From the Globe and Mail In medicine,sometimes it’s better to do nothing

In the seminal work of satire The House of God, author Samuel Shem provided a list of commandments for good medical care. The infamous 13th Law of the House of God was: “The delivery of good medical care is to do as much nothing as possible.” Yet, since the book’s publication in 1978, overtreatment has reached such tragicomic proportions that the satire has melted away, leaving only age-old wisdom. It’s as if we have come full circle back to Hippocrates, who said: “To do nothing is sometimes a good remedy

Are you there Agent? It’s me, Mother.

I know this excuse is getting old, fast, but the reason why I’m merely passing on information these days is because I continue to work on edits on Holistic Recovery from Schizophrenia: A Mother and Son Journey. It’s been exactly three months since I sent the book proposal to the agent.

               Surely some revelation is at hand;
               Surely the Second Coming is at hand.

In the meantime, I blog, I edit, I Twitter, but I’d prefer some solid evidence from an agent that my memoir has a universal appeal.

ABILIFY = DISABILIFY Thanks to Bristol Myers Squibb for a “wonder drug” that may only be better than a placebo. Andy Behrman, a former spokesman for Abilify and Bristol Myers Squibb, and author of ElectroBoy: A Memoir of Mania, discusses his side effects from Abilify, the “wonder drug” of Bristol Myers Squibb. From YouTube

Are Psychiatric Medications Making Us Sicker? Read yet another article on this subject here.

Louise Gillett recounts her reaction when she went to a Rethink meeting recently in London.She raises some interesting questions about how independent these organizations really are, and how little objection was raised during the meeting to the medications. But I have the feeling that a lot of sufferers and their families are accepting the label and the medication because they come with the safety net of the benefits. 

The selling of OxyContin

From: The National Post (thanks to Liz for passing this along)

It was a pleasant, informative break from the grind for a crowd of local doctors: lunch and a series of lectures at Vancouver’s chic Four Seasons Hotel, all presented free by Purdue Pharma, which had just rolled out a new pain drug called OxyContin.

The specialists Purdue paid to speak at the 1997 forum, including Toronto’s Dr. Brian Goldman, who now hosts a popular CBC-Radio show, encouraged doctors to overcome fear of such “opioid” medicines and consider them even for patients with chronic non-cancer pain.

Similar, Purdue-sponsored talks were held across the country in the following months and years, while sales reps fanned out to visit family doctors and others, promoting the drug’s continuous-release convenience and its supposedly low potential for abuse

Read the rest here.

More about fish oil

Fish Oil May Aid Against Manic DepressionStudy Attributes Dramatic Improvement in Patients to Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Supplements
By Marc Kaufman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 27, 1999; Page Z07
Scientists believe they have found a surprising new ally in their efforts to understand and treat the sharp mood swings of manic depression–the fatty acids of fish oil.
A Harvard University clinical trial of 44 patients suffering from manic, or bipolar, depression had such positive results with fish oil that the experiment was stopped after four months and all patients were put on a treatment of 14 capsules per day.
“The group taking the fish oil was performing strikingly better than the placebo group, including significantly longer periods of remission,” said Andrew L. Stoll, director of the Psychopharmacology Research Laboratory at Harvard Medical School/McLean Hospital. “A decision was made to stop the trial on ethical grounds.”
Based on those promising findings, Stoll said, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has given preliminary approval for a larger fish oil trial starting this summer. That trial, at McLean and Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, would include 120 people suffering from manic depression and would last for three years.
“If this works, it would be one of the most exciting findings in psychiatry in the past 20 years,” said Jerry Cott, chief of the psychopharmacology research program at the National Institute of Mental Health. “This is the first time we would be testing a nutritional supplement that appears to be having efficacy about to the degree of a synthetic medication.”
“This could give us real insight into what is the basis of this psychiatric disorder,” Cott said. “Right now, we have no clue what it’s really about.”
In the Harvard study, all the patients continued on their other medications. About half were also treated with fish oil capsules, while the others got olive oil as a placebo. According to Stoll, 11 of the 15 patients taking the fish oil improved after four months, and only two had a recurrence. Six of 20 on the placebo responded positively, he said, and 11 had a relapse. Some patients were not counted because the trial was stopped before they had completed their four-month treatment.
Details of the study will be published in May in a major medical journal.

Read the rest here.

The Brain Bio Centre
Food for the Brain

At the Brain Bio Centre, the best results we’ve seen in helping those with schizophrenia or other psychotic disorders are achieved by investigating a number of possible avenues. These include:
• Blood sugar problems made worse by excess stimulant and drug use
• Essential fat imbalances
• Too many oxidants and not enough antioxidants
• Niacin (Vitamin B3) therapy
• Methylation problems helped by B12 and folic acid
• Pyroluria and the need for zinc
• Food allergies
Quite apart from these nutritional factors, having good psychological support and a stable home environment make a major impact upon those with mental health problems.

