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The return of electroshock.

The Return of Electroshock

Treatment of depression now constitutes a large part of the psychiatrist's practice. It is baffling in its complexity, and few doctors can resist the "quick fix."

Because psychoanalysis usually requires long-term therapy, becoming time consuming and very expensive for many individuals, psychiatrists have embraced the "fast-food" principles of drug therapy, the pill.

Because medications can only work on particular levels, often disabling people so that they cannot function or compete in the everyday world. Most professionals realize that there are deep emotional problems beneath the symptoms. Will drugs work to correct elusive genes - the latest theory in mental illness, the genetic factors?

Whether drugs are aiming for the genetic factor or a chemical imbalance in the brain, the urge is to find a device both fast and effective, not necessarily comfortable or requiring prolonged treatment.

The door then becomes open for an alternative that is quick and dramatic. Why not bring back electroconvulsive therapy? It can be spectacular in its effects, is often profitable, and needs only a new packaging.

The advocates of electroshock claim that it is no longer a source of torture. New techniques have made it safer.

Several physicians disagree. Peter R. Breggin, M.D., is the author of a recent book, Electroshock: Its Brain Disabling Effects. His opinion of the procedure is that "the comeback of the electroshock is the easiest and fastest way for psychiatrists and psychiatric hospitals to make more money."

Dr. Breggin also contends that there is nothing new about the "new technique" presently used (including paralyzing the patient and administering oxygen).

"It's not possible to make shock harmless," Dr. Breggin insists, "because the treatment works by producing sufficient organic dysfunction to blunt the patient's emotional capacity to feel depression.

"Studies show," he explains, "that more than half the patients receiving electroshock report permanent damage and impairment of the memory function."

Unlike drugs that can be taken off the market, medically prescribed therapies such as electroconvulsive therapy can be practiced by licensed physicians despite the side effects engendered.

Legal Responsibility

People, especially liberals and psychiatrists, say that the two main causes of crime are mental illness and poverty. Insanity is therefore a defense in the creminal law.

If we really believed that poverty causes crime, we would have a "poverty defense" as well, with attorneys calling professors of economics to testify in court whether a particular defendant is guilty of theft or not guilty by reason of poverty.
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Title Annotation:treatment for depression
Publication:Nutrition Health Review
Date:Sep 22, 1990
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