american field mouse wallpaper, lithium a simple metal and the oldest drug in psychiatry

mouse in grass

american field mouse wallpaper


The Metal Marvel That Has Mended Brains for 50 Years

Lithium is as puzzling as it is potent. It was the first drug used to treat mental illness, and more than 50 years later, it is still one of the most widely used psychiatric medications. But the doctors who prescribe lithium to their patients still do not know how it works or even why it works. “It is the most mysterious drug in psychiatry,” says De-Maw Chuang, a biologist at the National Institute of Mental Health. “It’s so small, but it is so powerful.”

Unlike other psychoactive chemicals—large, complex molecules like Prozac (fluoxetine) or Abilify (aripiprazole)—lithium is extremely simple. It is an element, the lightest of the metals, and its chemical properties are similar to those of the sodium in table salt. Nonetheless, researchers have recently found that lithium could be something close to a psychiatric wonder drug. It has two remarkable powers in the brains of mentally ill patients: protecting neurons from damage and death and alleviating existing damage by spurring new nerve cell growth. Far beyond its current application as a mood stabilizer, lithium could be helpful in treating or preventing Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia, stroke, glaucoma, Lou Gehrig’s disease (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), and Huntington’s disease—an impressive tally that earned it the nickname “the aspirin of the brain” in the journal Nature.

By way of serendipity a psychiatrist named John F. J. Cade discovered the therapeutic effects of lithium in the 1940s. he experimented on himself before giving it to patients( I strongly advise against self diagnosis and self medicating). In his first round of experimenting on patients with psychiatric disorders all 10 improved.  As recently as 2004 some researchers at the Eve Topf and National Parkinson Foundation Centers of Excellence for Neurodegenerative Diseases Research in Haifa, Israel found lithium can prevent or partially mediate the cell death implicated in Parkinson’s disease – in mouse systems thus far. One of the reasons for avoiding self experimentation is the narrow window for what constitutes both a safe and effective dose. Too much lithium can cause side effects which range from lethargy to tremors to permanent kidney or thyroid damage. I’d rather be depressed than not have kidneys myself. large clinical studies that examine the wider sues and formulations of lithium at a snail’s pace because lithium per se is not a patentable drug. Thus drug companies have little incentive to finance such trials.

I’d stop there but experience tells me people will not click over to read the whole article. Concerned about psychosis, personality disorders, crime rates and suicides? Studies which have found high trace amounts of lithium in city drinking water show a correlation with lower rates of those pressing medical and social issues. A correlation does not prove effect but it does indicate reason for more study.

Short of reading a few books on the subject, one of the best articles I’ve ever read on the history of poverty in the U.S. – The Poorhouse: Aunt Winnie, Glenn Beck, And The Politics Of The New Deal

An employee of Associated Charities, a private organization dedicated to alleviating poverty in the District of Columbia, met an old black woman carrying a basket of cinders near the dump in Southeast D.C. on a bitterly cold day in December 1896.

The woman “could not give street and number, but could ‘fotch’ the agent to her place,” according to a case study labeled “Aunt Winnie” in one of the organization’s annual reports from near the turn of the century. “Old age, with a heavy load on top and a strong wind blowing, made the walk a trying one. At last the 8×10 cabin was reached. In it was a stove in many pieces held together with wire, a bedstead with rags for mattress and rags for covering. From the leaky roof the floor was wet through and through.”

Aunt Winnie, the report said, had no income save the 50 cents she made every two weeks for taking in wash.

[  ]…Aunt Winnie, whose story is preserved in the archives of the Historical Society of Washington, had been sent to an American institution that was by then some 300 years old and went by a variety of names: the county farm, the poor farm, the almshouse or, most often, simply the poorhouse. She would probably have been surprised to learn that more than a hundred years later, after the virtual eradication of elderly poverty, a powerful political movement would materialize with the mission of returning to the hands-off social policies that made the poorhouse the nation’s only refuge for the jobless, the aged, the infirm and the disabled.

[  ]…Democratic President Grover Cleveland is one such hero. When Beck and guest Joseph Lehman were discussing the proper roles of welfare and charity this summer, Lehman noted that one “extreme [position] is, you’ve got welfare only as a last resort and all assistance is private.”

It wasn’t too extreme for Beck. “And this is where we actually were a hundred years ago,” Beck said, rightly thinking — or not — of people in Aunt Winnie’s situation.

“We used to be here. In fact, Grover Cleveland has this excellent statement. In 1887, President Cleveland said, ‘Though the people may support their government, the government shall not support the people,'” Lehman responded.

“That’s great,” said Beck.

[   ]…The nearly 54 million people drawing Social Security benefits receive, on average, $1,073.80 per month, according to the Social Security Administration. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates the program keeps some 20 million people out of poverty, including 13 million elderly Americans.

