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Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America


Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America Cover

ISBN13: 9780307452429
ISBN10: 0307452425
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In this astonishing and startling book, award-winning science and history writer Robert Whitaker investigates a medical mystery: Why has the number of disabled mentally ill in the United States tripled over the past two decades? Every day, 1,100 adults and children are added to the government disability rolls because they have become newly disabled by mental illness, with this epidemic spreading most rapidly among our nation’s children. What is going on?


Anatomy of an Epidemic challenges readers to think through that question themselves. First, Whitaker investigates what is known today about the biological causes of mental disorders. Do psychiatric medications fix “chemical imbalances” in the brain, or do they, in fact, create them? Researchers spent decades studying that question, and by the late 1980s, they had their answer. Readers will be startled—and dismayed—to discover what was reported in the scientific journals.


Then comes the scientific query at the heart of this book: During the past fifty years, when investigators looked at how psychiatric drugs affected long-term outcomes, what did they find? Did they discover that the drugs help people stay well? Function better? Enjoy good physical health? Or did they find that these medications, for some paradoxical reason, increase the likelihood that people will become chronically ill, less able to function well, more prone to physical illness?


This is the first book to look at the merits of psychiatric medications through the prism of long-term results. Are long-term recovery rates higher for medicated or unmedicated schizophrenia patients? Does taking an antidepressant decrease or increase the risk that a depressed person will become disabled by the disorder? Do bipolar patients fare better today than they did forty years ago, or much worse? When the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) studied the long-term outcomes of children with ADHD, did they determine that stimulants provide any benefit?


By the end of this review of the outcomes literature, readers are certain to have a haunting question of their own: Why have the results from these long-term studies—all of which point to the same startling conclusion—been kept from the public?


In this compelling history, Whitaker also tells the personal stories of children and adults swept up in this epidemic. Finally, he reports on innovative programs of psychiatric care in Europe and the United States that are producing good long-term outcomes. Our nation has been hit by an epidemic of disabling mental illness, and yet, as Anatomy of an Epidemic reveals, the medical blueprints for curbing that epidemic have already been drawn up.




About the Author

ROBERT WHITAKER is the author of Mad in America, The Mapmaker’s Wife, and On the Laps of Gods, all of which won recognition as “notable books” of the year. His newspaper and magazine articles on the mentally ill and the pharmaceutical industry have garnered several national awards, including a George Polk Award for medical writing and a National Association of Science Writers Award for best magazine article. A series he cowrote for the Boston Globe on the abuse of mental patients in research settings was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 1998.

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Doc A, January 30, 2013 (view all comments by Doc A)
Provides the best understanding for all of the politics and economics involved in Big Pharma and psychiatry that fool the public, and most psychiatrists. Helps with what I have observed in the field for the past 35 years. I do not think that 99% of psychiatrists are even aware of what the author has clearly presented here. A must read if you work in mental health, or are a mental health consumer.
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Shannon Batts, January 8, 2012 (view all comments by Shannon Batts)
Robert Whitaker's book, The Anatomy of an Epidemic is an astonishing must read for all because who isn't touched by psych meds- either yourself, or a dear friend or family member? The topic is complex and is handled with ease in both looking through scientific data, making timelines make sense in tracking a drug's history, and weaving in stories from court cases and personal interviews. Once you read this, you will never be the same and you will also wish your doctor would read it too. In fact when I heard a state psychiatrist speak as part of a Rethinking Psychiatry public panel about when she first read this book, she said it was like a knife in her heart knowing she was supposed to "do no harm." She knew that patients will come to her thinking that they should have a psychiatric medication and that now with the knowledge she gained from Whitaker's investigation, she cannot participate in the disabling of her patients in good conscience through an automatic prescription. I would highly recommend this well researched book as a gift to your doctors. Anatomy of an Epidemic won the 2010 Investigative Reporters and Editors book award for best investigative journalism, covering not only the background to depression meds, but also those commonly used for schizophrenia, anxiety, bipolar, and ADHD conditions.

Most of us recall how Prozac was increasing users' suicidality so much so that a warning was created for use with children. Perhaps you even learned about the cover-up involved with the results of trials of the drug in Germany in the 1980's in which the BGA (the German licensing authority) concluded that fluoxetine was "totally unsuitable for the treatment of depression," (translate=people died by suicide-MUCH more than compared to other meds).
Whitaker will explain what happened next in that the psych drug company billion dollar industry began at that point to take the side effects of their experimental meds and instruct their investigators to begin recording these as "symptoms of depression."

Whitaker's investigation will also enlighten you as to the use of withdrawal studies-in which drug companies take symptoms of withdrawal from these brain altering meds and twist it to show you that because you suffer in withdrawal-it shows how ill you really are and how badly you need those drugs. In other words, if you get psychotic while going off meds-then aren't you lucky you discovered you are psychotic and need to add some new meds on top of what you are already taking? Apparently drug companies not only get to change data that reveals their psych drugs as dangerous, they get to lie about it to the public as well when marketing drugs like Prozac as effective and safe.

The shock is that psych meds are creating chronic and increasingly disabling illness, but the sadness is how we have been manipulated to believe the opposite and carry on this delusion by forcing medication on children and others as if it is the acceptable solution. Or as Whitaker says, "But if we uncover a history of a different sort-a history that shows that the biological causes of mental disorders remain to be discovered and that psychiatric drugs are in fact fueling the epidemic of disabling mental illness-what then? We will have documented a history that tells of a society led horribly astray and, one might say, betrayed."
This last part is what the Rethinking Psychiatry movement is now tackling-overcoming the betrayal through creating a forum for voices of those harmed by the psychiatric billion dollar industry and together creating alternative paths of healing and resistance to force medicating children. Just wait till you read about ADHD and that whole scam. Pay attention to the part where they artificially used a cut off to the study right before all the horrible disabling effects of ADHD drugs hit the kids and worsened over time.

Please do not take a superficial read of this and think you can just drop your psych meds suddenly. Be warned that coming off psych meds has to be done with kid gloves-slowly over time and under some kind of experienced supervision in order to be safe.
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joaninbhutan, January 2, 2012 (view all comments by joaninbhutan)
This is an excellently researched book about deluding America en masse about psychiatric drugs.
It reads like a mystery but has shocking statistics on how the drugs themselves are creating chronic
mental illness. and Robert Whitaker explains how the various drugs work.
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Product Details

Whitaker, Robert
Broadway Books
General Current Events
Psychology : General
General Social Science
Psychology - Schizophrenia and Psychotic Disorders
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
8.01 x 5.17 x 0.92 in 0.7 lb

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Health and Self-Help » Health and Medicine » General
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Health and Self-Help » Psychology » General Disorders
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History and Social Science » World History » General
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Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America New Trade Paper
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Product details 416 pages Broadway Books - English 9780307452429 Reviews:
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