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Archive for the ‘Mental Health’ Category

Prediction: Terrorism in the Middle East Will Decline By Half Between 2020 and 2040

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Why? Kevin Drum explains at Mother Jones:

blog_middle_east_leaded_gasoline_phaseout_0

I’m going to make an obvious point about this, but I want to make it carefully. Ever since I wrote my piece about the link between violent crime and leaded gasoline, I’ve gotten periodic questions about whether lead might be responsible for other things. The most common answer is maybe—but it’s unlikely we’ll ever have the data to prove it. For that reason, I try to stay pretty restrained about exactly what lead might and might not be responsible for.

That said, there’s a lot of evidence that leaded gasoline produced a wave of violent crime between 1960-1990 in the developed world, and that the introduction of unleaded gasoline eliminated that wave and eventually brought crime rates down nearly to 1960 levels. In most developed countries, leaded gasoline was phased out starting around the mid-70s, which benefited children born after that. When those children reached their late teenage years in the early 90s, they were much less prone to impulsiveness and aggression, which led to lower crime rates.

But not every part of the world followed that timetable. In particular, leaded gasoline continued to be used in the Middle East up through the late 90s. Egypt began phasing it out in 1998, and most other countries followed over the next decade or so. Only a few—including Iraq and Afghanistan—still sell significant amounts of leaded gasoline.

Since lead poisoning affects infants, its affects show up about 18-20 years later. What this means is that in the bright red countries, the cohort of kids who reach their late teen years around 2020 should be significantly less aggressive and violent than previous cohorts. Around 2025 the countries in lighter red will join them. Around 2030 the countries in pink will join. By 2040 or so, the process will be complete.

Obviously this means that crime rates in the Middle East should decline steadily between 2020-40. But there’s more. Given the effects of lead, it seems almost certain that reducing lead poisoning in teenagers and young adults should lead to a decline in terrorism as well.

This is where I want to be careful. Obviously terrorism, like crime, has a lot of causes. What’s more, you could eliminate every molecule of lead in the world and you’d still have plenty of crime and plenty of terrorism. But you’d have less.

Continue reading. He includes an interesting speculation.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 December 2016 at 10:55 am

Tim Robbins’ Improv Classes Transform Prisoners’ Lives & Lower Recidivism Rates

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Ayun Halliday has an Open Culture post with four interesting videos. Here’s the first:

The post begins:

If a 20-something, Yale-educated New Yorker reporter feels nervous stepping in to her first ever improv class, imagine the stakes for your average inmate, whose survival depends on a successfully monolithic projection of toughness and control.

Control is actually something the Actors’ Gang Prison Project seeks to cultivate in its incarcerated participants. The Actors’ Gang’s Artistic Director, Tim Robbins, who founded the radically experimental ensemble fresh out of college, notes a well-documented connection between an inability to control one’s emotions and criminal activity. . .

Read the whole thing. And take a look at the videos.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 December 2016 at 1:21 pm

Using Ecstasy to treat PTSD: ‘I felt like my soul snapped back into place’

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Another drug shows great therapeutic promise, reported at PBS by Caleb Hellerman:

In nearly a decade trying to recover from post-traumatic stress disorder caused by childhood abuse, Jessi Appleton compiled a medical chart that reads like a Chinese restaurant menu. Biofeedback. Neurofeedback. Anti-depressants. Anti-anxiety medication. She tried a popular treatment called Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), where she spent hours letting her gaze follow a therapist’s hand as it moved through carefully prescribed patterns. She tried another gaze-based therapy, called brainspotting.

“EMDR helped the most, but I was hitting a wall,” says Appleton. “I was suicidal. I was like this ghost sort of thing, walking through life. And I felt like nothing was going to change.”

Then she tried a new experimental treatment: therapy under the influence of MDMA, better known as Ecstasy. Her therapist suggested she sign up to be part of a pilot study. After three sessions, she said, “I felt like my soul snapped back into place.”

Appleton, 32, was treated in Boulder, Colorado, in a study arranged and funded by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), an organization that has long pursued a strategy of supporting rigorous scientific research into otherwise illegal drugs.

On Tuesday, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave the treatment an important boost, when agency officials met with officials from MAPS to start clearing the way for one or more large-scale research studies. According to Rick Doblin, MAPS’ founder and executive director, officials with the FDA’s Division of Psychiatry Products will not require additional studies prior to launching a Phase 3 trial, a critical round of testing that determines whether a medical treatment can be approved for widespread use.

“It was a very collaborative discussion, in light of the need to develop new treatments for PTSD for veterans and others,” Doblin says. “They recognize that this is a novel treatment, combining psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy, and there’s nothing else like it right now.”

The FDA says that federal law and internal regulations prohibit the agency from commenting on studies about pending applications or drugs still in development.

