Twelve Years Ago “Anatomy of an Epidemic” Was Published

And We’re Still Not Listening

Photo by Anna Shvets

When I was in primary school in the 80's, the faculty recommended that I be taken to a psychiatrist for evaluation. Like every other parent who acted on this recommendation, mine were advised to put me on ritalin. Fortunately, my mother noted some red flags and stepped on the brakes. A lot of the other kids weren’t so lucky.

In 2010, Robert Whitaker published an incredible, deeply disturbing look at the history and effects of psychiatric medications: “Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America”. I picked up a copy in 2016 (the book was being promoted on BookBub), and here’s the review I left on GoodReads:

I’ve looked at the sources I could find. I’ve read the arguments defending psychiatric medication and I’ve read their counter-arguments. This is not some “long-kept secret”, the researchers who conducted the clinical trials and the results of the clinical trials and the testimonies of the experts and the personal testimonies of the sufferers are all cohesive, rational and in agreement.

This is hands-down the scariest book I have ever read, and it’s even more horrifying that it’s actually non-fiction. I cannot for the life of me understand (even after reading Whitaker’s explanation) how an entire field of medicine can operate in direct opposition to the evidence, but clearly these people believe that they’re doing good work.

This is a word that needs to be spread. Mental illness is serious business, and people suffering really don’t need their suffering to made worse no matter how well-intentioned a practice might be.

It’s surprising and gratifying that Whitaker has found a positive, optimistic takeaway in all this, what he concludes inspires hope rather than despair. This is a battle most of us know nothing about and that requires a lot more voices to be heard if we’re to get out of this particularly grim asylum we’ve constructed.

I recommend a brief glance at the Wikipedia page’s sections on Reception and Media Coverage and Awards. I most warmly recommend a dive into each of Whitaker’s responses to refutations listed on his website. If you’re so inclined, perhaps even give a listen to (or just read the transcript of) Kelly Brogan on the Joe Rogan Experience.

More than anything else, I recommend grabbing a copy of Whitaker’s book, taking a deep breath, and diving in. It’s well-written and easy to follow, and it exposes an engine of self-destruction that’s been harming adults and children for decades.

Knowledge is power.

Adam Fisher / fisher king (@therightstuff)

Software developer and writer of words, currently producing a graphic novel adaptation of Shakespeare's Sonnets! See for details.