Far be it from me –

Drug treatment in medicine and psychiatry – papering over important differences

on July 6, 2018

Joanna Moncrieff

Summary: The treatment of mental disorders with drugs is not the same sort of activity as the use of drugs in medicine. Psychiatric drugs do not target underlying disease or symptom-producing mechanisms; they create an altered state of mental functioning that is superimposed on underlying feelings and behaviours. The ethical implications of the two situations are different.

I am grateful to the editor of Epidemiology and Psychiatric Sciences, Corrado Barbui, for publishing my article about the drug-centred model of understanding drug action in psychiatry back in the autumn of last year, and to Carmine Pariante and Catherine Harmer and Phil Cowen who provide commentaries on the article (1-3). Responding to the commentaries, and engaging in a live debate with Professor Pariante has been helpful in sharpening my ideas, and I am also indebted to some persistent questioners at recent talks I have given!

 Pariante, Harmer and Cowen have…

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