Thanks to Duane Sherry for suggesting these links.

Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS)

Words fail me

Child Cholesterol Tests Are Urged


Published: November 11, 2011   
Every child should be tested for high cholesterol as early as age 9, surprising new advice from a government panel that suggests screening children in grade school for a problem more common in middle age. The panel urges cholesterol screening between ages 9 and 11 — before puberty, when cholesterol temporarily dips — and again between ages 17 and 21. The panel also suggests diabetes screening every two years starting as early as age 9 for children who are overweight and have other risks for Type 2 diabetes.

Astonishing modification to McGorry study

This article appeared in The Psychiatric Times on Oct. 28, 2011. Treating Mental Illness Before it Strikes details the efforts of the psychiatric community throughout the twentieth century and the beginnings of this century to identify and treat young adults before they become psychotic. Most recently we have heard about the debate on the proposed insertion of a new category of disorder psychosis risk syndrome  into the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM V), and of Dr. Allan Frances’s outspoken views on this subject. Some of us have also read about the proposed McGorry medical trial in Australia, which was heavily critized on ethical grounds because the trial involved putting youth as young as age 15 (most of whom would never go on to develop psychosis) on antipsychotics if there was evidence of a family background of psychosis.

In June 2011, a number of Australian newspapers reported that a high-profile medical trial targeting psychosis in young adults would not go ahead. It was to be conducted by Prof. Patrick McGorry, who had been Australian of the year (an honorary and mostly symbolic title bestowed by the Australian government on an unusually deserving citizen advocating worthy causes). In the proposed trial, youths as young as age 15 would receive Seroquel (quetapine) when they were first diagnosed, not with psychosis but with attenuated psychosis syndrome (previously called psychosis risk syndrome). Treating young adults with this syndrome would nip the danger in the bud—their potential psychosis would be treated before it even arose. The trial was to have been sponsored by the drug’s manufacturer, AstraZenaca, which, like many pharmaceutical companies, was probably eager to test its medication on a younger age group to expand the market for its medications. What could be wrong with such a commendable initiative?

The final paragraph of the article reveals that

Dr McGorry has introduced a slight modification to his study, which will now go ahead. Instead of Seroquel, he will now test the efficacy of fish oil.

Slight modification? This is huge! To favor conducting a medical trial with fish oil rather than with Quetiapine (Seroquel) is astonishing, not least because the drug manufacturer is now out of the picture.  Fish oil is becoming popular for its purported benefits in preventing schizophrenia (and depression). Will fish oil be found to do all that its proponents claim it does or will it be found to be ineffective in preventing psychosis? Wouldn’t a rather simple solution be to study the prevalence of schizophrenia in Inuit populations where the diet is high in fish oil? Studies show that rates of schizophrenia are pretty much the same (about 1%) in any culture in any part of the world, with some anomalies due to e.g. migration of certain populations. Will this new McGorry trial be properly executed? I have read that, as with niacin and vitamin C, the effectiveness depends on a dosing amount many times in excess of what is considered daily recommended intake.

Read more on the McGorry controversy here.

Inuit eating frozen fish

Occupy the opposition’s blogs

Here’s an idea which springs from my own discouragement that there is no civil debate anymore. We bloggers tend to cluster around our own, patting like-minded bloggers on the back and roundly condemning the opinions of others who, of course, rarely venture onto our blogs. It’s like all debate these days has been reduced to people bellowing at each other sideways. It won’t be heard.

I think it all started with e-mail. Whoever thought it was really cool to just launch into the message without the nicety of starting with Dear So and So, and ending with Your Most Humble Servant? Some twenty year old tech geek, no doubt. I had to take my own sister to task. She works for a major hardware manufacturer and I guess this is how she deals with her supply chain, but really, I thought I was always in her dog house by the way she launched right into her e-mails. I reminded her to say Dear Rossa and to sign off with…. at least her name. That worked for about a week. I myself slip up on many occasions.

So, occupy this! Here’s the plan. What do you think? We begin to occupy other bloggers’ pavement stones (the Followers or Members box on their blogs). In Parliamentary terms we become the loyal opposition Members, not just loyal to the opinions of the bloggers we agree with, but loyal to the founding principles of Parliamentary democracy. We occasionally comment on their posts. Now, the trick is to be polite and not feel that we always have to have the last word. We make our point and we leave it for other’s to read. We don’t use profanity or accuse the other person of a being an idiot nor do we make snide remarks about others. We simply provide a different way of looking at mental health that we would like to share with others. Who can argue with that?

Most people are thrilled to have more followers, and will be perplexed that we are there, but they can’t prevent us from being there, can they? And remember: It’s a two way street.

Is Clinical Psychopharmacology a Pseudoscience?

Good blog post by Steve Balt, MD.

