BEYOND VALIUM: The Brave New World of Psychochemistry by

BEYOND VALIUM: The Brave New World of Psychochemistry

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Part sermon, part speculation, part history, part dogma, this collaboration between psychiatrist/psychopharmacologist Rosenblatt (Mt. Sinai Hospital, New York City) and magazine writer Dodson is only part satisfying. The accounts of the discoveries of the major tranquilizers chlorpromazine (Thorazine) and reserpine, the antidepressant MAO inhibitors and the tricyclics, and the anxiolytic/mild tranquilizers Librium and Valium, are fascinating and not well known. The authors demonstrate that the nervous-system effects were frequently discovered incidental to some other physiological action: reserpine lowered high blood pressure; one MAO inhibitor grew out of an antitubercular drug. But the ""beyond valium"" of the title implies the book's intent to look ahead, and here the reader may have difficulty digesting the point of view. Rosenblatt, who putatively narrates, speaks to the reader with Enthusiasm. He lectures on the latest discoveries of neurotransmitters, brain circuitry, hormones, statistics on Valium deaths, drug abuse, and the FDA. He describes what's good and bad about drug treatment, psychosurgery, Freud; which current therapies apply to schizophrenia, mania, depression; and what the Brave New World may produce. All this is said in a heady stream of slang, ""bottom line"" expressions and loose metaphors (""when these transmitters hop faster, our mood goes up"") that may mislead or exaggerate: ""there is not enough difference between a brain and a calf muscle to preclude our ability to create superstar mental giants."" Withal, there are some hard facts, some new findings, some appropriately stern cautions against food or vitamin fads. Then off we go again into dreams that first suggest a psychochemical glory--the memory enhancers, sex pills. . . only to have Rosenblatt confess that his real hope is that psychopharmacology will self-destruct as we learn better. The next great leap, he says, is the genetic one--so we may splice our way out of disease and psychoses. Not a coherent course on psychiatry/brain chemistry for the layman, then: see rather Wender and Klein, below.

Pub Date: Aug. 10th, 1981
Publisher: Putnam