Chemotherapy : Part 3 of 4

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An individual going through a period of situationally induced anxiety or depression, such as that caused by the death of a close relative, may have only temporary need of the help a tranquilizer or antidepressant can provide. Summarizing the general value of chemotherapy is a very difficult task. First, research has repeatedly demonstrated the effectiveness of these medications Carey, Bennett, & Lindsey, 1960; Cole, 1964; Freedman, 1977). As those who have experienced schizophrenic or severe depressive episodes will attest, the targetted use of psychoactive medications seems justified.

However, research also shows that some people experience uncomfortable and even serious side effects that must be dealt with, such as tremors and problems in motor control. As more comes to light about the undesirable side effects of all medications, not just psychoactive ones, it seems increasingly clear that both prescriber and user must be sure the improvement is worth the side effects that are risked. For many psychoactive drugs, the exact effects on the brain are still not well understood (but remember chat the exact effects of aspirin are not well understood and it is one of the most frequently used drugs of all).

However, modern neuroscience is developing theories of brain functioning, and ingenious techniques to test these theories, so that knowledge is rapidly advancing. It is likely, too, that some of the research techniques will themselves have therapeutic benefits in facilitating the delivery of drugs to the brain sites where they can produce the desired effects. On balance, then, it seems reasonable to say that the utility of chemotherapy is real and is likely to increase. However, because of the complexities of brain functioning, and the intricate connections between brain functioning and thought processes, chemotherapy will never be a complete cure for all the human difficulties that fail under the category of mental illness.

Genetic counseling and Genetic Therapy The biological approach also suggests other kinds of interventions that are not “therapeutic” in any normal sense of the word, yet are indirectly aimed at circumventing abnormal behavior. Genetic counseling is one such intervention. It logins by identifying certain diseases that are inherited.

Next, prospective parents are interviewed about the incidence of these diseases in their families. Sometimes this information is supplemented by information from physical examination of the individuals. Particularly as electromicroscopic techniques become more sophisticated, even direct examination of chromosomes may be used to provide information. Fitting this information into the available models of genetic inheritance, the genetic counselor attempts to give the prospective parents some estimate of the odds that their offspring will be born with or develop certain physical conditions. Decisions about having children can then be made in light of that information.

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