Details will be worked out over the next several months, but Doblin says that Phase 3 is likely to include at least 230 patients treated at roughly a dozen sites around the country.

Doblin and Appleton’s lead therapist, psychotherapist Marcela Ot’alora, say the therapy component is crucial. After a handful of preparatory meetings, the patient takes the drug under the watchful eyes of a two-person treatment team — almost always a man and a woman. Across studies, the dosage varies, but it is typically between 75 and 125mg, enough to trigger a strong experience. Like others, Appleton wore eyeshades and spent several hours lying back on a small couch, mostly in silence.

“It’s a lot of inner dialogue,” Appleton recalls. “Sometimes you’re terrified, sometimes relaxed, sometimes it’s other emotions. It’s intense, and by the end it’s exhausting.”

Ot’alora says her role is mostly supportive. Echoing Appleton’s description, she says the drug seems to help patients let go of their inner critic, or inner demons. “That part of you becomes a witness, saying, ‘This is what’s happening to you, this is what happened to you and this is how it felt.’ It’s very matter of fact.” . . .

Continue reading.

Read the whole thing. There’s quite a bit more.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 December 2016 at 12:45 pm

Magic mushrooms ease anxiety and depression in cancer patients in one dose

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Melissa Healy reports the good news in the LA Times:

In findings that could pry open a door closed for nearly half a century, researchers have found that psilocybin — a hallucinogen long used in traditional healing rituals — eases the depression and soothes the anxiety of patients contending with serious illness and the prospect of imminent death.

In two separate studies published Thursday, researchers report that trial subjects who received a single moderate-to-large dose of psilocybin got substantial and lasting relief from their profound distress. Among 80 cancer patients who participated in the two trials, as many as 4 in 5 continued to feel measurably less hopeless and demoralized six months after taking the drug than they had upon their recruitment.

And even years later, many reported they had gained — and retained — a profound sense of peace and meaning from the experience. Of 29 cancer patients who got psilocybin in a trial conducted at New York University’s Langone Medical Center, 20 rated it as “among the most meaningful” events of their life.

“This drug saved my life and changed my life,” said Dinah Bazer, a Brooklyn, N.Y., woman who was administered a single dose of psilocybin at a New York treatment center in 2011.

In the wake of treatment for ovarian cancer, Bazer said, her anxiety at the prospect of its return was “eating her alive.” Under the influence of a single high dose of psilocybin, Bazer said Wednesday, she became “volcanically angry” as she visualized her cancer as a dark mass bearing down on her. With an epithet, she then saw herself throwing it off.

“I was bathed in God’s love” for hours after that, said Bazer, who describes herself as an atheist. When the psilocybin’s hallucinatory effects wore off, she said, two years of intense anxiety were simply gone.

“This is a groundbreaking result,” said Dr. George Greer, medical director of the Heffter Research Institute, the nonprofit organization that funded the two trials.

Greer suggested that the “existential anxiety” of the terminally ill is only one of many conditions that psilocybin may one day treat. Others may include treatment-resistant depression, addiction to cocaine, alcohol or tobacco, obsessive-compulsive disorder and “demoralization” in long-term survivors of HIV, he said.

Johns Hopkins University psychiatrist Dr. Roland R. Griffiths, the lead author of one of the two studies, said the enduring relief provided by a single dose of psilocybin makes such treatment more akin to surgery than it does to the plodding, labor-intensive treatments that remain the mainstay of his profession.

“I really don’t think we have any models in psychiatry that look like” the effects demonstrated in the two trials, said Griffiths. “Something occurs and it’s repaired and it’s better going forward … very plausibly for more than six months,” he added. “In that sense it’s a new model.”

The publication of the two early trials, in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, marks an American return to research on the therapeutic use of hallucinogenic drugs after a hiatus of 50 years.

In the 1950s and ’60s, hallucinogenic drugs such as lysergic acid diethylamide — LSD — and psilocybin, which is found naturally in certain mushrooms, were widely used in U.S. biomedical research and in psychotherapy practices. But in 1966, as the psychedelic drugs gained a broad counterculture following in the United States, the U.S. government declared any use of the drugs illegal. By the 1970s, that ended all American research on their potential therapeutic benefits.

In recent years, a small clutch of American researchers, including the authors of the two new papers, have argued that such prohibitions might be preventing the discovery of better treatments for widespread and pressing psychiatric problems, including depression, addiction and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

With PTSD epidemic among U.S. combat veterans and drug addiction a national scourge, American officials have indicated a new willingness to allow research to proceed on psychedelic and other drugs long classified as having no legitimate medical use.

On Tuesday, the Food and Drug Administration gave its blessing to conducting large-scale clinical trials of an experimental medication  — 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine — better known as the party drug ecstasy.

