Researchers continue to evaluate ethnic and cultural factors in psychopharmacology.
In a comparative study of Sengalese and Italian men, Marazziti et al. (2020) argued for ethnicity as a decisive factor in reactions to psychotropic drugs. The researchers specifically focused on the way genetic receptors of the serotonin transporter impact our response to SSRIs.
The researchers compared the platelet SERT (serotonin transporter) and plasma oxytocin levels of 20 Senegalese men and 20 Italian men. None of the participants had a personal or family history of psychiatric diagnoses. In addition, none of the participants ever took psychotropic drugs.
In comparison to Italian men, Senegalese men showed a statistically meaningful higher density of bindings sites, in addition to elevated plasma levels — measurements that directly affect the body’s SSRI reception.
The researchers ultimately called for more research into neuro-psychopharmacology and cautioned against administering psychopharmacological compounds to non-European patients, an example of a shift toward personalized medicine over the psychiatric mainstay of medical universalism (Bhugra & Bhui, 1999).
Despite its self-described limitations — namely, the possibility that factors other than ethnicity might drive the results, such as diet or personal genetics — the study is a call for a relativist approach. This is an important recurring theme in this class. Instead of a one-size-fits-all approach, the literature consistently encourages the practice of psychopharmacology through a holistic lens.
Bhugra, D.,& Bui, K. (1999). Ethnic and cultural factors in psychopharmacology. Advances in Psychiatric Treatment, 5(2), 89-95. doi: https://doi.org/10.1192/apt.5.2.89
Marazziti, D., Stahl, S.M., Simoncini, M., Baroni, S., Mucci, F., Palego, L.,…Dell’Osso, L. (2020). Psychopharmacology and ethnicity: A comparative study on Senegalese men and Italian men. World Journal of Biological Psychiatry, 21(4), 300-307. doi: 10.1080/15622975.2019.1583373