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Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America

by Robert Whitaker

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6062137,331 (4.11)2
Presents a controversial assessment of the rise in mental illness-related disabilities and considers if drug-based care may be fueling illness rates throughout the past half century.

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Eye opening expose on the negative impact of psycho pharmaceuticals on people with mental illness. Very convincing statistics and extensive, critical review of the scientific and clinical literature. I thought a bit to labored and repetitive near the end. ( )
  ghefferon | Nov 17, 2022 |
Un estudio muy completo sobre la literatura científica sobre las enfermedades mentales y el uso y abuso de medicamentos, el ocultamiento y la tergiversación de pruebas científicas que demuestran la poca eficacia de los muchos medicamentos psiquiátricos. El tema de los diagnósticos hechos en niños, TDAH y bipolaridad, parece una prueba de que había que seguir ampliando los ratios de edad en la venta de fármacos. La creación de grupos de apoyo a enfermos psicóticos y padres de niños con TDAH con la colaboración de empresas farmacéuticas. El uso de drogas en los centros de acogida con niños negros de familias desestructuradas o padres drogadictos, para que no molesten. En fin. Un estudio muy completo de como se ha desarrollado esta epidemia que sólo ha conseguido el aumento de enfermos psiquiátricos en USA y la cantidad de dinero que mueve toda esta industria. ( )
  Orellana_Souto | Jul 27, 2021 |
This book is really a must-read for anyone who's been affected by the use of psychopharmacology, which as Whitaker points out, is more and more of the American population. I took umbrage with some of his characterizations of people, particularly in relation to how attractive they are or measuring their health based on their body weight. These rejoinders aside this analysis is compelling and he wades through what could be considered boring or obtuse material with rigor and clarity.
  b.masonjudy | Jan 9, 2021 |
Here's an odd thing: I read this before. Another copy. I learned about the book and ordered it so I could read it as soon as possible after it was published. Yet I forgot that I had ordered and read it before! Even as I closed in on the last chapters I did not remember that I had read it two years ago. When I looked on my "mental health" shelf I found the other copy and looked it up on my bookcrossing page. How embarrassing!

Of course, much of the material is familiar to me. I have read many books about the psychiatric drug industry. This one, though, doesn't focus on one disorder, as, for example, Whitaker's Mad in America focused on schizophrenia and Glenmullen's Prozac Backlash focused on depression. Instead, it offers us a short history of all of the major "disorders" now being treated by drugs: schizophrenia, depression, bipolar disorder (and its variants), ADHD, panic disorder.

What comes through again and again is that historically persons with all of these conditions usually got over them. And in the case of children with bipolar disorder (previously called Manic-depressive), incidents of this condition were so rare that psychiatrists said it didn't exist.

But now? A much greater percentage of the population is afflicted with these disorders and a much larger percentage of those are permanently disabled by them. Is it any wonder that Whitaker had to take on this question: What is causing the epidemic of mental illness?

The increases are so great that they cannot be accounted for by simply being underdiagnosed. The differences - the worsening of the conditions - simply cannot be accounted for by "stress", for example. The science is clear: psychiatric drugs change the brain, possibly permanently. They do not correct a chemical imbalance. That theory was disproven years ago. The drugs themselves are responsible for the increases in these conditions, by different means:

Bipolar disorder follows drug treatment for depression most of the time. When you follow the science, it makes sense that antidepressants can cause manic episodes, sometimes leading to more permanent bipolar conditions. Other conditions are misdiagnosed and then the drug treatment leads to the condition that was diagnosed. The guidelines for bipolar disorder, for example, are getting looser and looser every year, so that children who are a little difficult may easily be diagnosed with it.

Speaking of children. There is no evidence that any drugs are good for children over the long haul. Stimulants may calm a child, but that child does not, statistically, do any better in school. The stimulants help the teacher, not the child.Further, these drugs frequently lead to worse outcomes for the child as she reaches adulthood.

This book is an indictment that should not have been necessary to write. The drug companies, their lobbies, and the government agencies supposedly overseeing them, joined together years ago to sell a story about mental illnesses that was simply untrue. Because reporters tend to get their news from press releases, none of them found the articles that were critical of current drug therapy, because there were no press releases about them. Thus most citizens and even most doctors have been simply unaware of the discrepancy between the stories the drug hawkers tell and the truth. And thus it was necessary to write yet another book.

I am saddened that, although this book received high praise in reviews, the information unearthed in it has yet to make its way to major news publications or television stations. I will continue to be a vocal advocate for cognitive therapy and exercise as opposed to drug treatments, but my voice does not carry far. ( )
  slojudy | Sep 8, 2020 |
I did not finish this book, nor do I have any intention to. So my apologies in advance if any of my grievances are addressed/fixed in the later chapters, I simply have no interest in reading on to find out. This book lost me.

It's pretentious. It falls onto the heaping tower of "stance" books that boast a perfect blend of opinion and science- only to construct its arguments on a series of assumptions. The problem with burying the thesis of your book behind a wall of numbers is that you never challenge the core premise. Why are more people mental illness diagnoses happening in America? Whitaker proposes that it's due to unexpected and unnoticed impacts from psychiatric drugs, essentially spreading disease instead of solving it. However, as far as I read, he never once considered that maybe the numbers appear to give the impression that mental illness is increasing simply because more people are receiving treatment. Perhaps mental illness has always been a serious problem, and through gradual de-stigmatizing (still a long way to go) as well as advances in health care, more people are comfortable with seeking legitimate treatment. One sentence at the beginning of the book brought up the point that America has an especially aggressive culture when it comes to shaming the mentally ill; Whitaker proceeded to brush that point to the side as "not satisfying".

The author pats himself on the back consistently, while going through and shaming his first negative review of the book. It comes off like Ricky Gervais "owning" his haters on Twitter; he talks about how much he dislikes a readers' tendency to craft ad hominem attacks against an author they disagree with, only to say that the Boston Globe reporter who disliked Anatomy of an Epidemic was trying to "silence" him. He's writing a book on mental health treatment, he's not Jason Bourne.

The author's egregious self-importance also shines through with intense condescension and sarcasm. It juts became painful to read somebody who clearly thinks they are so goddamn smart, meanwhile cherry picking studies to construct flimsy arguments.

The gist of this book is that we need to rethink how we treat psychiatric disorders. He's right. But literally nobody was arguing the opposite, he didn't awake society from some sort of slumber that everything is okay. Trust me Robert, we know there's a mental illness crisis. That's why precision and personalized treatment is emerging in psychiatric fields, and why remote communication is being utilized more to help increase access to direct help. Medication is nobody's first choice- every professional that's ever talked to me about mental health has told me that they prefer to avoid medicine. But to dance around the piles of evidence that these drugs vastly help mental illness more than the placebo... it's careless.

I know absolutely nothing about the author, he might be a well-meaning writer who is shining light on an important topic. But this book makes so many assertions that I disagree with it began to frustrate me. This would be fine and dandy, if not for the fact that these assertions were delivered with such a smug and rude tone. Like almost all books there's nuggets of good writing and good messages, simply not enough for me to finish it. ( )
1 vote MaxAndBradley | May 27, 2020 |
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Presents a controversial assessment of the rise in mental illness-related disabilities and considers if drug-based care may be fueling illness rates throughout the past half century.

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