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No booze for moody blues

In The Mood: Dr Kasia Pelichowski with Toronto Private Hospital’s new Mood Tracker app. Picture: Marina Neil.People who suffer from anxiety or depression should not drink alcohol, a Toronto Private Hospital medical expert said.

Dr Kasia Pelichowski, of the hospital’sWoodlands Mental Health Unit, said even one or two drinks could bedetrimental to people with mental illness.

“People who are having mental health issues should not use drugs or alcohol because they make everything worse,” Dr Pelichowski said.

The comments coincided with the hospital releasing a free app on iTunes called “Moods Tracker”.

Flinders University Associate Professor in Psychiatry Michael Baigent said he “would not disagree” with Dr Pelichowski’s comments about alcohol.

“To generalise, if you’re having treatment you do need to consider giving alcohola rest until you’re better,” Professor Baigent, a director of mental health charity beyondblue, said.

Some people having treatment “have the occasional drink and get by”, he said.

“If you want to have a drink, keep it to minimal and infrequent levels – it will help you get better faster.”

Toronto hospital’s app enables those living with mood disorders to track their feelings and pinpoint triggers.

Patients had found it onerous to complete papermood charts, Dr Pelichowski said.

The app was considered more practical and“helpful for maintenance, diagnosis and adjusting medications in the long term.”

“Nowadaysalmost everybodycarriesa smartphone.”

She believed in talk therapy, as well as medication to treat mental illness.

Many people try to self-treat anxiety with alcohol and benzodiazepines [including Valium].

This made their problems worse, she said.

But she said there was “a huge spectrum of medication that we use”, which could be helpful.

The hospital used “pharmacogenomic testing” to determine how people react to different medications.

This involved pinpointing gene variations that could help predict adverse reactions or non-responses to medication, before a drug was prescribed.

The aim was to avoid“trial and error”prescribing.

She said it was OK that some people were afraid of taking medication.

“We don’t have to use medications, we can use therapy,” she said.

“Sometimes medication allows people to benefit from therapy much better.”

She said “we don’t push or force” medication.

Professor Baigent said medication allowedpeopleto “make the most of psychological treatments, if they’re not able to get there via psychological treatments alone”.

He said tailoredpsychological treatmentwas necessary for anxiety and depression sufferers.


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