- Hardcover: 304 pages
- Publisher: Free Press (October 5, 1998)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 068484964X
- ISBN-13: 978-0684849645
- Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1 x 9.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 26 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,628,703 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Blaming the Brain : The Truth About Drugs and Mental Health
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The odds are high that someone close to you has been told he or she has a "chemical imbalance" in the brain, but the odds are slim that the doctor who said it could point to any convincing evidence that it was true. The increasing awareness that most biological theories underlying diagnoses of depression, schizophrenia, and other mental problems are based very loosely on accidental drug discoveries and promoted heavily by pharmaceutical companies is the basis for neuroscientist Elliot S. Valenstein's book Blaming the Brain. Compelling reading for the age of Prozac, Blaming the Brain looks at the history of medical treatments for psychiatric disorders, and particularly the modern era of drug therapies, with the intent of uncovering whether science or rhetoric determines courses of treatment.
Claiming that there are no widely accepted theories of mental illness and that therapies are guided more by marketing than lab work hasn't won Valenstein many friends in psychiatry, but his scientific credibility is impeccable, and, better for the reader, his explanations of his doubts are clear and sensible. Whether discussing the "good old days" of insulin coma and electroshock therapies (after which drugs seemed a humane godsend) or the modern prospects of scientific research and medical clinics owned and directed by pharmaceutical companies, he maintains a calm, measured style that seeks to clothe the emperor, not replace him. Blaming the Brain is a powerful, thoroughly enjoyable book that will provoke much-needed thought and discussion on all sides of this important topic. --Rob Lightner
From Publishers Weekly
In the past 25 years, theories of mental illness have shifted from blaming mother to blaming the brain. While the prevailing view is that "mental illnesses are medical illnesses just like diabetes, high blood pressure or heart disease," and it's estimated that 30 million people worldwide have taken Prozac, the truth, argues Valenstein, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Michigan and the author of Great and Desperate Cures, is that we are only at the dawn of an understanding of mental illness. The studies he reviews indicate that a combination of medications and therapy offers the best chance of success at treating common disorders, although no one knows exactly why. Valenstein does a fine job of illuminating the various interests at work behind the ascendancy of purely biological hypotheses. They appeal to pharmaceutical companies, he suggests, for all the obvious reasons, and he details the impact that these companies have, at every level, on today's psychiatric landscape: from sponsoring research and colloquiums to lobbying government to marketing directly to both consumers and primary-care physicians?the largest prescribers of psychiatric drugs. The companies also, he reports, pressure editors of psychiatric journals, in which they also advertise, to downplay studies that cast doubt on the safety or usefulness of their drugs. Families and patients, meanwhile, embrace biological theories because they relieve them of the burden of blame, and physicians, he says, neglect their responsibility to report side effects to the FDA. This meticulously researched, evenhanded work deserves a large audience. Unfortunately, it's about as exciting to read as the fine print in your HMO contract; Valenstein, who comes out with both guns blazing, concentrates more on clearly digesting the data than on giving the story a human face.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Somehow this book popped up on my 'recommended' list for Amazon, and I was intrigued, so I decided to purchase it and see what the author had to say. I tried to read this with an open mind, but right from the introduction I could tell the author was extremely biased against modern medicine and psychiatry. Further, the author blatantly misquotes items. For an example, on page 2, the author states "...most psychiatric residents no longer receive any instruction in intensive psychotherapy, and many complete their training without meeting regularly with a single patient in psychotherapy sessions", and has referenced "The American Journal of Psychiatry" 1990;147:428-430 in an effort to substantiate his statement. However, if you actually read that article, it was a survey of 143 psychiatry programs in which 60% did not require that any patients be seen more than once a week. While 60% is technically 'most' in that it is greater than 50%, using the term 'most' is misleading. The author also confused the fact that because a program doesn't 'require' a patient to be seen more than once a week doesn't mean that resident doctors can't/don't see any patients more than once a week. Furthermore, the second part of his statement is completely false. There are no accredited psychiatry residency programs in the United States that can or would allow a resident doctor to complete his training without training and experience helping patients through psychotherapy. This kind of blatant misrepresentation of legitimate journal articles puts this book into the realm of pseudo-science like homeopathy, healing touch, crystal energy, etc, in which scientific terms are erroneously used in order to try and make flim-flam sound like a legitimate item.
I spent 4 weeks in a dual diagnosis mental illness and drug/alcohol addiction center. This was as a learning experience, I was not an addict or mentally ill, but I lived in the center and attended all therapies just like the other patients. It was a remarkable experience to see how the patients improved (with respect to their mental illnesses) as the doctors added/removed prescriptions to find the right balance for each patient.
Further to those that disagree that drugs have anything to do with mental illness, you do realize that in order to accept science, you must accept the fact that we are a biochemical machine? If you think that drugs cannot help with mental illness, then logically you must assume that your mental condition cannot be affected by any drugs. Have you seen the emotional swings of people on Ecstasy, meth, alcohol, etc? Have you ever seen someone in the hospital that is delirious because of the high corticosteroid doses required to save their life?
Well, I told myself that I wouldn't waste a lot of time writing, but I feel that I have more experience and knowledge than the average lay person, and it is my duty to humanity to try and debunk pseudo-science. If by writing this review I can help just one person avoid making a bad choice about mental health (caused by reading this book) then my time was worth it.
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These fellow authors and reviewers who categorically rip drugs fail to recognize the fact...Read more