Reviewer: Bradley R. Cutler, MD (Edward Hospital and Health Services)
Description: This is the fourth edition of a reader-friendly book on the fundamentals of psychopharmacology. The previous edition was published in 2008.
Purpose: The aim is to educate readers about the neuropsychiatric foundation of mental disorders and pharmacologic treatments.
Audience: It is targeted at prescribers specializing in psychiatry.
Features: Throughout the book, two basic themes are emphasized: symptom endophenotypes and symptoms and circuits. Symptom endophenotypes are dimensions of psychopathology that cut across numerous syndromes. Impulsivity and/or compulsivity, for example, are found in many psychiatric disorders all throughout the DSM. Symptoms and circuits focus on psychiatric symptoms and pharmacological treatments. Each chapter integrates these two themes, educating readers to become neurobiologically-minded psychiatrists. Like the previous editions, this book is presented in a readable format that applies programmed learning; that is, the chapters emphasize repetition and interaction with the goal of improving retention. Also like previous editions, graphics and icons appear throughout the book, on nearly every page. There are many changes as well. This edition has a large page size that uses two columns, rather than the smaller page size and single column format. Unlike previous editions, this one also integrates much of the basic neurosciences into the clinical chapters, reducing redundancy and decreasing the size of the book. The chapters have also been revised and updated, particularly the chapters on antipsychotics and impulsivity, compulsivity, and addiction. Selected readings and references are placed at the end of the book.
Assessment: During my four years of training as a psychiatric resident, I was inundated with hundreds of books and journals to help me become as knowledgeable as possible in psychiatry. Now that I have completed my training, I can look back and see that only a handful of books were invaluable for my education Stahl's Essential Psychopharmacology is one of them. And this fourth edition has surpassed the previous editions in its ability to brilliantly educate readers on the neuropsychiatric basis of and treatments for mental disorders. The graphics and icons bring the text to life and make it especially relatable to clinical practice. If I were to buy only one book to teach me the neuropsychiatric foundations and treatment of psychiatric disorders, this would be it.
The author of this magnificent work takes a pedagogical, highly understandable approach to the area of psychopharmacologyfrom the level of basic biochemistry and receptor action through practical clinical applications of all major classes of psychotropic compounds. This text is written with the ambitious goal of making the complicated field of psychopharmacology accessible, on both the theoretical and ""everyday"" levels, to the practicing clinician. Towards this goal the author succeeds admirably. The author seeks to reach the audience of prescribing mental health professionals with a medical background who seek a basic and clinical level understanding of the medications that they recommend to their patients. Numerous unique features contribute to the author's goal. First, the liberal use of highly schematic color diagrams in each chapter adds to understanding of such concepts as receptor action, timing of drug effects and clinical outcomes. These diagrams are structured in what initially appears to be an oversimplified, ""cartoon"" form. However, upon further examination it is apparent these illustrations are highly effective in elucidating highly complex material. As well, a pure pedagogical approach with questions and answers at the end allows readers to test themselves on the material presented to ensure maximal retention of key concepts. Finally, while not written at the highly advanced level of the ""bench"" researcher in psychopharmacology, as clearly explained by the author, this text nevertheless is the basis of further inquiry since the author includes a fairly complete bibliography for further reading. This book is a bedrock for basic understanding of the complexand fast moving field of psychopharmacology, and should be a part of every prescribing clinician's library. It is highly recommended and will be useful in many contexts.