New Sparks Over Electroshock

The old treatment has come a long way since Cuckoo's Nest. But some still question its safety

On some gut level, the whole idea of electroshock therapy is absurd. At a time when people with mental illnesses can choose from a pharmacological cornucopia, why would they have electricity run through their brain instead? Didn't electroshock disappear around the same time as three-martini lunches?

Actually, electroconvulsive therapy, as psychiatrists call it, has remained a common treatment for those who are severely depressed and who don't respond to (or can't tolerate) drugs. Its use has been quietly on the rise in the past two decades. Because most states don't require reporting on electroshock, there are no hard figures, but many...

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