Saturday, June 22, 2013

Why does the APA need new editions of DSM?

Simon Wessely in his blog post about an IOP conference on DSM-5 assumes there will be a DSM-6. Have we now come to expect continuous revision of psychiatric classification? If so, it's difficult to understand why. There has never really been any expansion of "the scientific basis for psychiatric diagnosis and classification" despite this being the apparent impetus for DSM-5 (see website). Maybe APA's motivation for continuous revision is merely financial gain. DSM-IV made at least $100 million, but, even so, DSM-5 should be free open access to all on the internet.

The reason for the DSM-III revision was very clear (eg. see my article). From mainstream psychiatry's point of view, diagnosis was in crisis because of its unreliability. Operational criteria were therefore developed. Unfortunately these may be no more valid than commonsense definitions. So, we could put up with amendments through DSM-III-R, DSM-IV and DSM-IV-TR, but tinkering further with DSM-5 is a step too far.

As Simon says, "The aspiration that DSM-5 would represent as significant a break with the past as DSM-III had been, effecting a second revolution by moving from symptom based diagnosis to aetiologically based diagnosis using the latest advances from neurosciences and genetics turned out to be just that, an aspiration". That's why the current NIMH director has turned his back on DSM-5 (see previous post), although his predecessor was one of the originators of the DSM-5 process in 1999. However, despite all the DSM revisions, there's no getting away from the poor validity and reliability of psychiatric diagnosis. That's its nature and psychiatry's wishful failed ambition needs to be recognised for what it is.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Ban face down restraint in psychiatric hospitals

To his credit, Norman Lamb (who I have mentioned on my personal blog eg. see previous post), Minister of State at the Department of Health, says he is considering just banning face down restraint in psychiatric hospitals (see BBC news story). This is following a call from Mind demanding national standards on the use of physical restraint, accredited training and an end to face down restraint on the basis of data they have secured from NHS trusts under FOI requests (see news item).

It was a pity that the take up from the Blofeld report on the death of Rocky Bennett some years ago focused on institutional racism rather than also on restraint. As I said in my BMJ eletter, "Death of a patient under restraint should help us to refocus on the need for a therapeutic approach rather than just custodial practice in mental health services." Organisational interventions can dramatically reduce the use of seclusion and restraint, reflected in the wide variation found by Mind in their survey. Hence government intervention in the way considered by Lamb could have significant effects.

As I said in another eletter about this issue, we need to highlight "... the importance of the culture of mental health services in limiting the use of such restrictive procedures". The focus on defensive practice over recent years has not been helpful. Restraint may be better seen as an indication of treatment failure, rather than treatment as such.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

The ethical corruption of academic psychiatry

Phil Thomas asks why Charles Nemeroff has been asked to give the inaugural annual lecture of the new Centre for Affective Disorders at the Institute of Psychiatry (IOP) (see blog post). After all, Nemeroff has been one of the most blatant examples of psychiatrists' wrongdoing by under-reporting of pharmaceutical company earnings (see previous post). It's this sort of thing that makes even the most biological of psychiatrists concerned about the moral integrity of modern psychiatry (eg. see post by Michael A Taylor).

Ironically, from his previous published research (eg. Nemeroff et al 2003), Nemeroff may be seen as promoting psychotherapy in his lecture rather than necessarily any psychotropic medication. Nonetheless, of course, he does think monaminergic drugs are therapeutic in depression. His speculation is that the reason some people survive early life stress (ELS) is because of their genes. In a clinical trial, it was found that depressed patients with a history of early childhood trauma did better with psychotherapy alone than antidepressant monotherapy. Don't be misled by this! Maybe paradoxically, Nemeroff thinks psychotherapy is a "biological treatment". He believes it changes gene expression. As I've warned previously (see previous post), don't be taken in by such neuropsychotherapy.

Nemeroff's lecture at IOP may not be that much different from the one he gave at NYU last year (see video). It may not be that exciting or interesting. His NIH grant in 2012 caused controversy because of his past ethical problems (eg. see letter from Senator Grassley). The project information for the study explains that he's wishfully looking for the genetic risk factors for PTSD. Maybe the Centre for Affective Disorders will also undertake similarly misguided research. Let's at least know from IOP where it's getting its funding from, because choosing Nemeroff as its inaugural lecturer for its new centre does not bode well.