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Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America [Audiobook, MP3 Audio, Unabridged] [MP3 CD]

Robert Whitaker , Ken Kliban , Inc. Brilliance Audio
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Book Description

July 17 2012

In this astonishing and startling audiobook, award-winning science and history writer Robert Whitaker investigates a medical mystery: Why has the number of disabled mentally ill in the United States tripled over the past two decades? Every day, 1,100 adults and children are added to the government disability rolls because they have become newly disabled by mental illness, with this epidemic spreading most rapidly among our nation’s children. What is going on?

Anatomy of an Epidemic challenges readers to think through that question themselves. First, Whitaker investigates what is known today about the biological causes of mental disorders. Do psychiatric medications fix “chemical imbalances” in the brain, or do they, in fact, create them? Researchers spent decades studying that question, and by the late 1980s, they had their answer. Readers will be startled—and dismayed—to discover what was reported in the scientific journals.

Then comes the scientific query at the heart of this book: During the past fifty years, when investigators looked at how psychiatric drugs affected long-term outcomes, what did they find? Did they discover that the drugs help people stay well? Function better? Enjoy good physical health? Or did they find that these medications, for some paradoxical reason, increase the likelihood that people will become chronically ill, less able to function well, more prone to physical illness?

This is the first audiobook to look at the merits of psychiatric medications through the prism of long-term results. Are long-term recovery rates higher for medicated or unmedicated schizophrenia patients? Does taking an antidepressant decrease or increase the risk that a depressed person will become disabled by the disorder? Do bipolar patients fare better today than they did forty years ago, or much worse? When the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) studied the long-term outcomes of children with ADHD, did they determine that stimulants provide any benefit?

By the end of this review of the outcomes literature, readers are certain to have a haunting question of their own: Why have the results from these long-term studies—all of which point to the same startling conclusion—been kept from the public?

In this compelling history, Whitaker also tells the personal stories of children and adults swept up in this epidemic. Finally, he reports on innovative programs of psychiatric care in Europe and the United States that are producing good long-term outcomes. Our nation has been hit by an epidemic of disabling mental illness, and yet, as Anatomy of an Epidemic reveals, the medical blueprints for curbing that epidemic have already been drawn up.

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“The timing of Robert Whitaker’s “Anatomy of an Epidemic,” a comprehensive and highly readable history of psychiatry in the United States, couldn’t be better.”

“Anatomy of an Epidemic offers some answers, charting controversial ground with mystery-novel pacing.”

“Lucid, pointed and important, Anatomy of an Epidemic should be required reading for anyone considering extended use of psychiatric medicine. Whitaker is at the height of his powers.” —Greg Critser, author of Generation Rx

“Why are so many more people disabled by mental illness than ever before?  Why are those so diagnosed dying 10-25 years earlier than others?  In Anatomy of an Epidemic investigative reporter Robert Whitaker cuts through flawed science, greed and outright lies to reveal that the drugs hailed as the cure for mental disorders instead worsen them over the long term.  But Whitaker’s investigation also offers hope for the future: solid science backs nature’s way of healing our mental ills through time and human relationships.  Whitaker tenderly interviews children and adults who bear witness to the ravages of mental illness, and testify to their newly found “aliveness” when freed from the prison of mind-numbing drugs.” —Daniel Dorman, M.D., Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, UCLA School of Medicine and author of Dante’s Cure: A Journey Out of Madness
“This is the most alarming book I’ve read in years.  The approach is neither polemical nor ideologically slanted. Relying on medical evidence and historical documentation, Whitaker builds his case like a prosecuting attorney.” —Carl Elliott, M.D., Ph.D., Professor, Center for Bioethics, University of Minnesota and author of Better than Well: American Medicine Meets the American Dream
Anatomy of an Epidemic investigates a profoundly troubling question: do psychiatric medications increase the likelihood that people taking them, far from being helped, are more likely to become chronically ill? In making a compelling case that our current psychotropic drugs are causing as much—if not more—harm than good, Robert Whitaker reviews the scientific literature thoroughly, demonstrating how much of the evidence is on his side. There is nothing unorthodox here—this case is solid and evidence-backed. If psychiatry wants to retain its credibility with the public, it will now have to engage with the scientific argument at the core of this cogently and elegantly written book.” —David Healy, M.D., Professor of Psychiatry, Cardiff University and author of The Antidepressant Era and Let Them Eat Prozac
“Anatomy of an Epidemic is a splendidly informed, wonderfully readable corrective to the conventional wisdom about the biological bases—and biological cures—for mental illness. This is itself a wise and necessary book—essential reading for all those who have experienced, or care for those who have experienced, mental illness—which means all of us! Robert Whitaker is a reliable, sensible, and persuasive, guide to the paradoxes and complexities of what we know about mental illness, and what we might be able to do to lessen the suffering it brings.” —Jay Neugeboren, author of Imagining Robert and Transforming Madness

