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Steingard Shares Perspective on Antipsychotic Therapies in Washington Post

Sandra Steingard, M.D.
UVM Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry Sandra Steingard, M.D. (Photo by Jaskanwar Batra, M.D.)

Antipsychotic drugs – used to treat such diagnoses as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and other psychoses – have fallen under scientific scrutiny over the past several years, with reports of brain shrinkage, dementia, and other maladies added to the list of side effects, which already included severe weight gain and obesity-associated disorders. University of Vermont Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry Sandra Steingard, M.D., discusses the history of these therapies and their efficacy in a December 9, 2013 Washington Post article she authored.

The medical director of Burlington, Vt.-based HowardCenter, Steingard serves as a lecturer in the College of Medicine’s Neural Sciences course, teaching medical students about schizophrenia and antipsychotic drugs and organizing a panel discussion featuring a mental health clinician, family member and HowardCenter client undergoing treatment. In addition to teaching in the College’s curriculum since 1994, Steingard supervises medical students who complete a clinical clerkship in psychiatry at HowardCenter. She recently delivered a Psychiatry Grand Rounds presentation on "Facing the Paradox: Integrating Current Findings on Neuroleptics into Clinical Practice" on November 8, 2013.

Steingard’s “Health and Science” section article opens with a reference to Washington Naval Yard shooter Aaron Alexis, who suffered from psychosis. While the incident was a tragedy, she uses this example to examine the challenges of treating this population, providing a frank recounting of the evolution of her own opinion of antipsychotic treatments, including details of her prescription practices over the past 20-plus years. Her article notes the pros and cons of treatments, and how she has arrived at her current treatment philosophy – reducing dosage and/or eliminating medication in some patients, resulting in positive outcomes.

In addition to her clinical practice and teaching activities, Steingard’s scholarly work also focuses on the subject of her Post article. Earlier this fall, she presented a poster on “Tapering Antipsychotic Drugs in Clinical Practice” at the Institute of Psychiatric Services in Philadelphia, Pa. Steingard serves on the boards the National Institute of Mental Illness (NAMI) Vermont chapter and the Foundation for Excellence in Mental Health Care. In 1996, she was named an Exemplary Psychiatrist by NAMI-VT.