But at the risk of sounding like even more of a heretic, I’ve noticed that not only do psychopharmacologists really believe in what they’re doing, but they often believe it even in the face of evidence to the contrary.

It all makes me wonder whether we’re practicing a sort of pseudoscience.

Read the rest of it here.

Light: The Perennial Healer

This interview with Drs. Engelbert Winkler and Dirk Proeckl is published at The Light Connection.

Publishing since 1985 (as The Light Connection), The Life Connection (TLC) is distributed the first of each month, and provides a guide to San Diego County’s resources for improving health, the environment, relationships, and expanding human potential.

We do not represent any one organization or philosophy and believe that diversity of thought strengthens us and allows for greater understanding. We do not necessarily agree with all of the articles published, nor do we think there is any single solution that works for everyone. Ultimately we feel that each of us must decide what is best for ourselves; and that there is power in knowing ourselves.

Light: The Perennial Healer

An interview with Drs. Engelbert Winkler, Ph.D., and Dirk Proeckl, M.D., Ph.D. by Beverly Brodsky

Drs. Engelbert Winkler, Ph.D., clinical psychologist , and Dirk Proeckl, Ph.D., M.D., neurologist and psychologist describe their Lucid Light Stimulator, which they will demonstrate at the First Spiritualist Church on Oct. 15, from 5 to 8pm. See their website: www.gesund-im-licht.at (click on the British flag for English).

BB: I have been studying your website and work with the Lucid Light Stimulator (LLS), with great interest. What does the LLS do?

EW: Our intention is to help people go into the hypnogogic state and beyond. It’s the state in between being awake and dreaming, a kind of altered state of consciousness. We get people to go beyond that state, into a trancelike state, similar to a shamanic state of consciousness.

What motivated you most to come up with this device?

EW: When I was a child, I had a Near-Death Experience. While studying psychology, my main interest was the neurology when an NDE appears. As a psychotherapist, I found a way to use the healing potential of that light state. First, I used ordinary hypnosis to suggest imagining having an NDE. To improve clients’ visualizations, I used external, steady light. People went much deeper in the trance, and reported experiences and changes similar to what occurs after an NDE.

DP: That was the beginning. We studied people’s EEGs; then used both steady and flickering lights, producing a much more intense experience. I came from the neurology, where a flickering light is to map the brain. Later, combining Englebert’s research into mystical states with mine, we had more effective outcomes. Now, with the LLS, we can induce a state like the shamanic experiences, or even the ancient Greek Mystery cults, which initially took place in caves, inducing altered states of consciousness.

What a serendipitous partnership.

DP: We also we contacted some specialists from the United States, including Rick Strassman, about the neurochemistry of DMT.

I read in Dr. Strassman’s book that people taking DMT had both positive and frightening experiences. Do your clients have more consistently positive experiences with your device?

EW: We have a better way of reacting to the negative experiences, because we can just switch it off. The other thing is that we can use it in our therapy.
Tell me about your research.

EW: Consciousness is variable for everybody. It’s our own consciousness, and we can nudge it. That’s not only therapeutic, but also transformational. If you are open to the experience, the healing effect is maximized. When people sit in front of the lamp many do get better, but not everyone.

How can you tell which ones are helped?

W: Only the client can know. It can be used for ordinary therapeutic purposes. Many symptomatic problems, say anxiety or depression, may be a healthy reaction to an unhealthy situation. Working with the lamp changes people’s attitude, and the attitude changes everything.

I understand. How long have you been working with light?

EW: The lamp we are using we’ve had for four to five years, but before we had different prototypes, including the original steady light in hypnosis, going back to 1990.

This is such a wonderful idea. Have you written a book?
EW: Yes, the Western Book of Death, which is about using NDEs with hypnosis for people who feel suicidal. This is not yet available in English.

Have you worked with terminally ill people? What happens?
EW: Yes. Today in hospice a young man went to Brazil to see the healer John of God, and when he returned he described seeing all those colors. His experiences with the lamp were identical to what occurred with the healer.
That’s fascinating. In Stanislov Grof’s book The Human Encounter with Death, he did a study where he gave LSD to terminal patients who lost their fear of death. Would the LLS allow people to achieve their own sort-of psychedelic and near-death-like experience, without drugs, and be healed by it?

EW: Yes. The lamp can be used in that way, but if the patient doesn’t want a psychedelic experience; they just want deep relaxation, it may be used for that. Or if someone just wants the aesthetics, they see beautiful colors and forms. When we worked with Tibetan monks, they reached a state ideal for meditation. It gives you a trip into yourself, and whatever you want to be there, you’ll experience.

What are your plans to bring this to the US?

EW: As you know we are coming in October. Our main interest is just to show the light to as many people as possible. People change in a valuable way. We don’t usually make plans, because since we started working with the Light Device, everything happens in its own way. I don’t think that we have found the lamp; rather, the lamp has found us.

