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April 21, 1999

PsychopharmacologyBlaming the Brain: The Real Truth About Drugs and Mental Health

Author Affiliations

Copyright 1999 American Medical Association. All Rights Reserved. Applicable FARS/DFARS Restrictions Apply to Government Use.1999American Medical Association

JAMA. 1999;281(15):1438-1439. doi:10.1001/jama.281.15.1438-JBK0421-3-1

In this excellent volume, the author invites a renewed dialogue on a subject of medical and social importance: the dogma that mental events, mental disorders, mood, behavior, and personality are explained by neurochemistry. Although widely and uncritically accepted by researchers, practitioners, and the public, and despite contradictory evidence, most of the theory and the resulting dogma, the author asserts, are unconvincing and probably wrong.

Eliot Valenstein, PhD, emeritus professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Michigan, is also the author of Great and Desperate Cures: The Rise and Decline of Psychosurgery and Other Radical Treatments of Mental Illness (Basic Books, 1986). His new book begins with a historical review of the discovery of each of the psychotropic drugs, their biochemical evaluation, and their enthusiastic clinical application. These compounds seemed, at first, to provide not only a simple solution to pressing medical and political needs but also an immediate and profitable therapeutic modality. Their study produced an impressive body of knowledge about neuropharmacology, but the leap from molecular biology across a chasm of speculation to an understanding of mental functioning bypassed inconsistent data. Belief in the neurochemical hypotheses was genuine but clouded by substantial career and economic self-interest on the part of psychiatrists, researchers, insurers, and pharmaceutical companies.

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