Comfortably Numb: How Psychiatry Is Medicating a Nation (Paperback)
American doctors dispense approximately 230 million antidepressant prescriptions every year, more than any other class of medication. Charles Barber explores this disturbing phenomenon, examining the ways in which pharmaceutical companies first create the need for a drug and then rush to fill it. Most importantly, he convincingly argues that, without an industry to promote them, non-pharmaceutical approaches are tragically overlooked in favor of an instant cure for all emotional difficulties.Compulsively readable and urgently relevant, Comfortably Numb is an unprecedented account of the impact of psychiatric medications on American culture and on Americans themselves.
Charles Barber was educated at Harvard and Columbia and worked for ten years in New York City shelters for the homeless and mentallly ill. The title essay in his first book, Songs from the Black Chair, won a 2006 Pushcart Prize. His work has appeared in The New York Times, among other publications, and on NPR. He is a lecturer in psychiatry at the Yale University School of Medicine and lives in Connecticut with his family.
“Compelling. . . . Offers something several of the other books don't: practical, therapeutic alternatives to antidepressants.” —Jerome Weeks, Salon“By any measure, this is an Important Book. . . . Perhaps it will play a role, however small, in convincing both medicators and the medicated to rely less on pharmaceuticals and more on the long-term therapy of human compassion.” —The Harford Courant“Arrives in our pill-happy midst not a moment too soon.” —The New York Observer “Passionate yet fair-minded. . . . Barber asks the critical question of whether Americans are crazier that the rest of the world or whether we have simply developed a crazy dependency on legal drugs.” —Susan Jacoby, author of The Age of American Unreason“A fine, informed writer on cultural history as well as neuroscience, psychotherapy, and economics, Barber convincingly argues against the overprescription of psychiatric drugs in the United States and sums up the history of U.S. psychiatry from the asylum to the community to glitzy but still elementary neuroscience. A blockbuster essential for all libraries.”—Library Journal (starred review)“A sharply critical look at the way antidepressants are marketed and prescribed in the United States . . . Barber articulately and persuasively counsels that it’s time to abandon the quick-fix, pop-a-pill approach.”—Kirkus “Comfortably Numb chronicles the extraordinary psychopharmaceuticalization of everyday life that has arisen in recent years and appears to be growing apace. Barber marks out the inconvenient truths on our path to emotional climate change but also offers alternatives to readers who wish to avoid pharmageddon.”—David Healy, author of Let Them Eat Prozac