“Every so often a book comes along that exposes a vast deceit. Robert Whitaker has written that sort of book. Drawing on a prodigious quantity of psychiatric literature as well as heart-rending stories of individual patients, he exposes a deeply disturbing fraud perpetrated by the drug industry and much of modern psychiatry—at horrendous human and financial cost to patients, their families, and society as a whole. Scrupulously reported and written in compelling but unemotional style, this book shreds the myth woven around today’s psychiatric drugs.” —Nils Bruzelius, former science editor for the Boston Globe and the Washington Post
“A devastating critique. . . . One day, we will look back at the way we think about and treat mental illness and wonder if we were all mad. Anatomy of an Epidemic should be required reading for both patients and physicians.” —Shannon Brownlee, senior research fellow, New America Foundation and author of Overtreated

  --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Robert Whitaker is the author of Mad in America, The Mapmaker's Wife, and On the Laps of Gods, all of which won recognition as "notable books" of the year. His newspaper and magazine articles on the mentally ill and the pharmaceutical industry have garnered several national awards, including a George Polk Award for medical writing and a National Association of Science Writers Award for best magazine article. A series he cowrote for the Boston Globe on the abuse of mental patients in research settings was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 1998.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Somes the cure is worse than the condition Feb. 4 2011
I casually put this book on a list of books to read a while back and got a hold of it just a week after having a "bad" reaction to an anti-depressant, and wish I had read this book much earlier. There is significant evidence, as detailed in the book, that many common anti-depressants, psychotics, anxiety, bi-bolor have poor long term outcomes vs. nonmedicated sufferers, which is surprising. I had bought somewhat into the chemical imbalance theory of these disorders, but this books indicates that there is little evidence for this. In fact, a prime criticism of this book is that it doesn't mount much of a defence for the other side, doesn't overview the evidence as to why people believed that these medicines worked. Partly that's because this evidence comes in the form of people do worse when taken off the medication, which can be easily explained given how the brain adapts. Perhaps it's also because the evidence doesn't exist. It'd be interesting to see some rebuttals along more concrete lines, with references, etc., rather than vague allusions to "the complexity" of the problem.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
By Carol Read TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Did you know that there's no scientific evidence that a schizophrenic's brain, untreated by psychiatric drugs, electrocution (ECT), or psychosurgery (such as the now-banned lobotomy) is different than the brain of a "normal person"? That 60% of people with schizophrenia, when NOT treated with so-called antipsychotics, get better and stay better? That antipsychotics aren't drugs specially formulated to combat psychosis the way antibiotics zap dangerous bacteria? That the brain of a depressed person, untreated by psychotropic drugs, is also "normal"? That the vast array of psychotropic drugs--from antidepressants to anti-anxiety pills to antipsychotics--actually change brain chemistry, often causing more harm than good, and sometimes irreparable damage? That, rather than fixing mental health problems, psychotropic drugs create them? That there is NO test for any "mental illness"? That the diagnoses in the psychiatric bible, the DSM, are arbitrary, not scientific?

