Blaming the Brain: The Truth About Drugs and Mental Health

by Elliot Valenstein (Author)

Editorial Reviews

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.

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.

Product Details

Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Free Press (February 1, 2002)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0743237870



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