A psychiatric reformer takes aim and blasts away with both barrels. Breggin (author of the novels The Crazy from the Sane, 1971, and After the Good War, 1972) launches a full-scale attack on the popular view that neuroses and psychoses are diseases with biochemical and genetic causes best treated by drugs—even by electroshock and incarceration. He advocates not pills but psychotherapy, which ideally provides a ``caring, understanding relationship—made safe by professional ethics and restraint.'' Treating mental disorders as chemical imbalances to be corrected primarily by chemical intervention is, he claims, an outrageous hazard to health, damaging the brains of a high percentage of those subjected to it. Breggin notes that the medical training of today's biopsychiatrists ill-equips them for any other approach: They are taught to make diagnoses and prescribe medical treatments; their communication skills are undeveloped, and they know little about the art of listening to patients' problems. Their penchant for prescribing drugs, according to Breggin, is encouraged by a too-cozy relationship between the medical profession and the pharmaceutical industry, which generously funds research into the biochemical and genetic basis of mental disorders, and whose claims for its products are insufficiently scrutinized by either the FDA or the medical profession. Breggin also has harsh words for health insurers that reimburse for drugs and psychiatric hospitalization but not for psychotherapy and social rehabilitation; coming under fire as well are schoolteachers who seek chemical solutions to classroom discipline problems, and parents who are unwilling to accept any blame for the psychological problems of their children. Although Breggin's preference for nonmedical intervention is clear, he remains skeptical about much of what's available today, warning that ``the buyer of psychotherapy must be extremely cautious.'' A one-sided but forceful caveat emptor for anyone seeking mental-health services.
Read full book review >