SO-CALLED “SLEEP THERAPY” IS
It has come to the attention of the Society of Psychiatrists of South Africa that patients are being admitted to the hospital in order to received so-called “sleep therapy”. It seems that neuroleptics, benzodiazepines and/or intravenous antidepressants, at doses and duration’s sufficient to cause significant sedation for several days are then prescribed. This regimen appears to be given to patients for relief of mood, anxiety, adjustment, or personality disorders.
The Society wishes to emphasise to practitioners that such a practice is not clinically acceptable. Given the effectiveness of current treatments for the mood and anxiety disorders, the dangerousness of using high dose neuroleptics and benzodiazepines in non-psychotic patients, and the limited indications for intravenous antidepressants in psychiatry, the practice of so-called “sleep therapy” can readily be seen to constitute medical malpractice. There is no research that supports so-called “sleep therapy”; indeed, the use of continuous barbiturate-induced narcosis by an Australian psychiatrist resulted in 24 deaths from complications and 20 deaths from subsequent suicide, leading to condemnation of this practice by the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (Rubinstein and Rubinstein, 1996).
The Society of Psychiatrists of South Africa wishes to emphasise that practitioners who are currently using so-called “sleep therapy”, comprising doses of neuroleptics and/or benzodiazepines sufficient to result in continuous sedation in patients with non-psychotic disorders, are in effect committing medical malpractice.