Journal of Intensive and Critical Care Nursing

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Opinion Article - Journal of Intensive and Critical Care Nursing (2023) Volume 6, Issue 2

Anatomy of an epidemic: magic bullets, psychiatric drugs, and the astonishing rise of mental illness in america

Nelson Serkan*

Department of Nursing, Massachusetts General Hospital, 55 Fruit St, Boston, MA 02114, USA

*Corresponding Author:
Nelson Serkan
Department of Nursing
Massachusetts General Hospital
55 Fruit St, Boston, MA 02114, USA

Received: 24-Mar-2023, Manuscript No. AAICCN-23-96642; Editor assigned: 25-Mar-2023, PreQC No. AAICCN-23-96642(PQ); Reviewed: 08-Apr-2023, QC No. AAICCN-23-96642; Revised: 10-Apr-2023, Manuscript No. AAICCN-23-96642(R); Published:18-Apr-2023, DOI:10.35841/aaiccn-6.2.144

Citation: Serkan N. Anatomy of an epidemic: magic bullets, psychiatric drugs, and the astonishing rise of mental illness in america. J Intensive Crit Care Nurs. 2023;6(2):144

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Anatomy of an Epidemic is a book written by journalist Robert Whitaker, published in 2010. The book investigates the rising rates of mental illness in the United States and the role that psychiatric drugs play in the phenomenon. Whitaker argues that the prevailing medical model of mental illness, which suggests that disorders like depression and schizophrenia are caused by chemical imbalances in the brain, is flawed. He contends that psychiatric drugs, which are designed to correct these chemical imbalances, may actually worsen the conditions they are intended to treat and create long-term, chronic disability. Whitaker traces the history of psychiatric drugs, from the introduction of Thorazine in the 1950s to the widespread use of antidepressants and antipsychotics in the present day. He argues that these drugs are not the "magic bullets" they are often portrayed to be, and that their effectiveness has been exaggerated by pharmaceutical companies and the psychiatric establishment.


Mental Illness in America, Psychiatric Drugs, Nursing Education


According to Whitaker, psychiatric drugs may actually contribute to the rise in mental illness by disrupting the brain's natural processes and causing a range of side effects, including weight gain, diabetes, and cognitive impairment. He also suggests that the increasing use of psychiatric drugs has led to a shift in the way mental illness is treated, with more emphasis on medication and less on psychotherapy and other non-drug therapies [1].

Overall, "Anatomy of an Epidemic" is a controversial and thought-provoking book that challenges many of the assumptions and practices of modern psychiatry. It has been praised by some for its bold critique of the psychiatric establishment and its emphasis on patient empowerment, while others have criticized it for its selective use of data and its tendency to overstate its arguments.

Psychiatric drugs and the concerns about their potential negative impact, it is a complex and controversial issue.

On one hand, psychiatric drugs can be effective in treating a range of mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. They can improve quality of life for many people and reduce the risk of serious harm, such as suicide [2].

On the other hand, there are concerns about overprescribing and the potential for negative side effects, including addiction, withdrawal symptoms, and long-term health effects. Additionally, some critics argue that the pharmaceutical industry's marketing practices have influenced the widespread use of psychiatric drugs. The rise of mental illness in America is a complex issue that has been the subject of much research and debate. While it is true that there has been an increase in the prevalence of mental illness in recent years, it is important to understand that this rise is due to a combination of factors, including changes in diagnostic criteria, increased awareness and understanding of mental illness, and changes in societal and cultural factors that impact mental health [3].

One significant factor contributing to the increase in mental illness is the broadening of diagnostic criteria for certain conditions. For example, the diagnostic criteria for depression have become broader over time, which has led to more people being diagnosed with the disorder. Similarly, the diagnostic criteria for ADHD have become more inclusive, which has also contributed to an increase in diagnoses. Another factor that has contributed to the rise in mental illness is an increased awareness and understanding of mental health issues. With greater understanding and awareness of mental illness, people are more likely to seek treatment for their symptoms, leading to more diagnoses [4].

Societal and cultural factors have also played a role in the rise of mental illness. The fast-paced and stressful nature of modern life, increased social isolation, and the impact of social media and technology on our lives are all factors that have been linked to an increase in mental health issues.


It is important to note that the rise in mental illness is not unique to America, as similar trends have been observed in other developed countries. While the increase in mental illness is certainly concerning, it is also an opportunity for society to focus more on mental health and wellbeing and to provide better support and resources for those who are struggling with mental illness.

It's important to note that psychiatric drugs should only be prescribed by trained medical professionals who carefully weigh the benefits and risks for each individual patient. If you have concerns about psychiatric drugs or their use, it's best to discuss them with a qualified healthcare provider.


  1. González-López MD, Díaz-Calvo V, Ruíz-González C, et al. Consumption of psychiatric drugs in primary care during the COVID-19 pandemic. Int J Env Research and Public Health. 2022;19(8):4782.
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  3. Moore TJ, Mattison DR. Adult utilization of psychiatric drugs and differences by sex, age, and race. JAMA internal medicine. 2017;177(2):274-5.
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  5. Moncrieff J. Research on a ‘drug-centred’approach to psychiatric drug treatment: assessing the impact of mental and behavioural alterations produced by psychiatric drugs. Epidemiology and psychiatric sciences. 2018;27(2):133-40.
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  7. Bossewitch J. Pediatric bipolar and the media of madness. Ethical Human Psycholo Psychiatry. 2010;12(3):254-68.
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