Taking too many SmartPills

When InsightCity talks about SmartPills, we’re usually being self-referential, but here’s something more like that stuff from Limitless. A study based on the Global Drug Survey found that 14% of respondents had used stimulants at least once to improve their mental performance in 2017, up from 5% in 2015. Those drugs range from the ADHD medications Adderall and Ritalin, to less legal substances like cocaine. US respondents had the highest use rates at 30%, but European numbers are creeping up as well with countries like the UK going from 5% in 2015 to 23% last year. Those who use these substances report increased focus, wakefulness, and other cognitive enhancements, but as with anything, side effects may vary. Not that we’re endorsing it, but if you’re interested in more ‘nootropics,’ here’s a list.

Gaming without frontiers

The WHO has released the 11th version of its International Classification of Diseases, which aims to provide a universal standard for coding the conditions which patients can experience. A slightly controversial inclusion in this edition is the coding of gaming disorder, characterized by a long-term addiction to gaming that causes negative health outcomes for patients. Critics say codifying something like gaming as an addiction opens the doors for all the other strange addictions… like drinking paint. Gaming is obviously not the only thing the new ICD covers. Being the first update in almost 20 years, some updates were made like moving gender incongruence from being a mental health disorder into sexual health conditions, perhaps easing some stigma for transgender patients. Happy Pride y’all.

Suicide rates skyrocketing

According to the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) suicide rates are up 30% since 1999. 30%. Isolation and drug abuse (think: alcohol, opioids) are considered among the leading causes. This is notable on the heels of recent high-profile suicides by designer Kate Spade and celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain. All age groups (except over 75), all US states (except Nevada, which was already very high) and all levels of urbanization have seen increases. Interestingly / sadly, more than half of suicides occurred in individuals with no mental health diagnosis, which seems to mean that people who need help aren’t reaching out or not receiving it. So, if you need help you can start with the National Suicide Prevention Hotline – 800-273-8255. #NoStigma

Major depression on the rise

The rates of major depression in the United States is increasing, especially among teens and young adults. Blue Cross Blue Shield examined its 41 million member records from 2016 and found 4.4% had received a major depression diagnosis, up 33% from 2013. At 2.6%, the raw number was lower among teens, but the percent increase was substantially larger at 63%. Dr. Laurel Williams, Chief of Psychiatry at Texas Children’s Hospital, believes this has something to do with the substantial time kids are spending in from of screens and the social isolation that results. Hopefully, at least a portion of the increase is coming from teens, parents, and healthcare workers simply being more aware of mental health issues, leading to increased rates of diagnosis. Fingers crossed. But just in case, here are 10 tips for minimizing kid’s screen time.

These teens’ hobby is to lobby

Ever tried doing your kid’s homework for a week like this dad? It might be worth a try to get a sense of the stresses affecting students these days, and it could make you more sympathetic towards getting some mental health legislation on the books. If you don’t want to, well those dang kids might just get it done themselves. Three high school students recently successfully lobbied the Virginia General Assembly to require mental health instruction for 9th and 10th graders. It’s not about kids just being bratty about too much schoolwork; the CDC estimates 1 in 5 US kids experience mental disorders and $247B is spent on these disorders each year. At least they’ll have a break soon—it’s about that time of year when School’s Out for summer.