From the Editor

Transformative advances are unfolding in psychiatry

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Therapeutic advances

  • Rapid-acting parenteral antidepressants are one of the most exciting paradigm shifts for the treatment of severe depression and suicidal urges. In controlled clinical trials, ketamine, scopolamine, and nitrous oxide were shown to reverse chronic depression that had failed to respond to multiple oral antidepressants in a matter of hours instead of weeks or months.10 This remarkable new frontier of psychiatric therapeutics has revolutionized our concept of the neurobiology of depression and its reversibility into rapid remission. The use of IV, intranasal, and inhalable delivery of pharmacotherapies is bound to become an integral component of the future of psychiatry.
  • Telepsychiatry is an example of how the future has already arrived for psychiatric practice. Clinicians’ virtual access to patients living in remote areas for evaluation and treatment is certainly a totally new model of health care delivery when compared with traditional face-to-face psychiatry, where patients must travel to see a psychiatrist.
  • New terminology for psychotropic agents is also an impending part of the future. The neuroscience-based nomenclature (NbN) will rename more than 100 psychotropic medications by their mechanisms of action rather than by their clinical indication.11 Not only will this new lexicon be more scientifically accurate, but it also will avoid pigeon-holing drugs such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor antidepressants, which also are used to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), anxiety, bulimia nervosa, and pain, or second-generation “atypical” antipsychotics, which are indicated not only for schizophrenia but also for bipolar mania and bipolar depression, and have been reported to improve treatment-resistant major depression, treatment-resistant OCD, borderline personality disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and delirium.12
  • Early intervention during the prodromal phase of serious psychiatric disorders is already here and will advance rapidly in the future. This will spare patients the anguish and suffering of acute psychosis or mania, hospitalization, or disability. It will likely reduce the huge direct and indirect costs to society of serious psychiatric disorders.13
  • Repurposing hallucinogens into therapeutic agents is one of the most interesting discoveries in psychiatry. As with ketamine, a dissociative hallucinogen that has been rebranded as a rapid antidepressant, other hallucinogens such as psilocybin, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), and 3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine (MDMA) are being investigated as therapeutic agents for depression, anxiety, and PTSD. They will become part of our expanding future pharmacotherapeutic armamentarium.14

It is obvious that parts of the future of psychiatry are already in place today, but other trends will emerge and thrill us clinicians. These advances will gradually but certainly alter psychiatric practice for the better, as the neuro­science of the mind expands and guides psychiatrists to more objective diagnoses and precise treatment options. The pace of advances in psychiatry is one of the most rapid in medicine.

So hold on: This will be a fascinating journey of creative destruction of traditional psychiatry.15 But as Emily Dickinson wrote: “Truth must dazzle gradually, or every man be blind.”


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