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Psychiatric Drug Researcher Bob Whitaker on Free Radio Sunday

by Robert Norse
Former Boston Globe reporter Robert Whitaker, author of Mad in America, will speak by phone on Bathrobespierre's Broadsides, FRSC's late Sunday morning talk show 10 AM - 11:30 AM, May 27th. Whitaker has done recent research on the 24-fold increase in diagnosis of youth "requiring" psychiatric medication and its devastating impact.
Whitaker will update his book Mad in America: Bad Science, Bad Medicine, and the Enduring Mistreatment of the Mentally Ill in America

This will be a phone interview. Questions can be e-mailed in to the show at rnorse3 [at]

Questions can also be called in at 831-427-3772 during the show or no later than 8 hours before the show at 423-4833. You may also leave them in the comment section in

Whitaker's book is also available at the Santa Cruz Public Library.

Here's a partial Chapter Outline of Whitaker's book:

The World Health Organization has repeatedly found that people diagnosed with schizophrenia in the U.S. and other developed countries fare much worse than schizophrenia patients in poor countries. In the poor countries, a high percentage of patients recover and lead active social lives. In the U.S. and other developed countries, most patients so diagnosed become chronically ill. An understanding of this failure of modern medicine can be found by tracing the history of medical treatments for madness to the present day.

Part One: The Original Bedlam (1750-1900)
1. Bedlam in Medicine
A look at early medical therapies for madness in Europe and the colonial U.S., and why those therapies were at times viewed as curative. The early therapies included bleeding patients, putting them in "tranquilizer chairs," spinning them, dunking them in water, and even holding them underwater until they lost consciousness. Such therapies arose, in part, because of a belief that "reason" was the highest human faculty, and thus the mad, having lost their reason, were "brutes" and needed to be treated as such.

2. The Healing Hand of Kindness
In the early 1800s, there arose a form of care in England and France known as moral treatment, which emphasized treating the insane with kindness and empathy, and avoiding medical remedies that "worked" by weakening the patient. Moral treatment emphasized that mental patients should be seen as part of the human family. This form of care produced good outcomes for more than 30 years.

Part Two: The Darkest Era (1900-1950)
3. Unfit to Breed
The eugenics movement took hold in the U.S. in the early years of the 20th century. This "science" preached that insanity was a genetic disorder, and that a gene for insanity was spreading throughout the U.S. population at alarming rates. As a result, the humanitarian attitudes common to moral treatment gave way to a belief, said to be grounded in science, that the mentally ill were a threat to the general well-being of the country. To counter this threat, eugenicists argued that the mentally ill should be segregated in asylums and forcibly sterilized. By the end of the 1920s, American society had embraced involuntary sterilization of the mentally ill as a progressive health measure, with the New York Times and numerous other newspapers editorializing in support of it. The asylums were also run on bare-bones budgets, a fiscal policy that was consistent with eugenic notions that devalued the mentally ill.

4. Too Much Intelligence
After the fall of moral treatment in the late 1800s, American psychiatry once again devoted itself to finding physical remedies for psychotic disorders. Therapies of every kind were tried. These ranged from water therapies like the continuous bath, in which patients were kept in bathtubs for days on end, to gastrointestinal surgery. Doctors also tried fever, sleep and referigeration therapies (this last one involving cooling patients to the point they lost consciousness.) Finally, in the 1930s, there arose a trio of therapies--insulin coma therapy, metrazole convulsive therapy, and electroshock--that all worked, as was freely acknowledged at the time, by damaging the brain.

5. Brain Damage as Miracle Therapy
The fourth "brain-damaging" therapeutic that was embraced in asylum medicine in the 1930s and early 1940s was prefrontal lobotomy. This operation was pronounced safe and effective in numerous trials, and in 1949 its inventor, Portuguese neurosurgeon Egas Moniz, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine. Many physicians who tried it concluded that the operation could not possible harm the mentally ill, and during the 1940s newspapers and magazines regularly wrote about this "miracle" therapy for curing mental disorders. Today, this operation is viewed as a mutilating surgery, and its rise and fall provides a cautionary tale about the capacity of a society to delude itself about the merits of its medical treatments for the mentally ill.

Part Three: Back to Bedlam (1950-1990s)
6. Modern-Day Alchemy
In the early 1950s, chlorpromazine--marketed as Thorazine--was introduced for the treatment of psychotic disorders. Initially, physicians praised it for producing a "chemical lobotomy," and noted that it also produced symptoms similar in kind to the encephalitis lethargic virus. It was seen as a drug useful for quieting asylum patients, and not as a "cure" for psychosis. However, over the next decade, the drug underwent an image makeover (which was driven by the pharmaceutical companies), and by the early 1960s chlorpromazine and other newly introduced neuroleptics were hailed as "safe, antischizophrenic" medications.

The outline continues with comments from the public at

Street Spirit editor Terry Messman reviews Whitaker's book and interviews Whitaker;

This interview is reprinted in the May 2007 edition of Street Spirit, available on the streets of Santa Cruz from homeless vendors, from Master Vendor Thomas Leavitt at 295-3917, or at the Main Branch of the Santa Cruz Public Library.
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Robert Norse
Mon, Jun 4, 2007 6:56PM
Robert Norse
Thu, May 31, 2007 2:22PM
Becky Johnson
Mon, May 28, 2007 10:41AM
Robert Norse
Sat, May 26, 2007 8:39AM
psychiatric domination from Nazis to US!
Wed, May 23, 2007 5:54PM
Wed, May 23, 2007 12:51PM
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