Psychiatric Medications: Looking at “Anatomy Of An Epidemic”

August 23rd, 2010

Anatomy of An Epidemic

Over the past year, the debate over psychiatric drug use has become increasingly heated.The Journal of the American Medical Association (January 6, 2010) printed a review of a study that demonstrated that for all but the severest cases of depression, there was a negligible difference between antidepressant drugs and placebos. Newsweek (January 29, 2010) picked up the story and did a cover on the study and the value of psychiatric drugs. Concern about the efficacy of psychiatric drugs was also discussed in the New Yorker (August 23, 2010).

Indeed, the percentage of people incapacitated by mental disorders has been increasing dramatically over the last thirty years. This is not an increase in the number of people diagnosed with disorders but due to the medications introduced to treat the illnesses!

Robert Whitaker, an award winning scientific journalist (not a psychiatrist or psychologist) has amassed data and put the numbers and implications together clearly in his book, “Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America”.This book has been both timely and relevant. Whitaker covers the history of psychiatry in America in a comprehensive manner, drawing on 50 years of literature and patient interviews. He asks a most important question … if psychiatric wonder drugs are so effective, why have the numbers of people on disability using these drugs increased dramatically?

His critics have horribly attacked him saying that he has been unethical for his reporting, which makes psychiatric medications look bad. After all, say his critics, some patients may hesitate to take the drugs if they know it might have serious negative effects. But the overall statistics are overwhelmingly bad in the long run, and his reporting revealed that despite evidence that medications are helpful in the short run (sometimes dramatically so), the long term story is radically different. In the long run, patients simply become more ‘tolerable’, chronically disabled individuals. Moreover, there seems to be evidence of a dramatic shortening of life, primarily from physical side effects.

When psychoanalysts and psychoanalytic therapists make recommendations that sensible psychoanalytic therapy by trained practitioners can help patients with a wide variety of disorders, it is useful to have books like “Anatomy of an Epidemic” as a reading available for a source of accurate information.

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