Mad in America: Bad Science, Bad Medicine, and the Enduring Mistreatment of the Mentally Ill

Mad in America: Bad Science, Bad Medicine, and the Enduring Mistreatment of the Mentally Ill

Robert Whitaker

Language: English

Pages: 368

ISBN: 0465020143

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Mad in America: Bad Science, Bad Medicine, and the Enduring Mistreatment of the Mentally Ill

Robert Whitaker

Language: English

Pages: 368

ISBN: 0465020143

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Schizophrenics in the United States currently fare worse than patients in the world’s poorest countries. In Mad in America, medical journalist Robert Whitaker argues that modern treatments for the severely mentally ill are just old medicine in new bottles, and that we as a society are deeply deluded about their efficacy. The widespread use of lobotomies in the 1920s and 1930s gave way in the 1950s to electroshock and a wave of new drugs. In what is perhaps Whitaker’s most damning revelation, Mad in America examines how drug companies in the 1980s and 1990s skewed their studies to prove that new antipsychotic drugs were more effective than the old, while keeping patients in the dark about dangerous side effects.

A haunting, deeply compassionate book—now revised with a new introduction—Mad in America raises important questions about our obligations to the mad, the meaning of “insanity,” and what we value most about the human mind.

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Thomas, 1973), 25-40. 52 Buck v. Bell, 274 US 205 (1927). Also see Chase, Legacy of Malthus, 315-316. 53 As cited by Joel Braslow, Mental Ills and Bodily Cures (University of California Press, 1997), 56. 54 See Joel Braslow, “In the Name of Therapeutics: The Practice of Sterilization in a California State Hospital,” Journal of the History of Medicine 51 (1996):29-51. 55 Ibid, 38, 44. 56 Gosney and Popenoe, Sterilization for Human Betterment, xiv, 33. 57 Popenoe, “Public Opinion on

represents only the last link in the psychopathic chain of constitutional heredity, or degenerate heredity,” said Austrian psychiatrist Richard von Krafft-Ebing. 7 Henry Maudsley, the most prominent English psychiatrist of his day, conceptualized insanity in similar terms. The insane patient “gets it from where his parents got it—from the insane strain of the family stock: the strain which, as the old saying was, runs in the blood, but which we prefer now to describe as a fault or flaw in the

offspring (generally speaking) will all be mentally sound, even though one parent is affected. On the other hand, if two people from tainted stocks marry, although neither one may be personally defective, part of their offspring will be affected.” 27 With such scientific dogma in mind, the New York Times editorialized in 1923 that “it is certain that the marriage of two mental defectives ought to be prohibited.”28 But if proving that insanity was inherited was difficult, eugenicists had an even

chlorpromazine in the press and medical literature. One, writing in the Nation, described it as “vulgarized falsity.”33 Gregory Zilboorg, a prominent New York psychoanalyst, blasted the press, saying that the public was being egregiously misled and that the only real purpose of the drug was to make hospitalized patients easier to handle. “If I hit you over the head and make you bleary eyed,” he asked rhetorically, “will you understand me better?”34 Yet another well-known physician, Lawrence Kolb,

of a well-sweep. He was kept there until bubbles of air cease to rise, then was taken out, rubbed and revived.45 There don’t appear to be any historical accounts from patients recording what it was like to endure this therapy. But a history of Brattleboro, Vermont, written in 1880, does describe briefly the reaction of Richard Whitney—a prominent Vermont citizen—to being plunged, one day in 1815, headfirst into the water and held there until all air had left his lungs:A council of physicians

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