The following comes from a June 1 posting on the website of the Catholic News Agency.

An upcoming conference at the Vatican will examine the harmful effects of using prescription drugs rather than therapy to treat emotional disorders and mental illnesses in children and expectant mothers.

“We want this conference to show a scholarly perspective and then we also want to disseminate our information to a wider audience with the Vatican’s help,” a psychologist who has helped organize the conference, Barry Duncan, told CNA May 31.

An event six years in the making, “The Child as a Person and as a Patient: Therapeutic Approaches Compared,” will take place June 14 to 15 in St. Pius X Hall and will feature several psychiatrists and psychologists, a social worker, family therapist and an investigative journalist.

The Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Health Care Workers has organized the conference in hopes of bringing together professionals to discuss the harmful consequences of overusing prescription drugs for treating mental and emotional disorders in children as well as how a similar trend is hurting pregnant mothers.

“Pharmaceutical industries spend millions and millions of dollars on misinformation and we want to counteract that with this conference,” Duncan said.

According to Duncan, misinformed physicians are now frequently recommending children to take one of two main groups of drugs, Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, better known as SSRIs, and anti-psychotics.

“SSRIs double the risk of suicide for children while anti-psychotics cause cardiovascular problems, obesity and diabetes,” said Duncan.

He said prescriptions for psychiatric drugs have increased by 274 percent globally in over 50 countries since 2003. In the United States alone, 11 million SSRIs are being given to children each year, he added.

“Anti-psychotics used to be reserved for adults with serious mental disorders but now they’re being given to children who are poor because it is the easier option,” he added.

The conference hopes to prove that “psychosocial options” are better than “psychotropic care.” In other words, a sort of psychotherapy is safer than drugs, which are the cheaper and faster option.

The following comes from an article by Trent Beattie in the National Catholic Register.

Dr. Vincent Fortanasce knows the field of medicine as well as anyone. He has studied psychiatry at Yale, neurology at the University of Southern California and orthopedic rehabilitation at Rancho Los Amigos Hospital, one of the top rehab centers in the country. He has spent decades treating thousands of patients, including world-class athletes and celebrities.

Many people have become familiar with Fortanasce by reading bestselling books, the most recent of which is The Anti-Alzheimer’s Prescription, released in 2008. Others know him from his shows on bioethics for St. Joseph Radio Presents. He fought against California’s pro-embryonic stem-cell research Proposition 71 and has debated assisted-suicide advocate Jack Kevorkian….
….When we pray, there is a specific response from the body. It starts in the neocortex area of the brain with a willful decision to pray. Then a series of events occurs, including activity in the frontal inferior gyrus, or the “optimistic center” of the brain. This slows down adrenaline production and leads to relaxation of the nervous system. Blood pressure decreases and our muscles relax. Simultaneously, the part of the brain called the hypothalamus is engaged. This produces dopamine and seratonin, or the “feel-good” neurotransmitters.

When these two neurotransmitters are abundant, our stress reactions change. Exterior stressors do not elicit panic, but an “it’s okay” reaction. Panic would correspond with overproduction of adrenaline, which, as we saw, doesn’t happen when praying.
This gives scientific backing to James 5:13, which reads: “Is any one of you sad? Let him pray.”

Yes, prayer is a gift from God which enables us to gain a foretaste of impassibility of the saints in heaven. Nothing can harm a soul in heaven, and in a certain way, although not exactly the same, nothing can harm a soul on earth that prays consistently. This is due not only to invisible realities, but also to material ones that occur physiologically. God constantly works through secondary causes, so this shouldn’t be a surprise to us.

Depression is correlated to low levels of serotonin and dopamine, which is the basis of
anti-depressant drugs. These drugs artificially increase serotonin and dopamine levels, thereby relieving depression. Studies have shown that prayer can do the same thing, and without any negative side effects. Along with exercise, prayer vitalizes the “optimistic center” of the brain and enables us to deal well with the challenges of life.

To read entire story on Vatican conference, click here.

To read entire story on Dr. Fortanasce, click here.