Mental Health News #14
An ezine brought to you by AlternativeMentalHealth.com and Safe Harbor, a nonprofit corporation.
Dan Stradford, Editor
Alan Graham, Assistant Editor
Gloria McTaggart, Research Editor
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TABLE OF CONTENTS:
1. ABOUT SAFE HARBOR
2. EDITORS COMMENT
3. ARTICLE: SUZANNE SOMERS, ED ASNER SEND CONGRATS TO MARGOT
4. ARTICLE: MAGNESIUM DEFICIENCY PLAYS KEY ROLE IN "ADHD"
5. ARTICLE: NEW HOPE FDN. PROMISES ALTERNATIVE MENTAL HEALTH FACILITY
6. ARTICLE: ASPARTAME AND EMOTIONAL DISORDERS
7. ARTICLE: MARKETING KIDS' DRUGS TO PARENTS EXPECTED TO BACKFIRE
8. ARTICLE: NUTRITIONAL INTERVENTIONS AND ATTENTION
9. ARTICLE: "VIRTUAL DOLPHINS" ENTER THERAPY ARENA
10. ARTICLE: WINTER BLUES MAY BE CAUSED BY NEGATIVE ION DEPLETION
11. ABOUT ALTERNATIVEMENTALHEALTH.COM
ABOUT SAFE HARBOR
Safe Harbor was founded in 1998 in the wake of growing public dissatisfaction with the unwanted effects of orthodox psychiatric treatments such as medication and shock therapy. Seeking to satisfy the desire for safer, more effective treatments, Safe Harbor is dedicated to educating the public, the medical profession, and government officials on research and treatments that, minimally, do no harm and, optimally, cure the causes of severe mental symptoms. Our primary thrust is education on the medical causes of severe mental symptoms and the use of nutritional and other natural treatments.
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Things have been busy here at Safe Harbor and AlternativeMentalHealth.com. With the Margot Kidder Award event coming up (see below), we have had our hands full enough, but recent press exposure has caused a dramatic rise in site visitors and a resulting flood of phone calls and e-mails.
We want to thank Margot Kidder for her recent outstanding hour-long radio interview in Los Angeles with veteran broadcaster Michael Jackson that had the Safe Harbor phone ringing for quite a while. Then a few days later, we were hit with a surprise repeat of Margot's appearance on The View on ABC with Barbara Walters. Result: 5300 site visitors that day and the traffic is still heavy. We just got an e-mail that the Dallas Morning News has printed a letter to the editor on their web site from someone recommending
AlternativeMentalHealth.com. And September 1, Scotland's largest newspaper, the Daily Record, does an article on Margot, discussing, in part AlternativeMentalHealth.com and her upcoming award.
Is the public hungry for alternative mental health? Don't ask our poor worn-out staff and volunteers. They are too busy, clickety-clackety at their keyboards, answering e-mails.
SUZANNE SOMERS, ED ASNER SEND CONGRATULATIONS TO MARGOT
As we go to press, the upcoming Sept. 20th Margot Kidder Award event in Los Angeles continues to generate excitement. The benefit will honor Safe Harbor's international spokesperson, actress Margot Kidder, for her humanitarian work by creating the Annual Margot Kidder Award. The award will recognize men and women who advance the cause of safe, alternative mental health.
Suzanne Somers e-mailed Safe Harbor to beautifully express her respect and congratulations for Margot's achievements. Ed Asner faxed similar, almost poetic, sentiments today. Dr. Abram
Hoffer, the world's foremost authority on nutritional mental health treatments, has sent us a glowing letter praising Margot's work. All such messages will be read during the evening's presentation.
Mark McClure, who played Jimmy Olsen in the Superman movies, called last night to express interest in the event. Daily Variety - the bible of the film industry - recently discussed the event along with Margot's upcoming movie with James Earl Jones and Lynn
Redgrave, The Annihilation of Fish.
