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Mad Science: Psychiatric Coercion, Diagnosis, and Drugs

Mad Science: Psychiatric Coercion, Diagnosis, and Drugs

by Stuart A. Kirk

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*Winner of an honorable mention from theSociety for Social Work and ResearchforOutstanding Social Work Book Award Mad Science argues that the fundamental claims of modern American psychiatry are based on misconceived, flawed, and distorted science. The authors address multiple paradoxes in American mental health research, including the remaking of coercion into


*Winner of an honorable mention from theSociety for Social Work and ResearchforOutstanding Social Work Book Award Mad Science argues that the fundamental claims of modern American psychiatry are based on misconceived, flawed, and distorted science. The authors address multiple paradoxes in American mental health research, including the remaking of coercion into scientific psychiatric treatment, the adoption of an unscientific diagnostic system that controls the distribution of services, and how drug treatments have failed to improve the mental health outcome. When it comes to understanding and treating mental illness, distortions of research are not rare, misinterpretation of data is not isolated, and bogus claims of success are not voiced by isolated researchers seeking aggrandizement. This book’s detailed analysis of coercion and community treatment, diagnosis, and psychopharmacology reveals that these characteristics are endemic, institutional, and protected in psychiatry. They are not just bad science, but mad science. This book provides an engaging and readable scientific and social critique of current mental health practices. The authors are scholars, researchers, and clinicians who have written extensively about community care, diagnosis, and psychoactive drugs. This paperback edition makes Mad Science accessible to all specialists in the field as well as to the informed public.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“[Mad Science] comprehensively evaluates psychiatry’s own evidence for its disease model and its justification for its treatment of mental illness. It attains this goal better than all prior efforts to discredit psychiatry. “ —Peter Barglow, Skeptical Inquirer “There is a common assumption that psychiatry uses scientific and medical principles to aid mentally ill patients by diagnosis, prescribing medications, and honoring the basic rights of those being served. Kirk (Univ. of California-Los Angeles), Gomory (Florida State Univ.), and Cohen (Florida International Univ.) provide compelling evidence that disabuses the reader of these premises. Beginning with spurious descriptive classification schemes of various psychiatric conditions enumerated in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the bible of the discipline, the coauthors trace its evolution from a purely administrative classification tool to a burgeoning compendium of highly redundant categories not grounded in real world considerations. The DSM in all its permutations lacks reliability and internal consistency partly because of the prevailing assumption by organizations such as the American Psychiatric Association that it is scientifically based and independent of outside influences. There is also a medicalized orientation at play that conditions clinicians to view mental disorders as diseases to be managed. The pharmaceutical industry, which creates psychotropic medications, subscribes heavily to that viewpoint, often colluding with key players within psychiatry to manufacture "illnesses" to justify their promotion through aggressive advertising and often illicit influences. This illuminating narrative exposes the inner workings of psychiatry. . . Highly recommended.” —D. J. Winchester, Choice Mad Science: Psychiatric Coercion, Diagnosis, and Drugs provides college-level readers and professionals with a fine blend of health science and philosophy as it analyzes the evidence surrounding psychiatric science, diagnosis, and treatment. It challenges common perceptions of how society cares for the insane, taking some fifty years of history and providing a scientific analysis of brain diseases, madness, and the coercive practices that are at the heart of psychiatric care.” —The Psychology Shelf “This book is the clearest to argue for the abandonment of coercive psychiatry since the death of Thomas Szasz.” —Duncan Double, Metapsychology Online Reviews “Puts U.S. mental health care and research on trial. In this trial they question the premise that mental disorders fit the scientific disease model at all. They accuse modern mental health treatment of being no better than past quackery and suggest that much of it serves as coercive social control mechanisms for what they term as ‘misbehavior’. . . . These are serious charges that should be considered carefully by those interested in mental health care in the United States.” —Richard Frank, PsycCRITIQUES “An extremely important book. Psychiatry—first corrupted and now virtually annexed by Big Pharma—is comprehensively described by Mad Science, which details its scientifically invalid disorders, unreliable diagnostic methods, and ineffective and dangerous drugs. Mad Science will be the ‘go to’ book about psychiatry for critically thinking healthcare professionals, journalists, and the general public.” —Bruce E. Levine, author, Surviving America’s Depression Epidemic and Commonsense RebellionMad Science provides an incisive deconstruction of the modern mental health system and the myths and suppositions it is based on. With a clear-headed philosophical analysis and a thorough-going dissection of the empirical evidence, it exposes the muddled conceptual foundations of psychiatric science, the tautological process of diagnosis, and the inadequacies of the research base for psychiatric treatment. It challenges almost every claim that has been made for progress in society’s care of the mad and distressed over the last fifty years . . . and it describes how the unfounded but repeatedly stated notion of madness as a brain disease helps to disguise the dark heart of coercive practices that remain at the centre of psychiatric care. Mad Science reveals the vested interests that have constructed and perpetuated the modern ‘psychopharmaceutical’ complex, promulgating the mass diagnosis and drugging of the population for commercial gain, professional status, or in the interest of finding convenient and apparently unconscientious political solutions to complex social problems. This book is a must for anyone who is looking for a deeper understanding of the contradictions and failings of modern psychiatry, as well as an essential starting point for all those who imagine a different, more rational, more scientific, honest, and transparent system of care.” —Joanna Moncrieff, University College London

Product Details

Transaction Publishers
Publication date:
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Barnes & Noble
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746 KB

Meet the Author

Stuart A. Kirk is distinguished professor emeritus of social welfare at the Luskin School of Public Affairs, University of California, Los Angeles.  
Tomi Gomory is associate professor of social work at Florida State University and a Fulbright scholar.  
David Cohen is professor and Marjorie Crump Chair in social welfare at the University of California, Los Angeles. He is also a Fulbright-Tocqueville scholar.    

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