Shocked by Shock Therapy?

Shocked by Shock Therapy?

You’ve probably seen a few of those movie scenes where a troublesome patient is strapped to a bed and violently administered shock therapy. Most of those scenes take place in old-style hospitals with high ceilings, tiled walls, and nurses wearing starched, white caps.

In spite of this cinematic association with a bygone age, shock therapy – or electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) as it’s more formally known – is not quite a relic of the past.

In an interview that appeared in a recent issue of Southern Medical Journal, Stephen Taylor, M.D., explains that when modern ECT is administered to patients with drug-resistant depression, the therapy is successful in more than half the cases.

But this isn’t your father’s shock therapy. Today, patients are anesthetized, and convulsions are reduced with muscle relaxers that lessen the risk of injury.

The fact that ECT is still in use won’t surprise readers of The Daily Dose e-letter. In a 2004 issue, William Campbell Douglass II, M.D., wrote: “According to some recent Wake Forest University research, properly administered electric shock therapy has real medical merits – like improving the mood, quality of life, and daily activities of severely depressed patients And much better than antidepressants! That’s right: ECT helped more of the research’s subject patients (66% of them, in fact) to live with less despair and greater functionality than did the current crop of Cox-2 inhibitors, SSRIs, and other antidepressant drugs.”

In addition to depression, ECT is commonly used to address bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. But I would hope that before anyone resorts to ECT for a schizophrenic patient they would first try a very simple and effective therapy: vitamin B-3.

In the e-Alert “Green Eggs and Strange Ham” I told you how Abram Hoffer, M.D., Ph.D., discovered that many schizophrenics are B-3 deficient. More importantly, they often respond quite favorably to large doses of B-3 supplements. You can read the account of this discovery – as told by HSI Panelist Allan Spreen, M.D. – at this link:

Jenny Thompson Sources:

“Shock Therapy for Depression: Back in Style?” Vivian Richardson, Ivanhoe Newswire, 5/9/07,