The event is at 7:30 PM in the Hollywood Room of the Westin Bonaventure Hotel at 404 So. Figueroa in Los Angeles.
Tickets are still available for $60 ($75 at the door) and can be purchased online at AlternativeMentalHealth.com or from Safe Harbor at (818) 890-1862 or by e-mail at
MAGNESIUM DEFICIENCY PLAYS KEY ROLE IN "ADHD"
"A positive influence of magnesium in the prevention and treatment of hyperactivity in children is more and more frequently raised in the literature," began Polish researchers Kozielec and Starobrat-Hermelin in the first of two articles they published in the June 1997 issue of Magnesium Research magazine.
The researchers proceeded to unveil the results of two studies conducted to examine the relationship between dietary magnesium and hyperactivity symptoms, which they refer to as "ADHD syndrome."
In the first study, magnesium levels in 116 children with "recognized ADHD" were compared to normal magnesium levels for their age group; in the second, 75 "ADHD" children who had been found magnesium-deficient were divided into a magnesium supplementation group and a control group and the results compared after six months.
The children in the first study ranged in age from 9-12. 82% were boys. Magnesium levels were determined in blood serum, red blood cells and in hair with the aid of atomic absorption spectroscopy. Magnesium deficiency was found in 95% of those examined.
"The conclusion from the investigations is that magnesium deficiency in children with ADHD occurs more frequently than in healthy children. Analysis of the material indicated the correlation between levels of magnesium and the quotient of development to freedom from distractibility."
In the second study, "The aim of our work was to assess the influence of magnesium supplementation on hyperactivity in patients with ADHD." The investigation started with 75 children, aged 7-12 years, who fulfilled DSM IV criteria for ADHD, with recognized deficiency of magnesium in the blood (blood serum and red blood cells) and in hair based on atomic absorption spectroscopy results. 50 of the children were given daily magnesium supplementation of about 200 mg. while the remaining 25 were "treated in a standard way, without magnesium preparations."
Hyperactivity was assessed with the aid of psychometric scales: the Conners Rating Scale for Parents and Teachers, Wender's Scale of Behavior and the Quotient of Development to Freedom from Distractibility.
In the group of children given 6 months of magnesium supplementation, an increase in magnesium content in hair and a significant decrease of hyperactivity was reported, compared to their clinical state before supplementation and compared to the control group which had not been treated with magnesium. "At the same time, however, among the children given standard treatment without magnesium, hyperactivity has intensified."
NEW HOPE FDN. CREATING ALTERNATIVE MENTAL HEALTH FACILITY
Hoping to open its doors in 2002 to the first 16 clients (eventually 48), the New Hope Foundation of Kensington, MD is targeted to become one of the first alternative mental health facilities in the US. Founded by a husband and wife some years ago when they discovered their daughter's "schizophrenia" had underlying physical causes, the new facility will offer a completely new - and many would say better - approach to handling mental problems.
The program will offer a four-stage process to clients, that includes attention to treating the underlying medical and nutritional causes of "mental illness." The first stage emphasizes adherence to individualized medical and nutritional regimens and habits of personal cleanliness. Participants will learn to prepare well-balanced meals for themselves and will improve their social skills through staff-directed team activities.
The second stage addresses preparation for employment with emphasis on how to apply for and hold a job and on instruction in marketable skills, ranging from typing and word processing to outdoor activities like organic farming.
During the third stage, residents will assume a more independent role while continuing to live on the New Hope campus.
Stage Four is a graduate level, with a support system, that allows the individual to occupy low-rent apartments in the community. Such graduates will pay rent and support themselves by working.
The New Hope Foundation has received grants and donations to build the facility and have architectural plans and the land, but further funds are needed. To donate or for further information, contact them at (301) 946-6395 or
firstname.lastname@example.org. Their website is at
ASPARTAME AND EMOTIONAL DISORDERS
The artificial sweetener aspartame (L-aspartyl-L-phenylalanyl-methyl ester), consumed daily by millions of Americans in soft drinks, baked goods, and other products, can cause significant elevations in phenylalanine (an amino acid) levels.
