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Toxic Psychiatry: Why Therapy, Empathy and Love Must Replace the Drugs, Electroshock, and Biochemical Theories of the "New Psychiatry" Paperback – August 15, 1994

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Breggin, director of the Center for the Study of Psychiatry and author of Psychi atric Drugs: Hazards to the Brain (Springer Pub., 1983), describes his latest book as "the culmination of a lifetime of scientific, educational, and reform work." Breggin is anything but dispassionate: the "new psychiatry," he claims, is a return to the bad old days when a person enduring a "psychospiritual crisis" (a term Breggin favors over "mental illness") might be sent to a state hospital, where he or she would receive treatment that was degrading and harmful. Nowadays, he says, psychiatrists are in thrall to the pharmaceutical industry; they have lost or never learned the art of the loving, caring, humanistic "talking cure," and are doing more harm than good. Written in an anecdotal style, with case examples, a hefty notes section, and supportive evidence from various sources for his point of view, the book is best suited for the sophisticated general reader. Psychotherapy Book Club selection.
- Marlene Charnizon, formerly with "Library Journal"
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Kirkus Reviews

A psychiatric reformer takes aim and blasts away with both barrels. Breggin (author of the novels The Crazy from the Sane, 1971, and After the Good War, 1972) launches a full-scale attack on the popular view that neuroses and psychoses are diseases with biochemical and genetic causes best treated by drugs--even by electroshock and incarceration. He advocates not pills but psychotherapy, which ideally provides a ``caring, understanding relationship--made safe by professional ethics and restraint.'' Treating mental disorders as chemical imbalances to be corrected primarily by chemical intervention is, he claims, an outrageous hazard to health, damaging the brains of a high percentage of those subjected to it. Breggin notes that the medical training of today's biopsychiatrists ill-equips them for any other approach: They are taught to make diagnoses and prescribe medical treatments; their communication skills are undeveloped, and they know little about the art of listening to patients' problems. Their penchant for prescribing drugs, according to Breggin, is encouraged by a too-cozy relationship between the medical profession and the pharmaceutical industry, which generously funds research into the biochemical and genetic basis of mental disorders, and whose claims for its products are insufficiently scrutinized by either the FDA or the medical profession. Breggin also has harsh words for health insurers that reimburse for drugs and psychiatric hospitalization but not for psychotherapy and social rehabilitation; coming under fire as well are schoolteachers who seek chemical solutions to classroom discipline problems, and parents who are unwilling to accept any blame for the psychological problems of their children. Although Breggin's preference for nonmedical intervention is clear, he remains skeptical about much of what's available today, warning that ``the buyer of psychotherapy must be extremely cautious.'' A one-sided but forceful caveat emptor for anyone seeking mental-health services. -- Copyright ©1991, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; 1 edition (August 15, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312113668
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312113667
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (96 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #77,126 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Peter R. Breggin, MD, is a Harvard-trained psychiatrist and former full-time consultant at NIMH. He is in private practice in Ithaca, New York, and is the author of dozens of scientific articles and more than twenty books. Some of his many books include Toxic Psychiatry, Talking Back to Ritalin, The Antidepressant Fact Book, and The Heart of Being Helpful: Empathy and the Creation of a Healing Presence, and, with co-author Ginger Breggin, Talking Back to Prozac. His most recent publications include Medication Madness: The Role of Psychiatric Drugs in Cases of Violence, Suicide, and Crime (2008) and Brain-Disabling Treatments in Psychiatry: Drugs, Electroshock and the Psychopharmaceutical Complex, Second Edition (SPC, 2008). His two newest books are Psychiatric Drug Withdrawal: A Guide for Prescribers, Therapists, Patients and their Families (SPC, 2013) and Guilt, Shame, and Anxiety: Understanding and Overcoming Negative Emotions (Prometheus, 2014). Dr. Breggin is the founder and director of The Center for the Study of Empathic Therapy, Education and Living ( His professional website is

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

141 of 158 people found the following review helpful By Philip Reese on August 23, 2004
Format: Paperback
I enjoying reading this book very, very much. It provides vital information which is needed, but most often excluded by psychiatrists, to make any sort of informed decision in reguard to many psychiatric treatments. This book shows the horrors of psychiatry, from a psychiatrist's viewpoint, this in itself makes for very interesting reading. I found the points made to be logical and truth revealing, not candy coated and over-simplified. For a non-medical book, the points are explained in depth and have been researched from many sources, which are conveniently labled and listed in the back of the book.

