Existing models of care and conventional therapies are limited
Existing models of care and available conventional treatment approaches fail to adequately address the global crisis of mental health care. Mental illness accounts for about one-third of the world’s disability caused by all adult health problems, resulting in enormous personal suffering and socioeconomic costs. Severe mental health problems including major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and substance use disorders affect all age groups and occur in all countries, including the US, Canada, the European Union countries, and other developed and developing countries. Mental illness is the pandemic of the 21st century and will be the next major global health challenge. There is a large and growing gap between mental health care needs of the population and available resources.
Weak evidence and safety problems affect many psychotropic medications
Many individuals diagnosed with bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, and schizophrenia depend on medications to function and be productive members of society. However, after decades of research and billions of dollars of industry funding, the evidence supporting pharmacologic treatments of major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, and other psychiatric disorders is not compelling. Many commonly prescribed psychotropic medications including antidepressants and antipsychotics are associated with serious adverse effects, including weight gain, increased risk of diabetes and heart disease, neurologic disorders, and sudden cardiac death. Metabolic syndrome associated with weight gain and increased risk of diabetes and coronary artery disease is a well-documented adverse effect of antipsychotics and other psychotropic agents. Poor treatment outcomes owing to limited efficacy of antidepressants, mood stabilizers, antipsychotics, and other psychotropic medications result in long-term impaired functioning, work absenteeism, and losses in productivity.
CAM therapies can help improve outcomes
In the context of the limitations of available conventional biomedical treatments, accumulating research findings are providing evidence for both safety and efficacy of select complementary and alternative (CAM) treatments of depressed mood, anxiety, and other mental health problems, including select pharmaceutical-grade natural products, lifestyle modifications (Lifestyle Medicine), mind-body approaches, and nonallopathic whole-system approaches such as traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurveda. Examples of natural supplements being investigated as nonpharmacologic therapies include S-adenosyl methionine for depressed mood; the adjunctive use of nutraceuticals (ie, botanicals and other natural product supplements) as stand-alone therapies or in combination with psychotropics such as omega-3 fatty acids, folic acid (especially its active form l-methyl-folinic acid), 5-hydroxytryptophan, and n-acetyl cysteine for mood disorders; a standardized extract of the herbal kava; and the amino acid l-theanine.
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