Thursday, May 2, 2019 at 11:23AM
Drew Wolfe

How Drug Companies Helped Shape A Shifting, Biological View Of Mental Illness

"Historian and Harvard professor Anne Harrington believes that pharmaceutical companies have played an oversized role in determining how mental illness is treated in the United States — leading to a rise in the use of antidepressant drugs."

"Harrington's new book, Mind Fixers: Psychiatry's Troubled Search for the Biology of Mental Illness, chronicles the history of psycho-pharmaceuticals, such as Prozac and Xanax, which have been used to treat depression and anxiety, as well as lithium, the first drug to treat what is now called bipolar disorder."

"Prior to the 1970s, Harrington says, society tended to distinguish between forms of depression that should be treated medically versus depression caused by 'bad stuff going on in your life,' which was thought to be treated best by talk therapy."

"But as pharmaceutical companies began to market antidepressant drugs, the focus of treatment for many people moved away from talk therapy. Harrington says this shift has not always served patients well."

"'We don't know enough about the biology of these mental disorders to know whether or not some of the reasons are biological — in the sense that medicine likes to think of these things as diseases — and whether it's just because they're having terrible problems,' Harrington says. 'I would love to see a larger, more pluralistic set of options.'"


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