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Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America Paperback – August 2, 2011
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“The timing of Robert Whitaker’s “Anatomy of an Epidemic,” a comprehensive and highly readable history of psychiatry in the United States, couldn’t be better.”
“Anatomy of an Epidemic offers some answers, charting controversial ground with mystery-novel pacing.” —TIME.com
“Lucid, pointed and important, Anatomy of an Epidemic should be required reading for anyone considering extended use of psychiatric medicine. Whitaker is at the height of his powers.” —Greg Critser, author of Generation Rx
“Why are so many more people disabled by mental illness than ever before? Why are those so diagnosed dying 10-25 years earlier than others? In Anatomy of an Epidemic investigative reporter Robert Whitaker cuts through flawed science, greed and outright lies to reveal that the drugs hailed as the cure for mental disorders instead worsen them over the long term. But Whitaker’s investigation also offers hope for the future: solid science backs nature’s way of healing our mental ills through time and human relationships. Whitaker tenderly interviews children and adults who bear witness to the ravages of mental illness, and testify to their newly found “aliveness” when freed from the prison of mind-numbing drugs.” —Daniel Dorman, M.D., Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, UCLA School of Medicine and author of Dante’s Cure: A Journey Out of Madness
“This is the most alarming book I’ve read in years. The approach is neither polemical nor ideologically slanted. Relying on medical evidence and historical documentation, Whitaker builds his case like a prosecuting attorney.” —Carl Elliott, M.D., Ph.D., Professor, Center for Bioethics, University of Minnesota and author of Better than Well: American Medicine Meets the American Dream
“Anatomy of an Epidemic investigates a profoundly troubling question: do psychiatric medications increase the likelihood that people taking them, far from being helped, are more likely to become chronically ill? In making a compelling case that our current psychotropic drugs are causing as much—if not more—harm than good, Robert Whitaker reviews the scientific literature thoroughly, demonstrating how much of the evidence is on his side. There is nothing unorthodox here—this case is solid and evidence-backed. If psychiatry wants to retain its credibility with the public, it will now have to engage with the scientific argument at the core of this cogently and elegantly written book.” —David Healy, M.D., Professor of Psychiatry, Cardiff University and author of The Antidepressant Era and Let Them Eat Prozac
“Anatomy of an Epidemic is a splendidly informed, wonderfully readable corrective to the conventional wisdom about the biological bases—and biological cures—for mental illness. This is itself a wise and necessary book—essential reading for all those who have experienced, or care for those who have experienced, mental illness—which means all of us! Robert Whitaker is a reliable, sensible, and persuasive, guide to the paradoxes and complexities of what we know about mental illness, and what we might be able to do to lessen the suffering it brings.” —Jay Neugeboren, author of Imagining Robert and Transforming Madness
“Every so often a book comes along that exposes a vast deceit. Robert Whitaker has written that sort of book. Drawing on a prodigious quantity of psychiatric literature as well as heart-rending stories of individual patients, he exposes a deeply disturbing fraud perpetrated by the drug industry and much of modern psychiatry—at horrendous human and financial cost to patients, their families, and society as a whole. Scrupulously reported and written in compelling but unemotional style, this book shreds the myth woven around today’s psychiatric drugs.” —Nils Bruzelius, former science editor for the Boston Globe and the Washington Post
“A devastating critique. . . . One day, we will look back at the way we think about and treat mental illness and wonder if we were all mad. Anatomy of an Epidemic should be required reading for both patients and physicians.” —Shannon Brownlee, senior research fellow, New America Foundation and author of Overtreated
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Top Customer Reviews
The rise in drug use corresponds with psychiatry staking a renewed claim to therapeutic expertise and market share, which had begun to erode due to competition from counselors, social workers and others (see the Selling of DSM by Kirk and Kutchins -- [...]-- and Making Us Crazy by the same authors). The prescription pad, and the power of academic psychiatry in collaboration with Big Pharma, allowed psychiatry to open up a very large market, one that today seems to encompass the entire population.
