Monday, 3 July 2017

Review of Psychiatric Drugs Explained (6th edition 2016) by David Healy

This is a good candidate for the book that 'everybody should read'. Firstly, because nearly everybody will experience psychiatric illness in themselves, a friend or relative; and secondly because the over-prescription and wrong-prescription of psychiatric drugs is one of the major problems of this era.

Reading Healy's Psychiatric Drugs Explained is therefore a basic necessity of psychological self-defence.

It is, of course, an exaggeration to say 'everybody' should read this (or any) book, because - although it is comprehensible by a non-professional audience - it does require at least average intelligence and motivation to understand.

However, if not quite 'everybody' could read it; I have found it highly suitable for both general undergraduate and Masters post-graduate classes of both high and low ability - and indeed the typical chapter in Psychiatric Drugs Explained takes the reader from basic instruction up to what is (or should be) the cutting-edge of the subject.

And what a subject! One of the pleasures of teaching psychiatry and psychopharmacology (as I have been doing for the past 21 years) is that almost-everyone finds the subject fascinating!

Psychiatric Drugs Explained begins with sections on management of the major categories of psychiatric disorders: schizophrenia, depression, bipolar/ mania, anxiety and dementia; with the relevant drugs considered under each section.

There are also drug-orientated sections on stimulants, hypnotics (sleeping pills and draughts), drugs that affect sexual function (for better or worse) - and the vital subject of drug withdrawal with its sub-types of addiction, rebound, tolerance, and long-term dependence.

The book rounds-off with some discussions of the socio-political aspects of psychiatric diagnosis and drugs.

The main reason to read Psychiatric Drugs Explained is that it is written by David Healy - director of the North Wales Department of Psychological Medicine in Bangor; whom I regard as the most important of living psychiatrists: a great scholar, a discoverer and re-discoverer, the subject's deepest philosopher, and the field's most incisive and constructive critic.


  1. Great book! I have a copy and have used it regularly as a source of self-education and reference on the subject. The author is clearly a very outspoken and articulate critic of the pharmaceutical industry and its nefarious and often downright dishonest or misleading practices. I'm surprised he has been able to 'get away with it' in the sense that clearly very powerful interest groups would seek to silence that kind of voice. However, having said that, maybe they dont need to anymore in the modern world. I have shared his book and its findings with numerous mental health professionals and doctors. In the first 30 seconds or so they may appear shocked and appalled at some of what the book contains (especially wrt to the massive over-prescription of antidepressants and deeply concerning associations with suicidality in certain populations and with specific drugs) but then they simply shrug it off as just the way the world is and get on with the business as usual. I suppose Mavericks can only be a real influence if people listen to them and try and respond to what they are bringing into the public domain. I certainly wish there were more David Healys in medicine, I will say that much!

  2. Thanks David.

    Healy hasn't - in fact - got away with it; on the contrary, he has been subjected to a great deal of persecution. For example back in 2001, I made the following web pages:

    Most of the various persections may be found dotted around Healy's personal web pages

    Anyway - the point is that he has not been silenced! Yes - he has been rejected by the profession - but he has (mostly by his writings, also by speaking, legal work etc.) helped many thousands of individuals.