Erowid References Database
“Making the first anti-depressant: amphetamine in American medicine, 1929-1950”.
J Hist Med Allied Sci. 2006 Jul 13;61(3):288-323.
We are accustomed to thinking of the widespread use of anti-depressant drugs as a recent phenomenon, and one of decidedly mixed blessings. While no doubt effective, their phenomenal popularity since the 1990s has raised questions about the medicalization of problems of living and the fading boundaries between healing and medical enhancement (or the specter of “cosmetic pharmacology,” in Peter Kramer’s pithy formulation). Today’s anti-depressants have also, for some critics, come to symbolize the excessive influence of the pharmaceutical industry over the definition and treatment of illness. Drug companies are said to reshape, or even invent, disorders to fit the drugs they are marketing, manipulating medical knowledge like never before—and particularly in the area of mental health. The historical narrative that often underpins such critiques places the beginnings of psychiatric medicine’s loss of control over pharmaceuticals around 1960, when the monoamine oxidase inhibitors and (especially) the tricyclic anti-depressants first entered the market. A variant narrative suggests that, instead, it was Miltown and the other minor tranquilizers that ushered in widespread pharmaceutical influence over psychiatric thinking and practice, during the second half of the 1950s.1 In either account, society today is portrayed as overmedicated for depression and other functional psychiatric disorders because the boundaries of illness have been overstretched by drug company marketing, and sound professional judgment no longer governs prescribing.
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