Posted on Apr 15, 2012 in Health & safety
Do they still do electroshock therapy on people? I’ve seen this in the movies where they zap people in mental institutions with electricity. I know they used to do it — but do they actually still use shock therapy treatment?
Electroshock therapy, now more commonly known by the slightly more pleasant term “electroconvulsive therapy” (or ECT) is a form of psychiatric treatment that involves deliberately inducing seizures in patients for the treatment of severe depression, mania, and catatonia.
Even to this day, doctors and scientists are still unsure of exactly how it works, though there are several theories. It is now considered a method of last resort, and is only used in extreme cases when all other treatment options have been exhausted — but it is still being used.
The patient is anesthetized and given a muscle relaxant prior to treatment. Electrodes are placed on the head — exact placement can vary, though in most cases, it is a bilateral (both sides) placement — and the electrodes are used to deliver and electrical stimulus. The electrical current level is generally about 800 milliamps, and can run up to several hundred watts, in bursts lasting between one and six seconds.
It’s difficult to gauge how many people still receive electroconvulsive therapy in the U.S. today, as only a handful of states have laws requiring treatment facilities to report this information to health authorities. A 1989 survey of psychiatrists in 317 metropolitan areas revealed that 17,729 psychiatrists treated 4,398 patients with ECT during the study period. On the other hand, this number may very well be on the low side. Texas is one of the few states that does require reporting of ECT administration, and for the 2010 fiscal year, there were 2,202 patients who received ECT in Texas alone.
For another perspective, in 2002 in the United Kingdom, 2,300 patients received ECT between January and March. This was down from 2,800 over the same period in 1999. Newer data was not readily available at the time of this writing.
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