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Published On September 21, 2018

Second Opinion Fall 2018

Experts reflect on the rise of fake medical news and better ways to treat depression.

Fighting Fake News

The Rise of Fake Medical News” (Summer 2018) paints a bleak picture of the state of medical information being shared on social media sites. While the spread of inaccurate medical information is undoubtedly a problem, the article rightly points out that it is not a new phenomenon. More research is needed to understand the diverse motives of the purveyors of inaccurate medical information to address its spread more broadly—rather than playing whack-a-mole with specific inaccurate stories as they arise.

But we have the ability to immediately mitigate the worst consequences of inaccurate medical news shared online, and the responsibility to address misinformation lies with all of us.

Expert organizations like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention can rebut inaccurate posts without harming their credibility. Facebook has moved to using the Related Stories function to provide links to fact-checked sources about inaccurate news stories, which can reduce misperceptions. Everyday users can also work together to fact-check inaccurate content they come across by using their online connections.

Addressing inaccurate medical news online may not be simple, but it is possible if we each do our part.

Emily K. Vraga // Assistant Professor, Political Communications Minor Director, George Mason University, Fairfax, Va. A

New Use For Psychedelics

As discussed in “New Tools for Depression” (Summer 2018), it is undeniable that currently available treatments for depression are inadequate in alleviating symptoms for the majority of people. Investigating new approaches, other than daily dosing with drugs that target the serotonergic system, is crucial for discovering more effective ways to help the millions suffering from depressive disorders.

Two of the most promising drugs currently under study are ketamine and psilocybin. In clinical trials, psilocybin is administered with psychotherapy, which is thought to be crucial for the effectiveness of the treatment. Ketamine has been shown to rapidly reduce depression, but the effects last only three to seven days and require weekly dosing to maintain the positive outcomes.

An emerging group of therapists and psychiatrists, many of whom work on psychedelic- assisted psychotherapy trials, are advocating for combining ketamine with supportive therapy to work with a person while in an undepressed state. More research is needed, but these drugs and combo drug-therapy approaches are addressing the need for out-of-the-box solutions for depressive disorders.

Allison Feduccia // Co-Founder and Director, Psychedelic Support, Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, Santa Cruz, Calif.