Like LSD and psilocybin, ecstasy appears to hold promise as an adjunct to psychotherapy in the treatment of PTSD. If the resulting Phase 3 trials of ecstasy demonstrate their effectiveness, the next step could be FDA approval of ecstasy as a prescription drug. . .

Continue reading.

The War on Drugs that Nixon initiated (against the advice of a presidential commission he formed) has done incalculable damage and blocked for decades the discovery of the benefits the drugs might bring. And I fear with Jeff Sessions as Attorney General we in for a big regression.

Later in the column:

In one of the trials, researchers used a very low dose of psilocybin, much lower than that required to induce hallucinations, as a placebo. In the other, they used the dietary supplement niacin. In each trial, all of the subjects got a high dose of psilocybin in one of two sessions. So all, in the end, experienced the full effects of the drug.

All subjects in both trials had been diagnosed with cancer, and with “existential anxiety or depression” resulting from the illness and the likelihood of an early death. Participants were extensively prepared for the expected effects of the psilocybin. To minimize adverse reactions, researchers closely monitored the subjects while they were under the influence of the drug or the placebo. Afterwards, psychotherapists encouraged the subjects to write down and reflect upon the experience.

Immediately after, as well as five weeks after their first session, subjects who got the psilocybin first looked much better than did those who got the placebo first. A wide range of standardized measures of depression, anxiety and quality of life showed that these subjects were less hopeless, less demoralized and less anxious.

Six months out, 87% of those in the trial conducted at New York University/Langone reported their life satisfaction and/or well-being had been improved by the experience. In the larger of the two trials, conducted at Johns Hopkins University, psilocybin produced “large and significant … increases in measures of quality of life, life meaning, death acceptance, and optimism” — effects that “were sustained at six months.”

Psilocybin’s side effects, meanwhile, were pretty tame. In the two trials, about 15% of subjects experienced nausea or vomiting when getting a high dose, and about 1 in 3 experienced some form of transient psychological discomfort. Many subjects’ heart rates and blood pressure rose, but none to a dangerous extent.

The potential use of psilocybin in patients diagnosed with life-threatening diseases comes at a moment when medical care at the end of life is a subject of growing concern among patients and physicians. Research finds it’s still common for dying patients to get painful and futile procedures. Palliative and hospice care, both aimed at easing the discomfort of the seriously ill, are growing specialties in American hospitals. An increasing number of patients, meanwhile, are demanding the right to die with a physician’s help.

As states debate these physician-assisted suicide bills, they should consider the implications of finding an effective treatment for the “existential distress” of the dying, said Dr. Craig D. Blinderman, a palliative care specialist at Columbia University Medical Center/New York Presbyterian Hospital.

And there’s a lot more. Worth reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 December 2016 at 10:47 am

Cognitive closure and US politics

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That’s from a very interesting Open Culture post by Dan Colman, which begins:

There’s a political disconnect in the United States. We have two political parties, each now living in its own reality and working with its own set of facts. The common ground between them? Next to none.

How to explain this disconnect? Maybe the answer lies in the theory of “cognitive closure”–a theory first worked out by social psychologist Arie Kruglanski back in 1989.

“People’s politics are driven by their psychological needs,” Kruglanski explains in the short documentary above. “People who are anxious because of the uncertainty that surrounds them are going to be attracted to messages that offer certainty.”

He sips a soda, then continues, . . .

But watch the documentary. It’s just 7 minutes.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 December 2016 at 6:12 pm

They certainly hooked me. How about you? “The Attention Economy – How They Addict Us”

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Written by LeisureGuy

29 November 2016 at 3:57 pm

Mary Elizabeth Williams provides plain talk to journalists who have no experience with abusive relationships

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Many journalists lack real-life experience as a partner in an abusive relationship—thank God—which leaves them WAY out of their depth in trying to deal with Trump. They lack the experience of dealing daily with a narcissistic and disordered personality who’s accustomed to abusing others, from grabbing them by the pussy to the sort of vengeance he feels entitled to if anyone crosses him in any way, however slight, like claiming that he—he, Donald Trump—lost the popular vote. It’s also possible that some are in such a relationship currently but not yet ready/able to look directly at the situation, and so they simply block out things that would lead them to confront something they are now not ready confront. The effect is the same: they don’t see what’s going on.)

In contrast, Donald Trump has loads of experience in dealing with regular people in daily life, and he knows exactly how to handle them—e.g., promise whatever they want to hear, and once he has what he wants, discard them.

Compare: An ordinary person meeting a famous person is struck dumb, particularly if the famous person is one the ordinary person “knows” and admires (from afar). Such an encounter is extremely unusual for the ordinary person, who therefore does not know how to act in the situation. But for the famous person an encounter with an ordinary person happens all the time, so the famous person is quite comfortable: because s/he’s accustomed to this.

