EMERGENCY PSYCHIATRIC CARE: ARE BLACKS OVERMEDICATED?
Emergency room psychiatric physicians have a "tendency toThis is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.
overmedicate" African-American patients diagnosed with
psychiatric conditions, according to a study published in
PSYCHIATRIC SERVICES, a journal of the American Psychiatric
Association. The University of California-Berkeley study, which
examined emergency room admissions at four California hospitals
between 1981 and 1986, found that white physicians spent
"significantly less time" with black patients than with patients
of other races and that doctors "were more likely to prescribe
anti-psychotic drugs" for African Americans.
HERE YOU HAVE IT: SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE reports that the
study, which examined 442 patients, found that blacks were 67%
more likely to be prescribed anti-psychotic drugs. In addition,
researchers found that the average dose of one anti-psychotic
drug given to blacks was 1,321 milligrams, compared to an average
dose of 825 milligrams for other patients. Lead researcher
Steven Segal "conceded" that the study found "no differences" in
the overall quality of health care provided to blacks and whites.
He noted that the tendency to overmedicate African Americans was
lower among practitioners "who spent more time with individual
patients and showed more empathy with their problems."
OLD NEWS?: Dr. Mark Leary of San Francisco General Hospital
-- one of the institutions studied -- said that "the age of the
data raises some questions." He also noted that a two-year study
of the use of physical restraints at his hospital found that "the
ethnicity of patients restrained was in direct proportion to that
of all patients admitted."
IT'S STUDY TIME: Segal said that while the study clearly
shows that race "is a factor correlated to different treatments,"
he did not single out "racial bias" as the sole reason for the
difference. CHRONICLE reports that racial differences could
"play a role in the amount of medication needed to control
psychotic symptoms." For example, the study noted that Asians
require lower amounts of medication to control psychiatric
conditions than whites (Russell, 5/30).