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Rethinking the Drug Treatment of Psychosis

The Letter, Issue 55/56, Spring/Summer 2014, Pages 13 - 25


RETHINKING THE DRUG TREATMENT OF PSYCHOSIS[1]

Joanna Moncrieff[2]


This talk challenges the current assumption that psychiatric drugs work by correcting an underlying ‘chemical imbalance,’ or any other brain-based abnormality. An alternative, ‘drug-centred’ model of drug action will be outlined that proposes that psychiatric drugs induce altered mental and physical states, and that these states may sometimes be ‘therapeutic’ by helping to suppress the manifestations of mental distress and disturbance. A drug-centred account of antipsychotic action will be presented that stresses the cognitive and emotional suppression produced by the drugs and how the desired and adverse effects of the drugs cannot be neatly distinguished. The impact of these effects on the symptoms of severe mental disorders will be discussed along with the practical and ethical implications of this sort of approach.


Keywords: anti-psychotics; disease-centred versus drug-centred model of action; adverse effects; long-term effects


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