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Jul 23, 2011

Outstanding Exposé of Psychiatric Drugs

The New York Review of Books has run an outstanding, two-part review by Marcia Angell of three new books highly critical of psychiatric drugs and medical psychiatry:  (1) Irving Kirsch, The Emperor's New Drugs: Exploding the Antidepressant Myth;  (2) Robert Whitaker, Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America; and (3) Daniel Carlat, Unhinged: The Trouble with Psychiatry--A Doctor's Revelations about a Profession in Crisis. The first part of the review, entitled "The Epidemic of Mental Illness: Why?", ran in the June 23, 2011, issue. The second part, entitled "The Illusions of Psychiatry," ran in the July 14 issue. The review's shocking empirical revelations lead to conclusions quite consistent with the views of Thomas Szasz, who is even briefly mentioned in the second installment, although neither the reviewer nor any of the authors necessarily share Szasz's blanket theoretical rejection of all medical psychiatry.

The pharmaceutical industry is also implicated in the critiques. As most of you know, I am an opponent of nearly all intellectual property. Medical drugs admittedly are the hardest case for those who want to do away with patents. While I believe that abolishing the FDA would address many of those concerns, psychiatric drugs--if these books are to be believed--may represent the most egregious misuse of patents by drug companies. That is partly because psychiatrists have much greater leeway than other medical practitioners in inventing new diseases requiring expensive drug treatments. The article further points out that Medicaid promotes the development and use of psychiatric drugs, especially among the poor.

All in all, an absolute MUST read.

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