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Controversial treatments in psychiatry

  • Jason Luty
Summary

Psychiatry uses some of the most controversial treatments in medicine. This may be partly because several are administered under coercion and opposed to the patient's expressed will, under the protection of the relevant mental health legislation. Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is perhaps the archetypal controversial treatment; although it is considered to be effective, the research supporting it is much less impressive than one would expect. The prescription of stimulant drugs for childhood attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and substitution therapy (such as methadone maintenance) in addictions treatment remain topical and appear to be subject to political interference. ‘Treatment’ for homosexuality and psychosurgery were common in the past but are now rare. These issues are discussed to give insight into how once common controversial treatments can decline and become obsolete. However, seclusion and covert medication remain in practice and are highly scrutinised.

Learning Objectives

• Recognise that many controversial treatments, such as psychosurgery, have been superseded by psychotropic drugs used since the 1950s

• Be aware of the limitations of evidence supporting controversial treatments, such as stimulants for childhood ADHD and ECT for depression in adults

• Be aware that controversial treatments are highly emotive and may be viewed negatively by the public or politicians, despite evidence for their safety and effectiveness

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Copyright
Corresponding author
Correspondence Dr Jason Luty, Borders Addiction Service, The Range, Tweed Road, Galashiels TD1 3EB, UK. Email: jason.luty@yahoo.co.uk
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Declaration of Interest

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Footnotes
References
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Controversial treatments in psychiatry

  • Jason Luty
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