Thursday, April 11, 2013

Joanna Moncrieff talks about “The Myth of the Chemical Cure: The Politics of Psychiatric Drug Treatment"

The banning of nonvoluntary psychiatric interventions, including drugging, can and should occur whatever the extent of people’s appreciation of the scientific bankruptcy of the brain-disease model. Even if these were genuinely effective treatments for psychological distress, that still wouldn’t justify their forcible administration.

At the same time, though, we can recognize that challenging the disease model is, in addition to its necessity in other regards, a useful part of the battle against coercive psychiatric interventions (including in but by no means limited to the research context). We don’t hear calls these days to give legal sanction to exorcisms, psychiatric hysterectomies, insulin comas, or lobotomies, because the arguments for the therapeutic value of these interventions have been destroyed and they’re widely recognized as dangerous sham treatments. But that sort of awareness hasn’t yet become widespread in the case of prescription psychoactive drugs, and so many in the public, even if they concede a generic human right to refuse these interventions, are confused by the rejection what seem to them powerfully effective therapies.

One person working on both fronts is the psychiatrist Joanna Moncrieff, whose book The Myth of the Chemical Cure I wrote about a while back. Here’s a great recent talk (even the Q&A isn’t bad) in which she summarizes the arguments in the book and makes a number of topical points. I like her conclusion, in which she expresses her wish that her work can contribute to an appreciation of “how badly deluded we have all been.”

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