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The Creation of Psychopharmacology Revised ed. Edition

4.0 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0674015999
ISBN-10: 0674015991
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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

The standard historical view of psychiatry claims that the invention of chlorpromazine (a.k.a. Thorazine) in 1952 ushered in biologically based "scientific" psychiatry. Healy (The Antidepressant Era) claims that earlier psychiatry was also scientifically based and had some notable successes, such as the treatment of catatonia with shock therapy. Healy's second theme is that because the success of psychiatric drugs, the choice of treatment options is largely dependent on the financial preferences of the pharmaceutical industry. For example, the author argues that "randomized controlled trials" of drugs are favored by the pharmaceutical industry because they allow products to be marketed to a wide audience, but what is desperately needed is more research on the effects of medications on more specific types of patients. While this theme has certainly been sounded before (T.R. Luhrmann's Of Two Minds is an accessible discussion of the pitfalls of drug-based psychiatry), the detailed history of the development of psychiatric drugs and the "culture" surrounding them makes this book unique. For academic libraries. Mary Ann Hughes, Neill P.L., Pullman, WA
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


David Healy is one of the founding historians of psychopharmacology, first with his three-volume series of interviews with the first generation of psychopharmacologists, and secondly with his brilliant book, The Antidepressant Era. Now Healy crowns these achievements with this breathtakingly original and important history of the antipsychotics, psychiatry's flagship drugs. In their short lifespan they have revolutionalized psychiatry, converting it from a medical specialty based on psychotherapy to one based on biochemistry. Yet as Healy's analysis shows, commerce has been as influential as science in this transformation--perhaps more so. For its originality, readability, and wisdom, The Creation of Psychopharmacology is the most important contribution to the history of psychiatry since Ellenberger's The Discovery of the Unconscious. (Edward Shorter, University of Toronto, author of A History of Psychiatry: From the Era of the Asylum to the Age of Prozac)

[T]his sweeping history of medicine used to treat mental illness takes on the psychiatric and medical establishment...Healy does groundbreaking work...The Creation of Psychopharmacology details how psychiatric medication intersects with academic squabbles and popular culture. (Janice Paskey Chronicle of Higher Education 2002-01-25)

David Healy is a respected historian of psychiatry who has written a book that should spark a major debate. He identifies current trends towards the abandonment of independent research into treatments for mental illness, the demand for Randomised Control Trials as the only acceptable measure of whether a treatment works, and the chilling control pharmaceutical companies now exert over psychiatry...This is an important and thought-provoking book...Healy's warning that, without a debate, we may be moving into an era when cosmetic psychiatry will be the new liposuction is worth heeding. (Julie Wheelwright The Independent 2002-05-07)

This book is a good place to start if you want to get an overview of the role of drugs in the treatment of mental illness...[Healy] capture[s] an important current dilemma. (Richard Restak Washington Times 2002-03-25)

Psychiatrists and historians owe a debt to David Healy. Over the years he has conducted interviews with all the leading figures in psychopharmacology...Drawing on these interviews and his wide reading of the scholarly literature, Healy has now constructed a subtle and compelling narrative of the development of psychotropic drugs...Healy ambitiously relates the emergence of drugs to the wider culture and shows how the two have interacted...[He] has written a highly stimulating and original book, which is brimful of ideas and deserves to be read and debated throughout the psychiatric community and beyond. (Allan Beveridge British Journal of Psychiatry 2003-02-01)

[N]o one has described it more thoroughly, or elucidated the critical intersections between psychiatry and the pharmaceutical industry more clearly. (Morgan T. Sammons Contemporary Psychology 2004-04-01)

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press; Revised ed. edition (September 15, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674015991
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674015999
  • 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 (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,296,774 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jessica Fragola on December 21, 2002
Format: Hardcover
David Healy is probably the top historian of psychopharmacology in the last three years. He tells the story of the use of neuroleptics in treating schizophrenia that shows how the interests of certain parties (ie pharmaceutical companies and psychiatrists desperate to do something about horrendous and overcrowded conditions in state mental hospitcals) came to define the nature of psychopharmaceuticals and even the nature of schizophrenia - a pretty vaguely-defined illness - itself. Somehow, chlorpromazine went from being looked at as pretty similar as lobotomy, insulin therapy, or many of the other treatments previously used for schizophrenia, in the early 1950s, to being a magic bullet, saving schizophrenics from a lifetime of insanity without side effects, which is simply not the case.
As the previous reviewer notes, Healy seems to give short shrift to some evidence. However, Healy's coming from the perspective of a historian of science - a discipline that tends to begin with a critical analysis and without starting from the viewpoint that science is king, but the viewpoint of a skeptic. To use the example of the previous reviewer, Healy's point when e talks about the withdrawal symptoms of SSRI's is partially to note that, when we talk about mental illness and that fuzzy boundary between the mental and the physical, there's a lot of flexibility in where that boundary is placed in the mind of the public. The concept of withdrawal itself *is* a very fluid, unscientific one: why some classes of drugs are considered to exhibit withdrawal effects while others dont is a highly politicized question - one whose answer lies more on the side of special interests and the state of american politics than real scientific evidence.
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Format: Paperback
You may remember David Healy's rise to headlines when a Canadian University fired him on his first day. He had committed the academic error of biting the hand that fed him by criticizing the pharmaceutical industry that funded his chair.
This book is a critique of that industry regarding psychotropic drugs, and in particular the role of marketing and government regulations in that industry. Fascinating to read, though the chemical details were often a bit above my head, was the description of how copy-cat drugs are developed, and why claims for specificity are laughable hoaxes. The choice for calling some of these drugs antipsychotics and others antidepressants he calls a matter of historical accident. In fact, he says, in Japan, depression is treated with atypical antipsychotics, not SSRIs.

Healy isn't coy about the horrific damage these drugs do, and the fact that doctors knew, or could have known, about it all along. It seems that doctors today are less, not more, aware of this harmfulness.

The book includes interesting historical notes, though I was occasionally dismayed by Healy's naive acceptance of unlikely case scenarios recorded by early psychiatrists. For instance, he uncritically quotes that people were cured by chlorpromazine after having been in catatonic states, "frozen into several positions" for years. How is it likely, in the days before medical heroics, that someone survived such a condition? Healy does not question it. What caused catatonia, how did chlorpromazine relieve it, and why is the condition unknown today? Healy does not say. Yet he acknowledges the fraud of psychiatric diagnoses in more recent times, as well as the deception in drug company testing.
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Format: Paperback
I'm embarrassed to say that I had not read this book until recently. I was aware that it existed and even had a copy laying around for over 3 years. Convergent events led me to read it and I must say that I found it particularly enjoyable. Readers will need to have more than a modicum of knowledge in several fields of science. Those that do will be rewarded with a book that is difficult to put down.

My only criticism: The editing is poor. Someone with a better knowledge of punctuation needed to have reviewed this before publication. There are also more than a few sentence fragments, misspellings, and poor word choices. In the context of his otherwise thoughtful and clearly highly educated prose, these editorial errors stuck out like a sore thumb.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A remarkable view by someone who was there of the rise of modern psychopharmacology, with explanations of its progress as well as of missed opportunities due to pettiness by some and greed by others.
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