Psychiatry uses some of the most controversial treatments in medicine. This may be partly because several are administered under coercion and opposed to the patient’s expressed will, under the protection of the relevant mental health legislation. Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is perhaps the archetypal controversial treatment; although it is considered to be effective, the research supporting it is much less impressive than one would expect. The prescription of stimulant drugs for childhood attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and substitution therapy (such as methadone maintenance) in addictions treatment remain topical and appear to be subject to political interference. ‘Treatment’ for homosexuality and psychosurgery were common in the past but are now rare. These issues are discussed to give insight into how once common controversial treatments can decline and become obsolete. However, seclusion and covert medication remain in practice and are highly scrutinised.
- ©2017 The Royal College of Psychiatrists
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