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Hallucinogens: Good For Your Mental Health?

Last week’s article in the journal Science looked at the effects of the anesthetic/dissociative drug ketamine (Vitamin K or “Special K” on the street) on brain cell function in rats, concluding that “ketamine might be useful in treating depression because it increases brain activity instantly — so there is no need to wait weeks or months for the drug to take effect.”

Another article from the journal Nature Reviews Neuroscience reviewed the state-of-the-art in psychedelic science and found that “countless studies show that hallucinogens promote healthy neural activity in the brain. The researchers also created a chart to show what test subjects’ states of mind are, according to studies, when under the influence of various substances.”

IMAGE: “Assessing altered states of consciousness” (click to enlarge)

Source: “Psychedelics May Be Good For Our Mental Health” (Lanny-Yap)

*This blog post was originally published at Shrink Rap*

The Psychology Of Survival

By ClinkShrink

I read this BBC story recently about the Chilean miners trapped for 17 days, who now face months of waiting underground while a rescue tunnel is dug. Although they are all physically well and expected to survive, they face the psychological challenge of waiting for rescue from the cave.

This story resonated with me because lately I’ve been hearing a lot about a new book, No Way Down, which was featured on NPR along with some other mountain disaster books. No Way Down covered the story of several teams of mountain climbers who were stranded on K2 when an icefall cut their ropes. Most of the climbers died although a few managed to pick their way back to base camp.

Survival stories have always been popular. Entire television series now feature teams of people pitted against one another to overcome some test or challenge. Disaster movies were popular back in the ’70s, when the Towering Inferno, Airport and the Poseidon Adventure let us watch people get picked off one by one.

Why do we love this stuff? Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Shrink Rap*

Soap, Drugs, And Rock And Roll

By ClinkShrink

There’s always something new, even in the world of substance abuse. Lately I’ve been reading a lot in the media about K2, a synthetic cannabinoid that’s being sold (and outlawed) in many states. It’s commonly mixed with herbal incense and smoked. Nicknamed “spice,” it was originally created by scientists and called JWH-018.

Apparently some states’ poison control centers have been getting calls about it due to the physical symptoms it can cause, specifically palpitations and GI problems. The part of the story that I thought was interesting was the fact that originally only 250 milligrams of the stuff was created, in an “official” research lab, but that home chemists quickly took up the experiment and it’s now a part of our national drug culture. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Shrink Rap*

The Power of “M.D.”

MD InitialsBy Dr. ClinkShrink

I took my car in to the shop last week to visit his Car Momma. I’ve been going to this garage for years and I know most of the mechanics. I’ve run into Car Momma at the hair salon with her head wrapped in a towel. I’ve heard about her son, his school activities and her home renovation projects. She’s heard about my vacations and seen my climbing pictures. I’ve always been on a first name basis with the people I know there.

This time, I had to leave the car and get a rental. I left a voice message with the rental desk and when the rental guy called me back at work I answered the phone with my usual “Dr. ClinkShrink.” Now, my garage knows what I do for a living, and it’s just never been an issue or really even a topic of conversation once the novelty wore off. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Shrink Rap*

Schizophrenia Caused By The Cat?

CatFrom the front page of [the August 1st] Baltimore Sun: Researchers Explore Link Between Schizophrenia, Cat Parasite. Frank D. Roylance writes:

Johns Hopkins University scientists trying to determine why people develop serious mental illness are focusing on an unlikely factor: a common parasite spread by cats. The researchers say the microbes, called Toxoplasma gondii, invade the human brain and appear to upset its chemistry — creating, in some people, the psychotic behaviors recognized as schizophrenia. If tackling the parasite can help solve the mystery of schizophrenia, “it’s a pretty good opportunity … to relieve a pretty large burden of disease,” said Dr. Robert H. Yolken, director of developmental neurobiology at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Shrink Rap*

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

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How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

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Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

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The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

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Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

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