"Anecdotal reports suggest that some people suffer neurologic or behavioral reactions in association with aspartame consumption," say Timothy J. Maher (Department of Pharmacology, Massachusetts College of Pharmacy), and Richard J. Wurtman (Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, MIT). "Since phenylalanine can be neurotoxic and can affect the synthesis of [certain] neurotransmitters, the phenylalanine in aspartame could conceivably mediate neurologic effects. Aspartame also potentiates [makes stronger] the induction of seizures by inhaled fluorothyl (a form of ether) or by electroconvulsive shock.
"For the very great majority of Americans, i.e., those who elect to eat processed foods, food additives are a ubiquitous constituent of the environment, and one with potentially important health effects. The laws governing the sale of these compounds require that their addition to foods fulfill a specific purpose, such as improving flavor, retarding spoilage, or enhancing nutritional quality, and that such use be risk-free. Compounds that affect physiological systems are classified as drugs by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and are subject to considerably more demanding regulatory procedures than food constituents."
In 1993, a study by Walton, Hudak and Green-Waite was published in the Journal of Biological Psychiatry, Vol 34, entitled
"Adverse Reactions to Aspartame: Double Blind Challenge in Patients from a Vulnerable
According to the study, reports of adverse reactions to aspartame abound despite FDA approval and the clinical studies on which that approval was based. "It has been reported that 66% of such reactions involve neurologic or behavioral symptoms, particularly headaches." Two widely quoted studies that have failed to duplicate these reactions (Leone et al, 1988; Steinman and
Kunkle, 1988) have been criticized on methodological ground, and because they were supported by grants from the NutraSweet Company, a division of the
G.D. Searle Company, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Monsanto.
The Searle-funded study of Schiffman, represented as "long-term," turns out to consist of "1 or 2-day challenges." Data in the Walton study showed that most symptoms begin to appear after the second day. Two top FDA officials, after going along with the Schiffman study, reportedly went on to work for Searle or its affiliates.
The Walton study was designed to ascertain whether individuals with mood disorders are particularly vulnerable to adverse effects of aspartame. "Although the protocol required the
recruitment of 40 patients with unipolar depression and a similar number of individuals without a psychiatric history, the project was halted by the Institutional Review Board after a total of 13 individuals had completed the study because of the severity of reactions in individuals with mood disorder. We conclude that individuals with mood disorders are particularly sensitive to this artificial sweetener and its use in this population should be discouraged."
These scientists work for the Department of Psychiatry, Northeastern Ohio University's College of Medicine, the University Hospitals of Cleveland, and the Western Reserve Care System in Youngstown, Ohio. When they approached NutraSweet to obtain aspartame for the study, the company refused to give them any. They ended up purchasing analytically certified USP grade aspartame from Schweizerhall in Piscataway, New Jersey.
The Walton report states that 63% of the depressed patients experienced memory loss with aspartame (0% on the placebo), 75% of the patients experienced an increase in nausea, 25% reported an increase in temper, 37% experienced an increase in depression. In the patients with pre-existing depression, with no change produced by a placebo, 13% experienced adverse effects including negative thought patterns, swollen lips, facial numbness, and weight gain.
In the control group of patients who did not have mood disorders, 20% who had no reaction with a neutral placebo experienced memory loss after taking aspartame, and 40% who got no reaction from a placebo experienced nightmares after taking aspartame.
MARKETING KIDS' DRUGS TO PARENTS EXPECTED TO BACKFIRE
On August 19, 2001, the New York Times reported on two opposing trends in the treatment of school children for behavioral and emotional problems.
On the one hand, state legislatures are moving to prevent schools from recommending or requiring that parents put their children on medication.
