How Drug Companies “Shaped” Mental Illness in America

How Drug Companies Helped Shape A Shifting, Biological View Of Mental Illness
Historian and Harvard professor Anne Harrington believes that pharmaceutical companies have played an oversized role in determining how mental illness is treated in the United States — leading to a rise in the use of antidepressant drugs. Harrington’s new book, Mind Fixers: Psychiatry’s Troubled Search for the Biology of Mental Illness, chronicles the history of psycho-pharmaceuticals, such as Prozac and Xanax, which have been used to treat depression and anxiety, as well as lithium, the first drug to treat what is now called bipolar disorder.

There had been an enormous market for anti-anxiety medications. … In 1978, I think something like 2.2 billion pills of Valium were sold in one year. It was the bestselling prescription drug of all time in the 1970s. And it was an anti-anxiety medication, but then it turned out it was addictive, and people couldn’t get off it. The market for the benzodiazepine plummets. But where are these people — what are we going to do for these kinds of patients?