It sounds like a way to shift our consciousness to perfect health—in mind, body, and spirit.
EW: Yes, the idea that there is something like health or disease is unhealthy. If everybody could let themselves be the way they are, everything would be perfect. I know many people who are very ill, yet they are very healthy at the same time.

In my NDE I felt that everything is perfect just as it is. Yet it’s hard to remember that without shutting down the ego.

EW: The ego is the wrong point of reference. From that perspective, everything is wrong.

You say on your website that mind and con-sciousness defy our ability to put a definition on them. Can you explain that?

EW: I don’t think consciousness can be defined. Consciousness is a word, and nothing more. We are making mental images of things that we think are real. If we just say what we experience, everything would be fine.

That is why, as Kenneth Ring says, the light experience is very important. If things go on as they have, we will become sicker. Only a change in attitude can help. The light experience in all times changes attitudes quite dramatically. Our device is not the only way to achieve this change. For some, they can go out in nature and reach the same state. It’s easy to do, but is not generally known.

On Saturday, October 15, from 5-8 pm, Engelbert Winkler Ph.D., and Dirk Proeckl, M.D., Ph.D., will demonstrate their Lucid Light Stimulator. See more information on their website. www.gesund-im-licht.at/ First Spiritualist Church is located at 3777 42nd Street, San Diego, CA. 92105. 619-284-4646 www.1st-spiritualistchurch.org Love Donation $15.

The benefits of out-of-body experiences

Gianna Kali over at Beyond Meds sent me this article from Discover Magazine, an extract of which appears below. Thanks, Gianna! I’m pleased to have my own intuition about the benefits of out-of-body (OBE) experiences validated by Dr. Sohee Park’s research team at Vanderbilt University. You may recall that my son Chris underwent several OBEs when we visited the sound shaman a couple of years ago. You can read about his reactions to this wonderful therapy here, here, here and here. I dragged Chris to this therapy and to other therapies such as The Alexander Technique, because I knew from observing Chris as a child that he had a fragile sense of self, as the Vanderbilt study hypothesizes is the case with many people who have received a schizophrenia diagnosis. The sound shaman helped Chris get a better sense of who he really is. The Alexander Technique together with voice lessons to bolster his love of music have really made a difference in his growing sense of self.

Park’s student Katharine Thakkar was testing the idea that people experience psychotic experiences because they have a weak sense of self. It’s an idea that others have suggested before but it seems like something that would be hard to test with experiments. But not so: over the last decade, psychologists have shown that our sense of self is far from the fixed, permanent feeling that we assume it is. Instead, it is disarmingly pliable. You can tweak it. You can study it. Our brain continuously constructs our sense of self using information from our eyes, skin and joints. By tweaking that information using simple illusions, scientists have warped and displaced our sense of self in the lab.

The study has broader implications for helping people with schizophrenia. Activities that promote a stronger sense of body awareness, such as yoga, dance or playing a musical instrument, might help to alleviate some of the symptoms of schizophrenia.

But for RM, it seems that learning more about his condition was enough. A year on, his diagnosis is unchanged, he still gets out-of-body experiences, and he still hears voices. But gone are the days when his experiences would require a stay in a hospital. He is now hoping to establish himself as a freelance writer, and he’s even had a paper on religion accepted in a peer-reviewed academic journal. For him, knowledge has proven to be a potent treatment. “We check up with him regularly and he’s been doing really well,“ says Park.

Coincidentally, today I received my invitation to an upcoming lecture on the same topic. Keep in mind that your mainstream psychiatrist will be against your participation in these kinds of activities. However, if properly handled by the clinician, they are a pathway to growth.

The Hypnagogic Light Experience: Engelbert and Dirk invite you to a trip with Lucia, the Lucid Light Stimulator (LLS)

Engelbert Winkler, PhD. (clinical psychologist, psychologist for health and psychotherapist) and Dirk Proeckl PhD MD (specialist for neurology and certified psychologist) have invented a LUCID LIGHT STIMULATOR called Lucia Nr. 3.

Lucia Nr. 3 is a neurostimulation lamp which allows the person who is exposed with closed eyes to the lamp to enter immediately into a profound trance which otherwise can be achieved solely after many years of meditation practice, through psychedelic drugs, or through stimulus deprivation, etc.

The computer-operated interplay of its light sources activates a large variety of experiences (the vision of intensive worlds of color and shapes, the impression of existing without a body/immaterialness, etc.) and allows for an individual light experience which is every time anew highly impressive.

Lucia Nr. 3 induces a transcendental experience which otherwise occurs only under extreme conditions like high performance sports, through consumption of entheogen substances or at the onset of death. The neurostimulation lamp opens completely new perspectives for therapy and self-awareness.

Website: http://www.gesund-im-licht.at/ (also accessible in English)