Thursday, April 29, 2010

Robert Whitaker

Robert Whitaker is the award-winning author of The Mapmaker’s Wife, Mad in America, On the Laps of Gods, and the newly released Anatomy of an Epidemic.

From his interview with Jed Lipinski at Salon:

Psychiatric drug use is a notoriously tough subject for writers, because of all the contradictory research. Why wade into it?

In 1998, I was writing a series for the Boston Globe on abuse of psychiatric patients in research settings. I came across the World Health Organization’s outcomes study for schizophrenia patients, and found that outcomes were better for poor countries of the world -- like India, Colombia, Nigeria -- than for the rich countries. And I was startled to find that only a small percentage of patients in those countries were medicated. I also discovered that the number of people on disability for mental illness in this country has tripled over the last 20 years.

If our psychiatric drugs are effective at preventing mental illness, I thought, why are we getting so many people unable to work? I felt we needed to look at long-term outcomes and ask: What does the evidence show? Are we improving long-term outcomes or not?

But you claim in the book that psychiatrists have long known that these drugs can cause harm.

In the late 1970s, Jonathan Cole -- the father of American psychopharmacology -- wrote a paper called "Is the Cure Worse Than the Disease?" that signaled that antipsychotics weren't the lifesaving drugs that people had hoped. In it, he reviewed all of the long-term harm the drugs could cause and observed that studies had shown that at least 50 percent of all schizophrenia patients could fare well without the drugs. He wrote, "Every schizophrenic outpatient maintained on antipsychotic medication should have the benefit of an adequate trial without drugs." This would...[read on]
Read an excerpt from Anatomy of an Epidemic, and learn more about the author and his work at Robert Whitaker's website.

The Page 99 Test: Anatomy of an Epidemic.

--Marshal Zeringue