Monday, June 17, 2013

Drugs and the Brain | National Institute on Drug Abuse

Drugs and the Brain | National Institute on Drug Abuse

Nice. Please, Please check this out! Just an excellent discussion on how your brain works and why addictions are diseases and not about identity, character flaw, will power etc., etc., etc. Addictions are mental illnesses that should be treated by psychiatrists. It's your brain stupid!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Get over it!

This last month President Obama stated that we Americans need to get over the stigma of mental illness. Since then, there has been a shooting here in Santa Monica, right down the street from my office at Santa Monica College.

As a psychiatrist, I’m with the Pres on this. Life is hard but it shouldn't be that hard. If it is, there might be a mental issue that is affecting you and is easy to treat.

Often I see patients with a constellation of symptoms like poor sleep or nervousness or feeling stuck in some ground hog day mode. People think it's crazy;  no matter what they do, they are not performing at work or school or meeting realistic goals. I do very little of CRAZY. Seriously.

If your heart was skipping a beat you might notice headache, light headiness and feeling out of breath. Your doctor might tell to you to start an anti-arrhythmic drug to restore a normal heart beat. Your brain is no different. The medications I use restore normal brain functions, which are normal thoughts, emotions and behaviors. There are no artificial states. All medications work, it’s a matter of finding something that works and has no side effects for you.

Medications just alleviate symptoms. Once you can sleep, think and stop crying, I then get you involved in psychotherapy whether it’s with me or a therapist to learn better coping skills. The skills you learned 10 years ago might not be working now. So we get new skills. It’s always about the skills, not the meds.

So get real, get a grip and get WELL.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Intervention Everyone?

Watching celebrities on T.V. being confronted by involved family and friends in staged interventions makes for great theater. Watching these people detox in front of our eyes is gratifying; they have f.+++ed up lives too. We rejoice and feel better when they at the end are clean and sober. Their redemption is our salvation, we are all well again.

The reality is only about 40,000 people in the U.S. die from drug overdose each year. This includes not only deaths from the use of legal or illegal drugs but also poisoning from medically prescribed drugs. If we subtract these accidental poisonings, the figure is lower.

In the same year, 31,000 people died from suicide, plain and simple; no exceptions. Why isn't anyone doing suicide interventions on T.V.? Why isn't anyone talking about more people dying every year from suicide than routine drug overdose? Don't get me wrong, drugs are a serious problem. Suicide from depression is a serious problem.

The symptoms of Major Depressive disorder are:
The symptoms of Major Depressive disorder are:
  • Sadness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in usual activities
  • Changes in weight, up or down
  • Sleeping, under or over 8 hours
  • Restlessness or slowness
  • Fatigue
  • Feeling worthless, hopeless or guilty
  • Poor concentration
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
I've listed some of the symptoms above in red because most people who have no clue about anything else, can recognize these symptoms. While patients are in my waiting room, before I've even seen them, I can make the diagnosis by just noting these physical observations. Even my dog (a Chug) jumps on my bed when I'm over sleeping; she notices the changes in my behavior. If you notice these symptoms in any person you know and these symptoms have gone on for over 2 weeks, do an intervention. Get these people to their regular medical doctor ASAP. Most primary doctors can start treatment and make other arrangements that might be necessary. Yes, Major Depressive disorder is a medical illness that can be treated.

I'm sure you've recently heard to look for other symptoms of depression and suicidal intent like making a will, making a plan for suicide, etc, but come on, are you really going to ask your loved one "do you feel suicidal?" No, our own shame and horror keeps us from asking. God forbid, if they say yes. Focus on the above observable behaviors and behavioral isolation. This keeps our thoughts and conclusions out of the mix. It's not so personal but you've saved a life.

Look around you folks, think intervention. Suicide just shouldn't have to happen.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255)