Whitaker documents the alarming rise of disability and increasing number of people on SSI and SSDI due to mental illness over the last 50 years, including the increase since the 1980s, when serotonin reuptake inhibitors such as Prozac were introduced, and again, with the introduction of what are called atypical antipsychotics (e.g., Risperdal, Zyprexa), and reliance on drugs in the benzodiazepine family (Valium). But perhaps the most tragic of all cases with drugs used to treat what were once considered within the range of "normal" behavior (e.g., shyness) is the prescribing of amphetamine-like agents such as Ritalin or Adderall for so-called attention deficit disorder (ADHD) in children, and, even worse, powerful psychotropic drug cocktails to treat a newly introduced category of illness, childhood-onset bipolar disorder.Read more ›
However, as I reach the end of the book, I find myself wondering whether it is fair to implicate only Big Pharma and the proponents of biological psychiatry in this scandal. I find myself wondering about the roles of shareholder value in the decision making process in the pharmaceutical industry, and of teachers and parents who would rather think that their children's behavior is due to "chemical imbalance" than to psychosocial issues like peer pressure, unavailable parents, overwhelmed teachers, and the like.
While the lopsided presentation of psychotropic drugs by the media certainly is part of the picture (and the problem), the truth is, I think, that we as a society would much prefer the idea of mental illness as a biological problem. It relieves us from personal responsibility, for our financial investments, our children, our students. To me, the most striking part of the book is the description of the callous use of psychotropic drugs to control children and pathologize perfectly normal childhood behaviors, based on the short-term efficacy of the drugs and with no regard for the long-term consequences. I'm a little disappointed that Whitaker doesn't even comment on the wider ethical implications of the problem he is addressing!
I have schizoaffective disorder (a combination of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder). I developed this disease in my early 20s. I was beset by mania, depression, and psychosis. The mania and depression were bad but easier to manage than my psychosis. I heard loud, terrifying voices which threatened to kill me and worse. They sounded just as real as any voice I had ever heard in my life. They tortured me morning, noon, and night without interruption. I was completely disabled by them.
I was a bright young woman with a good education but I could barely leave my house, let alone work. I could not even have a meaningful conversation with anyone because the voices were too loud. My parents became my caretakers and my friends disappeared completely. Despite my family's support, I felt utterly alone in the world.
This went on for years as I tried different antipsychotics. They worked to a degree but the voices simply would not go away. I certainly did not get better or "heal" on my own--despite my family's love and support. No words can describe how hellish and worthless my life felt. I thought about killing myself but my parents helped me hold on to what seemed like a very slim hope that the voices would be stilled one day.
Geodon, the last antipsychotic I had settled on, began to give me symptoms of dyskinesia and my doctor made me stop taking it right away. The symptoms went away and I began to take a new drug: Seroquel.Read more ›
If you find this fact shocking or preposterous this book is for you. If you suspected this all along, this book is for you, too. It is calm and scientific. Whitaker works from the psychiatric literature to do a review of evidence from within the field. He explains how the illusion that the drugs work and are needed is maintained: in short trials (usually six weeks) the drugs do provide some improvement in symptoms. In trials of abrupt withdrawal of drugs, patients do worse due to withdrawal effects, since their brains have adjusted to some interruption in neurotransmitter function and need time to adjust back. In clinical work doctors can see this: the drugs do some good at first, and when a patient stops taking them they usually do worse. While poor long term outcomes are deplorable, they are seen as first and foremost caused by the illness itself. Whitaker's thesis is that this is not the case: the increasingly poor long term outcomes are iatrogenic, caused by medication.
If that is the case, this is a huge scandal, so huge it is hard to get a grasp on it. And after reading this book, I am convinced that it is the case. I hope that many will read this book and take its message seriously, and I hope that it provokes productive dialogue. This would not be the first time that medicine got something this wrong.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Great theme, well-written and thoroughly researched. purportedly "controversial" because this book contradicts the marketing messages broadcast by big pharma and roundly... Read morePublished 6 days ago by Thomas S. Roberts
Good book. As always, shipping and product description were as expected! Thanks!Published 10 days ago by z_doc
George Lucas' very first feature film, before Star Wars, was "THX 1138", about a future where every person was on a custom blend of drugs. Read morePublished 14 days ago by Liz
A must read for anyone either dealing these meds or thinking about taking them. Those already taking them should also read this but there is less hope there.Published 24 days ago by Jazzboca
This is a slow read for me. Nevertheless, I am astounded at every turn. This information is so long overdue. We are lucky to have such dedicated writers.Published 1 month ago by Amazon customer
A book that is eye-opening. It was a book that we had to read during my advanced psycho-biology class in college. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Daniel