6, penicillin antibiotics were the most frequently use prescription drugs.

The report says diuretics and beta-blockers were commonly used in adults and older Americans, with such medications used most often to treat heart problems and high blood pressure.

Article originally reported on WebMd:

National Center for Health Statistics: “NCHS Data Brief No. 42, September 2010.”

Cognitive Behavior Therapy Improves Symptom Control in Adult ADHD

Adult ADHD
Adult ADHD

Adding cognitive behavioral therapy — an approach that teaches skills for handling life challenges and revising negative thought patterns — to pharmaceutical treatment for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) significantly improved symptom control in a study of adult patients. The report from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) researchers appear in the August 25 Journal of the American Medical Association

“Medications are very effective in ‘turning down the volume’ on ADHD symptoms, but they do not teach people skills,” explains Steven Safren, PhD, ABPP, director of Behavioral Medicine in the MGH Department of Psychiatry, who led the study. “This study shows that a skills-based approach can help patients learn how to cope with their attention problems and better manage this significant and impairing disorder.”

More than 4 percent of adults in the U.S. have ADHD, and while stimulants and other psychiatric medications are the primary first-line treatment, the study authors note that a significant number of patients who take and respond to these medication are still troubled by continuing symptoms. A few studies have investigated psychosocial treatment for ADHD, and although some have suggested benefits from cognitive behavioral therapy, they were small and short-term. The current study is believed to be the first full-scale randomized, controlled trial of the effectiveness of an individually-delivered, non-medication treatment of ADHD in adults.

The study enrolled adults diagnosed with ADHD who reported reduced but still significant symptoms while taking an ADHD medication. Randomly assigned to one of two therapeutic approaches, participants attended 12 weekly one-on-one counseling sessions with a psychologist or psychology fellow. The control group received training in muscle relaxation and other relaxation techniques, education on how to apply relaxation to ADHD symptoms, and supportive psychotherapy. The cognitive behavioral therapy sessions included skills training in areas such as organization and planning, setting priorities and problem solving, coping with distractions, and developing adaptive thought responses to stressful situations.

“Sessions were designed specifically to meet the needs of ADHD patients and included things like starting and maintaining calendar and task list systems, breaking large tasks into manageable steps, and shaping tasks to be as long as your attention span will permit,” Safren says. “The treatment is half like taking a course and half like being in traditional psychotherapy.”

Symptom assessments conducted at the end of the 12-week treatment period revealed that participants receiving cognitive behavioral therapy had significantly better symptom control than did those receiving relaxation training, benefits that were maintained three and nine months later. A standard rating scale for ADHD symptoms showed a 30 percent reduction in symptoms in more than two thirds of the cognitive behavioral therapy group but in only one third of the relaxation group.

“We know that ADHD medications are effective for patients who can take them, and without medications it would be harder to learn the skills taught in this study,” Safren adds. “But we have shown that learning self-management skills can help reduce symptoms even further. Now we need to determine the best ways to train clinicians in this approach and the best time to introduce this treatment, along with exploring other ways to help patients who did not benefit.” Safren is an associate professor of Psychology in the Harvard Medical School Department of Psychiatry.

Additional co-authors of the study, which was supported by a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health, are Susan Sprich, PhD, Matthew Mimiaga, ScD, MPH, Craig Surman, MD, Laura Knouse, PhD, and Meghan Groves — all of MGH Psychiatry — and Michael Otto, PhD, formerly of MGH Psychiatry and now at Boston University.

This article was originally published on ScienceDaily at

Talking to Adolescents May Ward Off Future Violent Behavior and Alcohol Use

Adolescent Behavior

For a period of 3 years, University of Michigan Health System researchers conducted a study of teen patients at the Hurley Medical Center Emergency Department (ED) in Flint, Mich. They gave 3338 adolescents, ages 14 to 18 years, computerized surveys, and those who reported exposure to violence or drinking at least 2 or 3 times in the past year (n = 726) were enrolled in a SafERteens randomized controlled trial, funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Along with colleagues, lead author Maureen Walton, MPH, PhD, associate professor in the University of Michigan department of psychiatry and Addiction Research Center, reported these findings in a recent issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. The team of researchers used motivational interviewing to counsel adolescents about staying away from potentially violent and alcohol-related situations. It was found that these brief counseling sessions “reduced by half the chances that teenagers would experience peer violence or problems due to drinking.”

Details available at:U-M Study: Pep talks to teens in the ER reduce violence, alcohol misuseEffects of a brief intervention for reducing violence and alcohol misuse among adolescents: A randomized controlled trial

This article originally posted at: The Psychiatric Times –