The stunning rise in the number of disabled mentally ill over the past 50 years seems to defy all logic. We know, of course, that many people are helped by psychiatric medications. We know that many people stabilize well on them, and can personally attest to how the drugs have helped them lead normal lives. We know that the physicians who prescribe them believe in their merits. Yet, the history of medicine is filled with surprises, and the rise in the sheer numbers of those disabled by mental illness raises a question: Could our drug-based paradigm of care, in some unforeseen way, be fueling this modern-day plague?
The sheer number of people disabled by mental illness tells of a medical puzzle, and this book, in essence, is the story of a journalist’s search to answer it. Using the stories of those affected by the drugs meant to help them and solid scientific studies from the world over, Whitaker will shed light on the economic machine that has driven a six-fold increase in the number of mentally disabled people since 1955.
ANATOMY OF AN EPIDEMIC was the 2010 winner of an Investigative Reporters and Editors Award in the books category, given by the Investigative Reporters and Editors Association for excellence in investigative journalism. The IRE judges said of ANATOMY OF AN EPIDEMIC, "This book provides an in-depth exploration of medical studies and science and intersperses compelling anecdotal examples. In the end, Whitaker punches holes in the conventional wisdom of treatment of mental illness with drugs."
Early 18th century: A decade-long expedition to South America is launched by a team of French scientists racing to prove the circumference of the earth and to reveal the mysteries of a little-known continent to a world hungry for discovery and knowledge. From this extraordinary journey arose an unlikely love between one scientist and a beautiful Peruvian noblewoman. Victims of a tangled web of international politics, Jean Godin and Isabel Grameson's destiny would ultimately unfold in the Amazon's unforgiving jungles, and it would be Isabel's quest to reunite with Jean after a calamitous twenty-year separation that would capture the imagination of all of Enlightenment Era Europe. A remarkable testament to human endurance, female resourcefulness and enduring love, Isabel Grameson's survival remains unprecedented in the annals of Amazon exploration.
Medical journalist Robert Whitaker reveals an astounding truth: Schizophrenics in the United States currently fare worse than patients in the world's poorest countries, and quite possibly worse than asylum patients did in the early nineteenth century. With a muckraker's passion, 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. Tracing over three centuries of “cures” for madness, Whitaker shows how medical therapies have been used to silence patients and dull their minds. He tells of the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century practices of “spinning” the insane, extracting their teeth, ovaries, and intestines, and submerging patients in freezing water. The “cures” in the 1920’s and 1930’s were no less barbaric as eugenic attitudes toward the mentally ill led to brain-damaging lobotomies and electroshock therapy. Perhaps Whitaker's most damning revelation, however, is his report of how drug companies in the 1980’s and 1990’s skewed their studies in an effort to prove the effectiveness of their products. Based on exhaustive research culled from old patient medical records, historical accounts, numerous interviews, and hundreds of government documents, MAD IN AMERICA raises important questions about our obligations to the mad, what it means to be “insane,” and what we value most about the human mind.