On the other, "Some of Ritalin's competitors are breaking with 30-year-old international marketing restrictions to advertise directly to parents, selling the idea that drugs may be the answer to their children's problems in school," reported Kate Zernike and Melody Petersen in the in-depth article.
In July 2001, Minnesota became the first state to forbid schools and child protection agencies to tell parents they must put their children on mood-altering drugs. In October, Connecticut will go a step further when a new law takes effect making doctors the only ones authorized to discuss drug treatments with a parent. Similar bills have been introduced in New Jersey, New York, Wisconsin, Utah, and Arizona.
The legislative push is to curb overprescription of the drugs. Advocates blame an excessive reliance on Ritalin and its competitors for driving parents away from traditional discipline. They further cite the "after-market" trafficking in these drugs to fellow students as an alarming trend.
Last year, doctors wrote almost 20 million monthly prescriptions for the stimulants, mostly for boys, according to IMS Health. Sales of the drugs exceeded three quarters of a billion dollars.
The political concern comes as producers of the drugs have begun an advertising campaign that is unparalleled in spending and technique.
Metadate CD, Ritalin, Adderall and similar drugs are classified as Schedule II controlled substances, the most addictive substances that are still legal. (Heroin and LSD are Schedule I substances.)
In keeping with a 1971 international treaty, such controlled substances have never been marketed directly to consumers, only to doctors. There is, however, no federal law to prevent drug companies from doing it.
Until now, pharmaceutical companies have respected what Terry Woodworth of the Drug Enforcement Administration called "a 30-year agreement with the pharmaceutical industry not to advertise controlled substances" in the U.S.
But in the back-to-school section of this month's Ladies' Home Journal, the boldest of three full-page ADHD drug advertisements proclaims: "Introducing Metadate capsules. One dose covers his ADHD for the whole school day." The ad depicts a mother embracing her beaming son.
Celltech has created a Superman-like character with "CD" emblazoned on his chest. "A new hero for ADHD patients is here!" pronounces the company's brochure, which is passed out by sales reps to doctors and pharmacists and may easily end up in parents' hands.
"Celltech has stepped up and beyond everyone else," Woodworth said in the Times article, "by advertising a drug with a high potential for abuse." He said the campaign could have "diplomatic repercussions" and that Celltech had been recently asked to stop.
The F.D.A. said the drugs could be advertised as long as their dangers are described in the ads.
McNeil Consumer Healthcare, which makes a drug called Concerta, and Shire Pharmaceuticals, a British company that makes
Adderall, are also advertising directly to consumers, but they are not naming their products. Instead, parents are urged to call a toll-free number to request that brochures be sent to them. That information mentions the drugs by brand name as one treatment option.
Woodworth of the Drug Enforcement Administration said such ads - McNeil is running 60-second commercials on cable television networks like the Discovery Channel and A&E - still violate the spirit of the international protocols. Officials of both companies say they are not promoting a brand and are not breaking any law.
According to the Times article, the Drug Enforcement Administration says Ritalin and other stimulants are among the most frequently stolen prescription drugs. Some students are crushing and snorting pills for a speed-like high; in Orem, Utah, an elementary school principal was sentenced to 30 days in jail after he stole his students' Ritalin pills and replaced them with sugar pills.
Children who take medication for emotional or learning problems in school tend to be labeled "learning disabled" under special education laws, and now account for over half of those in special education.
The Connecticut legislation began with the work of an emergency room nurse, where she said she saw more and more children coming in who were on psychotropic drugs, from stimulants to antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications, and requiring metabolic tests and cardiograms. "Why, unless these drugs have some impact on the other body systems, would we have to do these tests?" she said. Then she began receiving calls from constituents who complained that schools had encouraged them to put their children on drugs, even, in some cases, making it a condition of attending class or after-school.
In Millbrook, N.Y., Patricia Weathers said her son's school told her to put him on Ritalin in first grade. By fourth grade, he was showing signs of severe anxiety, she said, chewing his clothes and paper. When Weathers took him off the drugs, she said, the school called the state's office of child protective services and accused her of medical neglect.
