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Latest News Around the Web

Psychiatrist: Stimulant Medication Use May Explain High PTSD Rates.

In an opinion piece in the New York Times (4/22, SR5, Subscription Publication), Richard A. Friedman, MD, of Weill Cornell Medical College, wrote that while conventional wisdom underlies the belief that the high rate of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is caused by the longevity and severity of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, “there is another factor that might be playing a role in the increasing rates of the disorder, one that has escaped attention: the military’s use of stimulant medications, like Ritalin [methylphenidate HCl] and Adderall [amphetamine, dextroamphetamine mixed salts], in our troops.” Friedman cited data revealed by the Department of Defense that “the number of Ritalin and Adderall prescriptions written for active-duty service members increased by nearly 1,000 percent in five years.” Friedman then called for “a rigorous epidemiologic study of a possible link between stimulants and PTSD in our troops.”

Related Links:

— “Why Are We Drugging Our Soldiers?,”Richard Friedman , The New York Times, April 21, 2012.

Half-Siblings Of Children With Autism May Face Increased Risk For The Disorder.

HealthDay (4/21, Preidt) reported, “Half-siblings of children with autism are at increased risk for the disorder, according to a recent study” published in Molecular Psychiatry “that provides new genetic clues about autism.” Investigators looked at, among other things, data from “more than 5,000 US families enrolled in a nationwide autism registry.” Researchers “found autism had been diagnosed in 10 percent to 11 percent of full siblings and five…to seven percent of half-siblings.”

Related Links:

— “Half-Siblings of Those With Autism at Raised Risk for Disorder: Study,”Robert Preidt , HealthDay, April 20, 2012.

Small Study: How People Deal With Regret May Make Difference In Late-Life Mental Health.

The Los Angeles Times (4/20, Healy) “Booster Shots” blog reports that a study published online April 19 in Science Magazine suggests that the way in which people deal with deal with regret may make a significant difference in whether they can be healthy and happy in old age. Researchers found that older adults who had experienced late-life depression were more likely to respond to regret with a pounding heart rate and moist hands, much as a healthy young person would respond. In contrast, healthy older adults would respond to regret with serenity. The blog post adds that among 40 older subjects over the age of 50, “whenever regret was evident, the anterior cingulate cortex — a key hub for communication between emotions and rational decision-making — came alive in the happy older adults,” as revealed by functional magnetic resonance imaging scans.

According to HealthDay (4/20, Marcus), Murali Doraiswamy, MD, of the Duke School of Medicine, who was not involved in the study, pointed out that “the brain patterns seen in depressed participants, if confirmed in larger studies, could potentially help identify people who are vulnerable to late-life depression and in need of counseling.”

Related Links:

— “For a healthy old age, learn to let go of regrets,”Melissa Healy , Los Angeles Times, April 19, 2012.

VA To Add About 1,900 More Mental-Health Professionals.

The Department of Veterans Affairs receives extensive, mostly positive coverage of its Thursday announcement that it will hire 1,900 more mental-health professionals.

The AP (4/20, Tucker) reports that VA “said Thursday it was increasing its staff of mental health workers by roughly 1,900, part of an effort to address a shortage of specialists and to better prepare for the medical needs of veterans returning home from war.” The last point was emphasized in a statement about the new hires from VA Secretary Eric Shinseki. The “move was cheered by Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, which also called on the VA to reduce its claims backlog and urged President Barack Obama to issue a national call for service for mental-health professionals.” The House Veterans Affairs Committee chairman, US Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL), “said the announcement was a good start, but that the VA also needs to strengthen training of employees who encounter veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.”

Related Links:

— “VA to add about 1,900 to mental health staff,”Erick Tucker , Associated Press, April 20, 2012.

Department Of Veterans Affairs To Hire More Mental-Health Clinicians.

The New York Times (4/19, Dao, Subscription Publication) reports, “The Department of Veterans Affairs will announce on Thursday that it plans to hire about 1,600 additional psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers and other mental health clinicians in an effort to reduce long wait times for services at many veterans medical centers. The hiring…would increase the department’s mental health staff by nearly 10 percent at a time when the veterans health system is being overwhelmed not just by veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, but also by aging veterans from the Vietnam era.” The Times notes that VA’s “announcement comes as the department is facing intensified criticism for delays in providing psychological services to veterans at some of its major medical centers.”

Related Links:

— “Veterans Department to Increase Mental Health Staffing, “James Dao, The New York Times, April 19, 2012.

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