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This is an outstanding work of science journalism and it is likely to surprise the vast majority of its readers. Plus, Ken Kliban is a great narrator. As a both a scientist and a mental health clinician, I support the methods and the conclusions of this book strongly. The irony, though, is that I'm probably not alone. Many, if not most, scientists at the top of NIMH and major universities wouldn't disagree with two of the most important ideas; first, that the "chemical imbalance" hypothesis is basically nonsense, and second, that the outcomes literature for psych drugs are poor. I saw a talk given by Thomas Insel, Director of NIMH, in April (2010, that is) and he said two things that are consistent with Whitaker's conclusions. First a direct quote: "Current treatments help too few people get better and very few get well." Second, he advocated for research focused on the "connectome," that is, a developing understanding of how a typically functioning brain's circuits are interconnected and how disruptions in those connections "cause" mental illness. I think understanding the connectome is important but unlikely to reveal anything about "mental illness" for various empirical reasons I won't go into here.
Of course, what most clinical psychiatrists won't agree with is that the drugs are part of the problem. But I suspect the current generation of psych drugs are going to go the way of tobacco (which used to be promoted for its health benefits). Eventually there's just going to be too much evidence against them. Hopefully Whitaker's work will help accelerate that.
I'm going to recommend this book to everyone I possibly can. I'm also going to teach it to psychiatry residents. Well, to be honest, I'll probably teach the primary sources rather than the book itself because, if Whitaker is right, teaching the book could be bad for my career...
26 of 32 people found this review helpful
I tend to agree that anti-depressants and anti-psychotics are overly prescribes, particularly since the effects are not well understood. I also agree that drugs are used when cognitive behavioral techniques would be successful (but not make much money for drug companies). I further agree that drug companies have not uncommonly created unfair pro-drug testing regimes. BUT the author makes conclusions that don???t seem to be supported by any data and weaves a deeper conspiracy than the evidence seems to support. Repeating the same evidence is not more evidence. Also the author makes the key mistake seen in such books; Assume the hypothesis then search for data that supports the hypothesis. This is just not how real science is done. So if you read this, take it with a big grain of salt.
38 of 49 people found this review helpful