A Father, His Son, and a Medical Breakthrough
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 ``My son has been ill for so long that he has . . . been touched by just about every fashion in contemporary mental treatments,'' says this informed, assertive father, who describes many of them in a personal chronicle of his psychotic son's painful life. Wyden, longtime magazine and book editor and author of some dozen books (Stella, 1992, etc.) admits to being somewhat obsessed with schizophrenia. His son Jeff, now 46, was diagnosed as schizophrenic 23 years ago, and in the ensuing years, Wyden has had professional contact with at least 50 psychiatrists. He sees himself as the manager of his son's managers, and it's a job this often exasperated man takes extremely seriously. Searching the history and current practice of psychiatry, he asserts that nobody knows precisely what schizophrenia is or how to diagnose it unambiguously, but he has made it his business to learn all he can about it and to follow closely the advances in its treatment. He describes Jeff's early experience with psychoanalysis (which even Freud rejected for psychosis), family therapy, megavitamins, and electroshock therapy, and his cycle of remissions and relapses. Into this disheartening story he weaves an enlightening account of how thinking about schizophrenia has evolved and how the disease is treated in other countries. The turning point, says Wyden, came in 1987 with the development of clozapine, a major new neuroleptic drug for schizophrenia. The breakthrough for Jeff, however, was the FDA's approval in late 1996 of Olanzapine, a safer, more effective antipsychotic drug that he began taking with good results in the spring of 1997. Although there is no expectation of a cure, Wyden ends on an optimistic note. In an afterword, Jeff, once an extremely charming young man and gifted writer, now living on welfare in a halfway house in California, speaks briefly for himself. An informative and moving, albeit discomforting, read.

Pub Date: Jan. 22nd, 1998
ISBN: 0-679-44671-0
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 1997


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