"You have the school psychologist, the teachers, the principal, all bombarding you, saying this is the only way to go," she said. "I fell for it, and I believe most parents fall for it. They want to do what's right for their child, and if the professionals are telling them this is right, you think, `They must be right.' "
She, like many parents who think Ritalin is overprescribed, complain that there is no scientific basis for the diagnosis of the disorders for which it is prescribed.
"You can't tell me they all have this brain disorder during the school year, when during the summer they're fine," said Mrs. Weathers, who now instructs her son at home.
NUTRITIONAL INTERVENTIONS AND ATTENTION
"Rational dosages of nutrients have a prolonged effect on learning disabilities," begins a report by Carlton et al.
(Altern Ther Health Med 2000 May) summarizing a three-year, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study conducted at Stonybrook University Medical School that provided nutritional supplements on an individualized basis to learning disabled children. "Parents and/or teachers... reported considerable improvements for all the children in mood and behavior."
Twenty learning-disabled children entered the study, but one dropped out because of nausea. The remaining 19 children showed significant academic and behavioral improvements within a few weeks or months of open-label treatment with nutrient supplements. Some children gained 3 to 5 years in reading comprehension within the first year of treatment; and all children in special education classes became mainstreamed, and their grades rose significantly.
Subjects were enrolled from the general community through advertisements.
Each child was tried out on some (but not necessarily all) of the B vitamins and minerals used in this study. These were administered semi-blinded for the first year; double-blinded in crossover rotations during the second year; and open-label in the ensuing years.
At various time points, school-certified psychologists administered psychoeducational tests. School report cards were evaluated at baseline and for all subsequent periods.
Twelve of the children completed the 1-year double-blind phase, after which approximately half of the children chose to remain on the nutrients for at least two additional years. For those who discontinued, it took at least one year to begin to see the first indications of decline in academic performance, and another year for their grades to drop significantly. In contrast, for children who remained on nutrients, the gains continued the upward trend; at the end of year 4, the difference in scores between the 2 groups had reached statistical significance.
"VIRTUAL DOLPHINS" ENTER THERAPY ARENA
Dolphin-assisted therapy originally emerged from the animal-assisted therapy arena, where the object was to improve attention span, mood, or behavior through positive interaction with animals. In many reported cases, the strong desire to interact with dolphins prompted attention span increases and mood improvements in test subjects. Other improvements were not so easily explained.
The dolphins' use of ultrasonic frequencies for echolocation in communication as well as navigation may catalyze psychophysiological changes in humans and produce observed behavioral changes, according to Pinney (1998).
In a field with little empirical data and few standardized criteria of therapeutic progress, researchers reject the "New Age" label and continue to accumulate evidence substantiated by interdisciplinary knowledge.
David Cole's introduction of neurophysiological measures injected much-needed credibility into the discipline. By collaborating with behaviorists, but approaching their work from a new angle, Cole arrived at new hypotheses about what was causing the behaviorists' successes
Psychoneuroimmunological advances, and refinements in collection and interpretation of EEG data, have assisted researchers in investigating neurological changes that may be occurring during dolphin-human encounters.
Swimming with dolphins is impractical for most people, particularly on a regular basis, which may be required to achieve or maintain any improvements that could occur.
Encountering dolphins in a virtual reality (VR) environment has been suggested as a way to overcome this problem. VR produces a three-dimensional experience in which one is immersed in an alternate environment (Briggs, 1998). Some individuals who have experienced VR find it difficult to relate the virtual environment to the real world. Others are able to suspend disbelief long enough to generate a sense of presence. VR technology provides specific stimuli that can be used to remove distractions, providing environments that may capture attention for longer periods of time than in ordinary environments, improving concentration. The scenes encountered have been reported to enhance short-term memory and increase attention span, as well as to enhance perceptual processes implicated in childhood "attention deficit." Mild attention deficit symptoms reportedly decreased during VR sessions, limited to visual stimuli, in an exploratory study.