I gave this book 5 stars, because even though I don't believe it to be perfect in composition or perfect in ideology, it is so dense with material, that it speaks volumes. So It gets 5 stars, imperfect as it is.

Although I do believe "Toxic Psychiatry" shows a one-sided picture, I believe this does not obscure the point being made; that there is something seriously wrong with psychiatry and how it's methods of treatment are applied. The general prevailing idea of this book is that Pills do not help anybody in finding the reasons for their emotional conditions, they simply make them less able to feel them. Kind of like putting anesthetic on a cut rather than anti-septic.

One thing to keep in mind is that we have all been exposed to countless other one-sided pictures on our tvs, in magazines, on billboards, in pamphlets, and many other places reguarding this subject (incessant advertising). We already know that side. This book fills in the gaping holes and it answers valid questions that aren't even hinted at in those other one-sided pictures we have seen.
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88 of 98 people found the following review helpful By J. Powers on April 27, 2003
Format: Paperback
I was amazed at some responses to this book - it seems many people haven't read this book carefully and are responding more out of passionate beliefs about the use of psychoactive medicines based on their own experiences with them.
This book does not advocate the outright stopping of psychoactive medicines. It points out, through very careful discussion of a huge host of experimental data, case studies, and a wide range of professional opinion (in addition to the author's), that none of the so-called diseases that these medicines supposedly treat has ever been shown to have a biological basis. In fact, this discussion is so complete and convincing that it would seem to be outright denial to argue the opposite, even though that is what the media and numerous "experts" do regularly - many of these so-called experts going so far as to blindly ignore data that they either previously or later agreed did support the opposing viewpoint.
The book then goes on to point out through more careful analysis of a great deal of data that these medicines are all very general and act on large areas of the brain, and do not (and quite frankly can not) treat specific biological problems. They all treat symptoms in a very general sense. Additionally, all of them have severe side effects, and many (if not all) cause permanent brain damage.
This book makes an important point concerning these so-called "diseases of the mind" which bears repeating. People in the throes of these afflictions, or people very close to them, are often suffering so greatly that they want nothing more than to have the symptoms alleviated. It is widely known that a large number of alcohol and drug abusers are simply medicating away their depression, anxiety, or other more extreme form of mental anguish.
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45 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Paul Huffington M.D. on November 14, 2000
Format: Paperback
Dr. Breggin's respect for children is evident in his writings. He challenges the current cliches of "chemical imbalance" and "genetic" as being "causes" in the behavior of most children. He offers as an alternative the proven family therapy approach for the child who is "acting out". Working with the entire family, rather than just the "problem" child, often shows that family stresses are acted out by the child in behavior that distrubs others. If this is in fact what is occuring, labelling and medicating the child will only delay addressing the family stressors and fears and unjustly stigmatize the child as "the problem". This scapegoating of the child is undeserved and usually cruel. Dr. Breggin has clearly evaluated our working "theories" and meticulously shown their severe weaknesses and biases. He further shows how compassionate family therapy and non-judgmental education of the family to what is actually happening within it leads to reducing the child's acting out and the proud survivorship of that family as an emotional unit. Our awareness to this problem can only help the child, parents and society. This can be truly a Win-Win-Win situation as we look more carefully at the facts. Congratulations Dr. and Mrs. Breggin for your courage to buck the Establishment and its vested interests and to inform us of the problem and its solutions. Paul Huffington M.D.
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34 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Nancy E. Macdonald on May 26, 1999
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is an extremely important book for anyone seeking mental health services, for anyone who knows someone doing the same, or for anyone working in or planning a career in mental health; i.e., for anyone today. I teach undergraduate psychology, and plan to increasingly incorporate this book and its information into my courses.
The trends observed by Breggin in this 1991 book, toward the dominance of mental health by biopsychiatric views, have increased during the 1990's, as Breggin's more recent books (e.g., Talking Back to Prozac, and Talking Back to Ritalin) attest. Toxic Psychiatry is a more comprehensive work, providing evidence that both mild and severe psychosocial problems may in fact be exacerbated by the biopsychiatric approach. Details of specific drugs and their effects, as well as alternative theoretical and treatment perspectives round out this book. Breggin possesses the expertise to discuss these issues in depth and specificity, but also the clarity of writing to make this information accessible to the general reader.
While making no pretense of presenting a "balanced view" in itself, this book provides the necessary balance in a culture where media and political forces so strongly promote the other side. Breggin's extensive inside knowledge of the political and economic forces driving the mental health "industry", and his documentation of those forces, should command everyone's attention.
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