“An indisputable masterpiece…comprehensive, fascinating, and persuasive.”—Wall Street Journal
“Compulsively readable…Scull has joined his wide-ranging reporting and research with a humane perspective on matters that many of us continue to look away from.”—Daphne Merkin, The Atlantic
“I would recommend this fascinating, alarming, and alerting book to anybody. For anyone referred to a psychiatrist it is surely essential.”—The Spectator
“Meticulously researched and beautifully written, and even funny at times.”—The Guardian
“Brimming with wisdom and brio, this masterful work spans the history of psychiatry. Exceedingly well-researched, wide-ranging, provocative in its conclusions, and magically compact, it is riveting from start to finish. Mark my words, Desperate Remedies will soon be a classic.”—Susannah Cahalan, author of Brain on Fire
A sweeping history of American psychiatry—from the mental hospital to the brain lab—that reveals the devastating treatments doctors have inflicted on their patients (especially women) in the name of science and questions our massive reliance on meds.
For more than two hundred years, disturbances of the mind—the sorts of things that were once called “madness”—have been studied and treated by the medical profession. Mental illness, some insist, is a disease like any other, whose origins can be identified and from which one can be cured. But is this true?
In this masterful account of America’s quest to understand and treat everything from anxiety to psychosis, one of the most provocative thinkers writing about psychiatry today sheds light on its tumultuous past. Desperate Remedies brings together a galaxy of mind doctors working in and out of institutional settings: psychologists and psychoanalysts, neuroscientists, and cognitive behavioral therapists, social reformers and advocates of mental hygiene, as well as patients and their families desperate for relief.
Andrew Scull begins with the birth of the asylum in the reformist zeal of the 1830s and carries us through to the latest drug trials and genetic studies. He carefully reconstructs the rise and fall of state-run mental hospitals to explain why so many of the mentally ill are now on the street and why so many of those whose bodies were experimented on were women. In his compelling closing chapters, he reveals how drug companies expanded their reach to treat a growing catalog of ills, leading to an epidemic of over-prescribing while deliberately concealing debilitating side effects.
Carefully researched and compulsively readable, Desperate Remedies is a definitive account of America’s long battle with mental illness that challenges us to rethink our deepest assumptions about who we are and how we think and feel.
About the Author:
Andrew Scull is the author of Madness in Civilization: A Cultural History of Insanity, from the Bible to Freud, from the Madhouse to Modern Medicine; Hysteria: The Disturbing History; Madness: A Very Short Introduction; and Psychiatry and Its Discontents; among other books. Distinguished Professor of Sociology, Emeritus, at the University of California, San Diego, he won the Roy Porter Medal for lifetime contribution to the history of medicine and the Eric Carlson Award for lifetime contributions to the history of psychiatry. He has contributed to many documentaries, including PBS’s “Mysteries of Mental Illness” and “The Lobotomist,” has written for The Atlantic, the Wall Street Journal, the Times Literary Supplement, Scientific American, and The Nation, and blogs for Psychology Today and Mad in America.