VR will be commercially available as an entertainment medium before researchers can adequately assess its impact on mood and attention span in the real world, but the dolphin simulation studies in particular are cause for more than guarded optimism.
With goals to develop an immersive platform for realistic simulation of dolphin interaction, VR technology may provide opportunities for widespread experience of the phenomenon. It may eventually obviate use of captive dolphins, and prevent exploitation of known wild dolphin haunts, if therapeutic applications are validated and popularized. It depends on the reproduction being intense and realistic enough.
Commercially available CyberFin, which transports participants into an underwater sanctuary populated by dolphins
(AquaThought Foundation, 1997), and other VR endeavours, have not yet accomplished this aim with healthy subjects within the parameters examined.
The opportunity to exert greater control over therapeutic applications and research in a VR setting may be useful in isolating the importance of the visual, tactile and acoustic aspects of live dolphin interactions.
WINTER BLUES MAY BE CAUSED BY NEGATIVE ION DEPLETION
Air near waterfalls, mountains, beaches and forests -- places commonly associated with feelings of tranquility -- are among those places where ionization levels are properly balanced for human well-being.
After a lightning storm, most of us feel invigorated and refreshed. This is because the electrical storm has generated trillions of negative ions that ease tensions and leave us energized.
On the other hand, computer terminals, fluorescent lighting, forced air ventilation systems, and modern building materials stir up higher concentrations of positive ions, associated with tiredness, depression and irritability.
It has been reported that negatively ionized atmospheres improve performance of voluntary movement, increase work capacity, sharpen mental functioning, and reduce error rates.
Researchers now believe that winter blues or "Seasonal Affective Disorder" may be caused, at least in part, by the depletion of negative ions in the air by winter winds.
A study published in the January 1995 issue of "Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine" found that 58 percent of patients treated with high density negative ions had significant relief of their symptoms, almost identical to the number improved with drugs, but without drug side effects.
The study, conducted by Columbia University's Department of Psychiatry, measured the antidepressant effect of negative ions in the ambient air. Twenty-five subjects diagnosed with winter depression underwent a double-blind controlled trial of negative ions at two exposure densities, a low density of 10,000 ions per cubic centimeter and a high density of 2.7 million ions per cubic centimeter, using an electronic negative ion generator with wire corona emitters.
The severity of depressive symptoms, including excessive sleepiness, overeating, and
fatigability decreased selectively for the group receiving high-density treatment. Standard depression rating scale assessments were corroborated by clinical impressions.
When a remission criterion of 50% or greater reduction in symptom frequency/severity was used, 58% of subjects responded to high-density treatment while 15% responded to low-density treatment. There were no side effects attributable to the treatment, and all subjects who responded showed subsequent relapse during withdrawal.
Dr. Michael Terman of Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center told CBS News, "People [in the study] noticed that daytime energy was returning to normal levels. They lost that pressure for increased sleep, the difficulty awakening in time to get to work."
The study concluded that treatment with a high-density negative ionizer appears to act as a specific antidepressant for patients diagnosed with seasonal affective disorder.
ALTERNATIVEMENTALHEALTH.COM IS THE WORLD'S LARGEST WEB SITE DEVOTED exclusively to alternative mental health treatments. It includes a directory of 200 physicians, nutritionists, experts, organizations, and facilities around the U.S. that offer or promote safe, alternative treatments for severe mental symptoms. Many of the physicians listed do in-depth examinations to find the physical causes behind mental problems.
Also included on the site are an array of articles on topics ranging from the medical causes of schizophrenia to the effects of toxic metals on mental health.
A bookstore page lists top books that cover many areas of alternative treatments with titles like Natural Healing for Schizophrenia and Other Common Mental Disorders and No More Ritalin.
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