Friday, April 18, 2008

Comfortably Numb: How Psychiatry Is Medicating a Nation

Author Charles Barber discusses Americans' unrealistic notions about happiness. We've medicalized a lot of life issues that aren't mental illnesses

Go to AlterNet original
While we've now become accustomed to the barrage of prescription drug commercials on prime-time TV, it's jarring to learn that this advertising is legal only in the United States and New Zealand. The pharmaceutical industry doesn't just target Americans directly, but also spends roughly $25,000 per physician per year. With the aid of information from data mining companies, a pharmaceutical representative knows exactly how many prescriptions for what medication a doctor has written, allowing the industry to individually target them.

How Americans came to this fraught relationship with the pharmaceutical industry and its drugs -- particularly antidepressants -- is the subject of Charles Barber's new book, Comfortably Numb. A veteran of mental health programs in homeless shelters and a lecturer in psychiatry at the Yale University School of Medicine, Barber trains his eye to the confluence of science and culture that have led to the widespread prescribing of medications once reserved for the most serious cases.

While the field of neuroscience continues to churn out new data about the way our brains work, Barber is quick to remind us how much more is yet to be understood. Barber recently spoke with AlterNet about how less sexy treatments like social interventions and therapies can be just as effective in changing the brain.


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