[   ]…The GOP is after Medicare, too, proposing to turn it into a voucher system, where the elderly would be given a coupon to buy health insurance, but the value of the voucher would rise at a rate much slower than health care costs, eventually making health care unaffordable for the elderly, just as it was before the program was implemented. And the economic engine of the New Deal, the necessity of deficit spending to spur employment and growth, has quickly morphed from a near-universally accepted law of economics to a political toxin Washington has puked up.

The easiest leg of the New Deal for the GOP to kick out from under it was Aid to Families with Dependent Children — more commonly known as welfare. In a debate stained with racial prejudice, the nation was introduced to the “Welfare Queen,” a largely mythical mother living fat on the public dole and popping out children for the sole purpose of increasing the monthly stipend. Democrats gave up defending it and President Clinton signed it away in 1995.

[  ]….What is dangerous about Social Security is that it works. It is evidence that people can do a better job insuring against life’s cruel downturns by working together and pooling resources than by going it alone in the market.

The last paragraph ( the whole article is much longer than my generous snips) is not a matter of political triumphalism. It is just facing facts about how markets have never and will never be perfect. As such the people that can least afford it – as now – will always be the ones who pay the steepest price in terms of quality of life. It is also an element of something which has less to do with politics and a lot to do with public policy, the structure of a modern democratic republic and being an adult – facing the reality of the human condition.




black and white smooth city wallpaper, heavy meals and the “food coma”, the ever so lovely death panel myth

enhanced city photograph

black and white smooth city wallpaper


Something I have wondered about – Why do I get a slump in mental energy after eating a meal?

What is the link between eating a big meal and feeling sleepy? The process begins as food hits the stomach and small intestine. Eating stimulates activity in the parasympathetic nervous system, which tells your body to slow down and digest. The more food you consume, the more the parasympathetic nervous system revs up, causing your body to focus the bulk of its energy on digestion.

Although large quantities of any food can cause a food coma, common table sugar, or sucrose, found in desserts tends to be the main culprit. As food breaks down into glucose—the simplest form of sugar, which the body uses for fuel—you will experience a surge in blood sugar.

As the level of glucose increases, the insulin producing cells in your pancreas release the hormone insulin which converts the glucose to glycogen. That would all be will and good, but the insulin spike also causes the brain to release sleepy time neurotransmitters melatonin and serotonin. So after about an hour or so that whole cycle starts to wind down and you feel less drowsy. This is one of the reasons I started eating lighter meals years ago. My main motivation was dogs who took no excuses for their after dinner play time. Now I have a light lunch and dinner. One of the best things about a light dinner is I get to have a banana a couple of hours later……..on top of some Cherry Gracia ice cream when the budget allows, and not feel sleepy or bloated.

President Obama Announces Recess Appointments to Key Administration Posts. I wont’ bother with the apocalyptic reactions of the usual bed wetting reprobates. Dubya (pdf),

As of October 31, 2008, President Bush had made 171 recess appointments.
President William J. Clinton, in comparison, made a total of 139 recess appointments
during the course of his presidency.

President Obama has made 24 recess appointments thus far.

What’s Your Political News IQ? Take the Quiz – Pew Science Knowledge Quiz. Other than a couple of questions related to foreign countries and leadership is was relatively easy. Except for all the people who did poorly. It should have included some questions about spending and policy specifics , and the SCOTUS. Either you have, will have relatives on Social Security and Medicare. Thus already depend on those programs indirectly. Some day they might be your lifeline to surviving. Why no questions about such important programs in the survey is a mystery.


PewNews IQ score



The whole subculture urban legend type meme surrounding supposed “death panels” is probably a lot like the birthers phenomenon. It is a way for some people to convince themselves of what they believe is an illegitimate presidency. As such cultural myths serve such a primitive craving on the part of believers there is no stumping it out for good. It does cause some infliction on the believers to point out facts like this, Oh, Those Death Panels

You would think that if Republicans wanted to totally mischaracterize a health care provision and demagogue it like nobody’s business, they would at least pick something that the vast majority of them hadn’t already voted for just a few years earlier. Because that’s not just shameless, it’s stupid.

Yes, that’s right. Remember the 2003 Medicare prescription drug bill, the one that passed with the votes of 204 GOP House members and 42 GOP Senators? Anyone want to guess what it provided funding for? Did you say counseling for end-of-life issues and care? Ding ding ding!!

Let’s go to the bill text, shall we? “The covered services are: evaluating the beneficiary’s need for pain and symptom management, including the individual’s need for hospice care; counseling the beneficiary with respect to end-of-life issues and care options, and advising the beneficiary regarding advanced care planning.” The only difference between the 2003 provision and the infamous Section 1233 that threatens the very future and moral sanctity of the Republic is that the first applied only to terminally ill patients. Section 1233 would expand funding so that people could voluntarily receive counseling before they become terminally ill.

In an exchange on one blog a conservative was sure he had the final gotcha with the point that the Medicare part D provisions was only for the terminally ill… so there…imagine tongue sticking out. The logic, if one is generous enough to call it that, is end of life counseling is OK if you’re dying within the hour, but voluntarily telling your doctor about your feelings, should those circumstances arrive, a few years or months before is a goddammit death panel.