I found two recent news items incongruous. The Wall Street Journal last month reported one in five Americans is taking some kind of drug for mental illness such as depression, anxiety or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). That’s a 22 increase from 10 years ago, according to a review of pharmacy claims filed.
Then, three weeks later, the Journal ran a story about a striking predisposition to mental illness in left-handed people. “Left-handedness appears to be associated with a greater risk for a number of psychiatric and developmental disorders,” the story said. “While lefties make up about 10% of the overall population, about 20% of people with schizophrenia are lefties, for example. ” There was also a correlation with bipolar disorder and ADHD.
But the “wow” for me was to learn researchers don’t really know why. They can only speculate because — as crazy as it sounds — they rarely include left-handed people in brain studies. The brain imaging of left-handed people is different and, therefore, not relevant? Right.
It reminds me of the days when women were not equally represented in medical research because — this makes me hot — their hormones would mess up the experiments. Fortunately, things have turned around. Breast cancer research receives the most funding per new case from the National Cancer Institute.
But there’s still a long way to go, especially when it comes to mental illness. Up until recently, psychiatric disorders played second fiddle to physical disorders — that is, when they were thought about at all.
A relative of mine who was in intensive care in the hospital couldn’t get her antidepressants because they are not available in a form that can go through IVs (even though sedatives and blood pressure meds can, for example). A nurse speculated she could make millions if she could compound antidepressants in a liquid form.
This science dropout was so frustrated, I wanted to join the nurse in the experiment. Time to get with the 21st century, Pfizer, Abbott, Eli Lilly, all of you pharma companies .
With one in five people taking medication for mental illness, there’s money to be made.