"Anatomy of an Epidemic" concerns the bad science and outright fibs behind much psychotropic drug testing. It describes the devastating long-term effects of these drugs--all chronicled in literature available to psychiatrists. It exposes the greed of the pharmaceutical companies and the psychiatrists who collude with them. I trust Whitaker because I came to his conclusions on my own. I've witnessed the effects of brain-disabling drugs, the ruined lives. I've seen up close the subculture of chronic disability that we all pay for. And I've listened to the psychiatrists who talk as if their profession is now the equivalent of any other branch of medicine, treating physical illnesses with precise drugs. As Whitaker reports, those psychiatrists who don't toe the party line (biological psychiatry) find themselves on the outside.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The high cost of mass drugging Aug. 8 2011
By Mira de Vries TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Finally someone is speaking out about the consequences of massive psychiatric drugging. Ever more people are being lured into the drug trap. Once started, very few people ever succeed at quitting them. Those who stay on the drugs suffer irreversible, disabling damage to their central nervous systems. With one in eight people on these drugs, the word "epidemic" in this respect is an understatement.

Not only is psychiatric meddling catastrophic for its victims, but it takes a terrible economic toll on all of society which is first forced to fund disabling so many people, and subsequently continues to be forced to fund the lifelong support and care of the so disabled.

Whitaker has done his homework well. He presents his case by confronting medical science with its own research results, which can lead to no other conclusion than that psychiatry's bag of chemical tricks is only endlessly harmful.

Unfortunately, in the final chapter he makes the two mistakes that he avoided so well in his book Mad in America. The first is that he tries to sound moderate by claiming that "there is a place for drugs in psychiatry's toolbox" thereby invalidating everything he wrote in all the previous chapters. The only possible valid use of psychiatric drugs is in tempering a withdrawal delirium, which would not be necessary if the drugs had never been administered in the first place. His second mistake is that he tries to propose an alternative in the example of psychiatric practice in Lapland, where, according to his description, the approach is more psychosocial with fewer drugs.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing! May 16 2012
By A. Futo
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book exposes the shocking misuse of faulty diagnosis and bad science by Big Pharma to create both a crisis and also, sell us a whole raft of very expensive, very harmful, useless pharmaceuticals.

Strong words, I know, but it is clear that our system of managing mental illness is broken and in need of repair.

Why is it that people in less developed countries have a lower incidence of mental illness, and a higher degree of success? Is it true, as the author indicates, that vested interests are not working for effective treatment, but only opearting with a view to the bottom line of their financial statements?

A must read.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Much appreciated book
Published 28 days ago by Bookworm
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
This book is both disturbing and brilliant.
Published 1 month ago by Nicholas Watkins
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent scientific info.
Very good factual information about the serious problems caused by medicating so-called mental illnesses. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Peter B.
5.0 out of 5 stars Great food for thought
a refreshing view , without any paid for bias. Great food for thought!
Published 3 months ago by carol nash
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Solid investigative journalism here. Well written.
Published 3 months ago by Larry Marko
5.0 out of 5 stars Everyone should read this book
Anyone in the health care or mental health care professions, or any person who has ever taken or is considering taking psychiatric drugs absolutely needs to read this book. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Louise Viau
4.0 out of 5 stars heavy
The book is heavy reading, with a bit too much detail around the various experts quoted. I would have liked more down to earth, lay friendly detail, yet I believe this to be ground... Read more
Published 21 months ago by EB
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, and no cherry picking
This is a very well written book, and incredibly well researched. The person who claims that Whittaker "cherry picks" cannot and does not substantiate their claim. Read more
Published on June 18 2012 by Bradley F. Hagen
4.0 out of 5 stars A must-read for anyone considering psychiatric medications
I wish I had read this book before I agreed to go on the antidepressant medications prescribed by my doctor following my divorce and the natural grief and sadness associated with... Read more
Published on June 17 2011 by Saint Dymphna
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