An ordinary person who meets many famous people, as does some rising start making the transition from ordinary to famous, will from the experience from these encounters learn how to handle it and loses the awkwardness and self-consciousness that s/he had at the beginning: it’s just a skill, learned through practice, and a famous person has more practice in meeting ordinary people than ordinary people have in meeting famous people.

It’s all a matter of having enough experience with a kind of situation to know how to react in that situation. See also this earlier post; from that post:

One interesting statistic: We were told that the average assailant has done 17 attacks [on women], so that the victim is totally outclassed just on the basis of experience. The victim is going through something for the first time, trying to work out a response on the fly, while the attacker has the advantage of experience and knows what to expect and how to deal with it.

But during the 12-week course [in Model Mugging], the students go through 54 very realistic simulated attacks, with full force. So if a student later faces an assailant, the experience tables are turned. The assailant just doesn’t have the depth of experience in dealing with physical assault that this particular victim does, and he finds himself out of his depth.

So Donald Trump knows exactly what to do with people like you, from long experience and much practice, but the ordinary person, without any experience with that sort of situation, is totally outmatched. He knows how to handle you, but you don’t know how to handle him. That’s how he got away with being a serial sexual assaulter for so many years.

Mary Elizabeth Williams makes some good points in her Salon column:

Friends, fellow members of the media and those of you with far more reach and influence than I will ever attain: I know you’re used to dispensing free advice, but let me offer you some today. If you don’t have a lot of direct experience with how vindictive, possibly unbalanced people behave, bless your heart.

If you’re low on the chain of groups that are currently being targeted by a former reality star and his rogue’s gallery of intended allies, congratulations on your good fortune. Now, I ask you to take a step back from lecturing everybody else about what is a “distraction” these days — because this would be an excellent moment to start listening and reconsidering some of your views.

In a period between Sunday and early Tuesday, Donald Trump, a man who lost the popular vote by 2 million votes and counting, went on a number of separate, reckless Twitter rants. First, he went gunning after the results of the election, falsely claiming, “In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.”

 It’s a thoroughly bogus statement, one that can be traced to screaming conspiracy theorist and Sandy Hook truther Alex Jones. Trump next announced he would just met with former general David Petraeus and was “very impressed” with a man who not so long ago was under investigation for revealing classified information to his mistress.

He then moved on to a genuinely baffling series of tweets to his followers — including at one point, specifically a 16-year-old Oakland Raiders fan — about his ongoing media grudges. “What PROOF do u have DonaldTrump did not suffer from millions of FRAUD votes? Journalist? Do your job! @CNN,” he fumed, calling out CNN senior Washington correspondent Jeff Zeleny as “just another generic CNN part time wannabe journalist! 

He added, “Pathetic — you have no sufficient evidence that Donald Trump did not suffer from voter fraud, shame! Bad reporter. There is NO QUESTION THAT #voterfraud did take place, and in favor of #CorruptHillary!”

It was a veritable smorgasbord of paranoia, narcissism and direct bullying. By Tuesday morning, he was still carrying on about CNN, but also cryptically threw in a new target, announcing, “Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag — if they do, there must be consequences — perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!” (Note: Your right to burn the flag is constitutionally protected, as is your citizenship — at least for now.)

With every tweet, with every public declaration he makes — especially every one since Nov. 8 — Donald Trump reveals himself to be dangerously, willfully ignorant, hellbent on punishing his perceived enemies and profoundly butthurt about just about everything. And every time it happens, along come a trove of well-meaning individuals — often male, often white, often straight — to offer a scolding about how what Trump is doing is a “distraction” that “we” shouldn’t pay attention to.

I suspect that many smart, talented people, like Jack Shafer, who says we should “stop being Trump’s Twitter fool,” are coming from a genuine place, based on their own political and media experience. But let me break it down: Trump is not a politician. Trump is not a person with an iota of public service experience. Trump is, to say the least, a really outside the box human being. It is unhelpful to talk about him like any of the normal rules apply.

It also unhelpful right now to sermonize about who “we” are when many of “us” are immigrants, POC, women, persons with disabilities or members of the LGBTQ community. I’d love for the self-appointed arbiters of What Really Matters to grasp that much of the threat to American liberties right now is coming from people who are super duper invested in their white male privilege, so maybe you’ll excuse us if hah!

We’re a little burned out on guys like that telling everybody else how to think and behave. And if you, like Shafer, look at Trump and can be reminded of a petulant toddler and not an abuser, I sincerely envy you.

I suspect that if you’re accustomed to the world operating for you in ways it doesn’t for millions of others, the idea that a man who consistently behaves in a manner that shows himself to be uncurious, unkind and totally lacking in impulse control could attain the highest level of power does not compute. All around me, I see wise, nice people who went to good schools twisting themselves into knots over this. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 November 2016 at 2:01 pm

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