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on 25 September 2009
Joanna Moncrieff is a published psychiatrist, a senior lecturer at University College London and a founding member of the Critical Psychiatry Network. Her experience and commitment to providing information for those taking or prescribing psychiatric medication is evident right from the beginning of this book. Although it's a little book the comprehensive and intelligible manner in which it is written presents the reader with an extensive amount of relevant information. Information which is sometimes unseen for a variety of reasons by the patient.

Moncrieff details how psychiatric medications work and devotes a quite interesting chapter on drug trials and how the results are interpreted. She examines : Neuroleptics, Anti-depressants, Lithium, Stimulants and the ubiquitous Benzodiazepines. The consequences of a drug centered approach to psychiatric care is explained, as is the process of withdrawal.

I found this book to be both informative and interesting and Moncrieff provides food for thought for patients and indeed healthcare professionals. However I would have liked a bit more information on the subject of withdrawal, and thought there was room to expand on that particular chapter. I wonder how many people would knowingly start on this type of medication if all the relevant information was provided, not the scaremongering of certain others but unbiased and educational facts. Why are some drugs allowed to be marketed as a " magic cure " when all they do is put us in a state of dullness where we become emotionally blunted. I wonder do some of these drugs actually hinder our recovery and make the road back a little longer, steeper and with more pitfalls ?
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on 1 August 2011
This clearly written little book documents what little is known about the psychoactive effects of the main drugs used in clinical psychiatry. As a clinical psychologist rather than a medic I cannot comment on the medical accuracy or potential bias of Dr Moncrieff's work. What I can say is that the book was very helpful in helping me understand the effects on my patients of the medications they take, i.e. what to expect by way of sedation, side effects and withdrawal effects.

Dr Moncrieff starts by outlining her drug-centred versus disease-centred approach to psychiatric medication. In practice this means questioning the idea that psychiatric disturbances are neurochemical imbalances which can be treated by the relevant 'anti' medication (e.g. antidepressant, antipsychotic). Once freed from this widespread, disease-oriented, lens we are freed up to consider psychiatric drugs as we would any other psychoactive drug: as compounds which may be sometimes be useful for (in particular) their sedating effects.

Particularly interesting were the two observations that: i) the neuroleptically aggressive approach to 'early intervention for psychosis' may be misleading since the research which finds early treatment leading to better outcome may be misinterpreting the fact that people who experience an acute (rather than protracted) onset (and who therefore present more quickly for treatment and accordingly have a shorter duration of untreated psychosis) tend to recover better anyway; ii) drug trials which compare staying on a drug with stopping taking it, and finding that more relapses occur in the second condition, may be mistaking an allegedly helpful 'disease-combatting' property of the drug for the rather different effect that suddenly stopping taking a psychoactive drug can create illness-mimicking or illness-causing withdrawal effects.

Chapters in the book consider 'anti-psychotics' (typically used for treating schizophrenic conditions), 'anti-depressants' (for depression), 'mood stabilisers' (for bipolar disorder), stimulants (for ADHD), benzodiazepines (for a range of problems), withdrawal, mechanism of drug action, drug- versus disease-centred models of medication and illness.
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on 7 July 2009
A Straight Talking Introduction to Psychiatric Drugs (Straight Talking Introductions)If you, like me, are currently locked in a power struggle with your local NHS psychiatrist over whether you or someone you care for will benefit from withdrawing from medication this book is for you. Joanna Moncrieff has added the voice of a respected British psychiatrist to that of American Dr Peter Breggin to make the research-based case for withdrawal. Like him she believes that psychiatric medications achieve their effects by suppressing normal brain function rather than by correcting chemical imbalances, and that the long-term use of neuroleptics is not justified by the evidence. Covering neuroleptics, antidepressants, mood-stabilisers, stimulants and benzodiazepines, this book is aimed at patients, relatives and carers and explains medication pros and cons in plain words. Knowledge is power. Thank you Joanna.
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on 13 December 2009
Essential reading!

I am a third year student of mental health nursing and I have read widely. I wish all mental health professionals could read this book (perhaps students and practitioners of psychiatry since the often prescribe these drugs). As the titles of this series of books suggest it gets straight to the core by means of straight talking. It is by no means mainstream thinking but who needs to be popular when speaking the truth?

If this doesn't convince you about the nature of psychiatric drugs I suggest you read Joannas "The Myth of the Chemical Cure".

As Joanna rightly points out drugs will have a place for some people experiencing emotional distress, but they certainly have the right to know what these drugs do and not do for them.
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on 22 October 2015
Excellent introduction and overview of psychiatric drugs. As a practising psychiatrist Joanna Moncrieff is not completely anti drugs but she is sceptical of their benefits and very critical of the orthodox psychiatric view that mental health difficulties are physical diseases and to be viewed and treated in the same way as obvious physical conditions. Psychiatric drugs therefore do not rectify physical abnormalities, see 'chemical imbalances', they are psychoactive and create changes in brain chemistry and associated emotional, behavoiural and psychological states. She references research and how flawed the evidence is and why. As a counsellor in private practice with an interest in existential philosophy I have found this book very useful.
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on 3 March 2016
More courage, academic integrity, sincerity and professional dedication from Dr. Moncrieff. A book that should be read by anyone and everyone, before they enter the bizarre and dangerous world of "evidence based", - "mainstream psychiatry".
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on 1 March 2013
Dr Joanna Moncrieff makes the reading of medical jargon extremely interesting and easy. Her well informed views highlight an extremely informative book.
Dr Moncrieff also outlines the safe use of psychiatric drugs over the short term, and emphasises the right of the patient to be able to successfully cease
psychiatric medication with the help of professional advisors. Altogether a very refreshing change from the usual rubber stamp approach of the National Health Service in the UK.
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on 12 December 2012
The book is very easy to understand, easy reading, it's well worth the price. Good book for student nurses to buy
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on 24 February 2012
good service, book based basically on case studies as opposed to a formulary of which I was expecting, neverthless a good read
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on 24 December 2014
Exceptional advice and background knowledge for users and non-users alike. Allows an informed choice not readily available elsewhere.
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