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January 9, 1987

Small Comfort: A History of Minor Tranquilizers

Author Affiliations

University of California, San Diego School of Medicine

University of California, San Diego School of Medicine

JAMA. 1987;257(2):251-252. doi:10.1001/jama.1987.03390020117042

This article is only available in the PDF format. Download the PDF to view the article, as well as its associated figures and tables.


The author of this book dealing with the interface of society and medicine, within a framework of the history of the minor tranquilizers, adumbrates each chapter with a quote. Chapter 9 merits one from the often cited Lord Acton: "If a law is not absolutely necessary, then it is absolutely necessary that there not be a law." At times it seems that the same might apply to books, or even book reviews.

Although this book occasionally reads like the congressional record (partly because of an attempt to include every scrap of information) there are some provocative concepts that are interesting to every clinician. The discussion of "the curve of acceptance" of a drug has an Hegelian quality: the thesis is wild enthusiasm for the new drug; antithesis, the nihilism that inevitably follows the overinflated expectations; and synthesis, the eventual rational use of the drug (if it has any redeeming qualities).