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Book Review

The Rise of Psychopharmacology and the Story of CINP

Herbert Y. Meltzer

Published: June 30, 2000

Article Abstract

From our regular book review column.

The 20th century has been the era when psychopharmacology came to the fore in the mental health profession. The discovery of the first effective antidepressants (iproniazid, imipramine, fluoxetine), anxiolytics (meprobamate, diazepam), antipsychotics (chlorpromazine, haloperidol, molindone, clozapine, risperidone, ziprasidone), and mood stabilizers (lithium, carbamazepine, valproate) revolutionized the treatment of mental illness and led to the relegation of psychoanalytic and behavioral therapies to secondary status. Social and financial factors played an enormous role in shaping the rise of psychopharmacology, which some may argue has been too fast and gone too far for the good of humankind as a whole, but there is no doubt that the rise is just the beginning of the approach to treating psychiatric illnesses and altering human behavior with powerful chemicals. Along with the treatment came a concerted effort to understand the mechanism of the action of the new drugs to develop more effective agents with fewer side effects and manage the side effects of the current agents. The new drugs became powerful tools at the molecular, laboratory animal, and human levels to understand brain and mind, leading to the concerns that Aldous Huxley brilliantly speculated about in Brave New World regarding mind control and personality shaping with drugs, concerns that are today the subject of countless articles in the popular media.

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Volume: 61

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