Should Electroconvulsive Therapy Ever Be Used to Treat

2068 Words Apr 12th, 2005 9 Pages
SHOULD ELECTROCONVULSIVE THERAPY EVER BE USED TO TREAT
MENTAL DISORDERS?

A. Thesis Statement
Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is a treatment for severe mental illness in which the brain is stimulated with a strong electrical current which induces a seizure. The seizure rearranges the brain's neurochemistry and results in an elevation of mood. This essay asks: Is ECT any safer and more effective in treating mood disorders than drug therapies? This treatment has a controversial history ever since it was first introduced in 1938. I intend to argue that electroconvulsive therapy is indeed a safe treatment of mental disorders when other treatments have failed. Due to the development of safer and less traumatic ways of administering ECT,
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(Gabbard, 2001). Evidence also shows reduction in hospitalization stays within ECT patients (Endler, 1988). Moreover, as a result, less money needs to be spent on these patients.
When researching modern literature, one clearly sees there are still some consequences that sometimes occur with administration of the electroconvulsive therapy. This clearly proves that there are many who believe ECT is generally unsafe in nature. One of the arguments here is the high risk of relapse and recurrence (Geddes, 2003). As Vothknecht et al. show, relapse rates range – exceeding 50% (in 6 to 12 months after initial electroconvulsive treatment) up to 95% (2004). With the clearly high indications or relapse, one can understand as to why so many oppose the use of ECT.
The second argument against the use of ECT is its adverse effects, such as risk of mortality, cognitive morbidity, and structural brain changes. Although the mortality rate is low, 1 per 10,000 patients (Reisner, 2003), it must still be taken into account when ECT is being practiced. Because a series of seizures occur when ECT is administered, "encephalopathy and specific amnesic syndrome can occur" (Weiner & Krystal, 1994, p. 275). "Amnesia is the most common discussed side effect of ECT" (Gabbard, 2001, p.1276). The amnesia falls into 2 forms: (1) retrograde amnesia, which involves difficulty in remembering information learned prior to ECT, and (2) anterograde
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