On June 23, the New York Review of Books, one of the most prestigious literary magazines in the country, published a piece by Marcia Angell. I’ve mentioned Dr. Angell before. She had been editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine and had come out strongly against the extent to which drug companies are controlling and directing medical research.
Well in this recent article she reviews three books:
The Emperor’s New Drugs: Exploding the Antidepressant Myth, by Irving Kirsch, PhD
Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America, by Robert Whitaker
Unhinged: The Trouble with Psychiatry – A Doctor’s Revelations About a Profession in Crisis, by Daniel Carlat, MD
Marcia does a very nice job of drawing the various threads from these three authors together into a coherent, stand-alone two-part article (which you will find here and here) that is well worth the read,. She has also written a book of her own:
The Truth About the Drug Companies: How They Deceive Us and What to Do About It. (Random, 2004)
It’s encouraging that this kind of material is appearing in mainstream publications. Disenchantment with psychiatry can no longer be dismissed as the crackpot ravings of a few disgruntled eccentrics.
Although I am encouraged by the work of Angell, Kirsch, Whitaker, and Carlat, in my view they all baulk at the final fundamental conclusion: that there are no mental illnesses. The concept of mental illness is intrinsically spurious. It’s not just that the concept is applied too liberally, or that drugs are misused, etc.. The critical point is that the APA defines mental illness as, essentially, any human problem – and then, voila! – discovers that lots and lots of people have these so-called mental illnesses.
Until this simple logical fallacy is recognized, progress is inevitably going to be slow and sporadic. But we’ll keep trying!