Tag Archives: drugs

Thomas Szasz on diagnostic malpractice

In this keynote address, Professor Thomas Szasz appeals to the history of psychiatry in making his argument against the labeling of children as having, for example, ADD/ADHD. (In the speech, he calls this “stigmatization not diagnosis.”) But does the history to which he refers simply show progress in the medicalization of moral treatment? Or is it, as he claims, evidence of something more sinister?


  1. This video has been edited, but not by us. (The full text of this speech, or one very much like it, can be found here.)
  2. Professor Szasz is famous for, among other things, his anti-psychiatry bias. That, however, is not what’s on display for our purposes here.

AHP has covered similar issues in the past, most notably here (on changing the DSM), here (on how psychiatry is financed), and here (on the removal of homosexuality from the DSM). A bibliography of readings related to Professor Szasz’ comments, for interested students, is appended below the fold. Continue reading Thomas Szasz on diagnostic malpractice

Psychiatry, Pharmaceutical Funding, and Congress

This item comes more from the category of history-in-the-making, rather than history proper.

The New York Times has just published an article on just how extensive the financial ties are between the pharmaceutical industry and the American Psychiatric Association (APA). According to the article, nearly 1/3 of the APA’s budget comes directly from the pharmaceutical industry, in the form of journal ads, convention exhibits, and the sponsoring of fellowships, conferences, and symposia. Continue reading Psychiatry, Pharmaceutical Funding, and Congress

Thorazine’s Many Faces

You have probably never thought of the “classic” schizophrenia drug Thorazine (the trade name for chlorpromazine) as a treatment for ulcers, or menopause, or psoriasis, or “hyperkinetic” children, or arthritis, or bursitis, or asthma, or cancer, or alcoholism, or even vomiting. But, perhaps surprisingly, it has been advertised over the years for all of these conditions. You can see the ads for yourself in a new web gallery set up by the Bonkers Institute.

And the Thorazine collection is only the beginning. There are also historical ads for commercially available heroin (from Bayer), Stelazine, and a wide variety of others. It is truly amazing how any single chemical can be marketed in any number of ways until it catches on with physicians in one particular way or another. Continue reading Thorazine’s Many Faces

Of Tranquilizers and Food Additives

salt crystalsWhen is a tranquilizer not a tranquilizer? When it is a salt substitute.

Lithium chloride, which for decades was the treatment choice for stabilizing mood in cases of manic-depressive psychosis (later bipolar disorder), was originally marketed as a salt substitute for heart and kidney patients under the trade name Westsal. Then, in early 1949, patients using the product started dying unexpectedly from the chemical’s hitherto-unknown toxicity. Among the less drastic, but still undesirable, side effects were “drowsiness, weakness, loss of appetite, nausea, tremors, blurred vision, unconsciousness.” The FDA rapidly declared that people should “stop using this dangerous poison at once” but moved not to ban lithium chloride but to reclassify it from a “special dietary food” to a “drug.” (You can find the whole story at this archival Time magazine article.) Continue reading Of Tranquilizers and Food Additives

Bibliography: Psychopharmacology

Alexander Shulgin, aka 'Dr Ecstacy'Last summer, we tested a bibliographic service at AHP that we hoped might help students find historical documents related to their research interests. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the resources on Cannabis (~1000 visits since July) and LSD (~700 visits since August) have proven the most popular. But when we decided to focus more of our attention on providing news that would be of interest to subscribers (subscribe here), and devoted fewer resources to producing bibliographies for casual readers, a handful of these labor-intensive lists remained unpublished.

Now, though, in recognition of Alexander Shulgin’s profile in Scientific American (on the history of self-experimentation), we provide a capstone bibliography on the histories of Psychopharmacology and Pharmacopsychology. Among other things, this provides an alternative approach to research than that promoted by Shulgin:

“I take them [psychoactive substances] myself because I am interested in their activity in the human mind. How would you test that in a rat or mouse?”

It also serves as a supplement to the many related bibliographies we’ve produced over the past year: on Psychoactive drug use in psychology and Psychedelics and Psychology, as well as on Depression and Antidepressants.

Of course, that’s not all there is here. There are many other pages with bibliographies organized under the “resources” subject header on the blog’s main page. Continue reading Bibliography: Psychopharmacology

US v. 40 Barrels and 20 Kegs of Coca-Cola

images.jpg According to the APA‘s Today in the History of Psychology site, on March 16th 1911 the trial of the United States v. 40 Barrels and 20 Kegs of Coca-Cola began.

The ordeal began when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration seized a shipment of Coca-Cola syrup in 1909 based on the suspicion that caffeine was harmful.

The trial featured testimony from psychologist Harry Hollingworth who examined the effects of caffeine on mental function. Although the research was funded by the Coca-cola company, Hollingworth had several stipulations in his contract including the right to publish his results, regardless of their outcome.

Coca-cola would be acquitted of the charges on June 13, 1914.

Continue reading US v. 40 Barrels and 20 Kegs of Coca-Cola

Two books in the Top 10 “most expensive” at ABE

Bill WilsonTwo books of historical and psychological interest made it onto the list of “most expensive books” sold by the Advanced Book Exchange in 2007. Both were written by Bill Wilson: Alcoholics Anonymous

A 1939 first edition first printing of this legendary book – only 4,650 copies were printed of the first printing. Although it wasn’t the first self help book, this book is the most collectible and set the standard for fighting addictions

…and Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions

The other fundamental book in the history of Alcoholics Anonymous – a first edition first printing signed and inscribed by Bill Wilson from 1953. Wilson expands and updates his program of recovery published in the original book

Each sold for $10,500 US.

Psychedelic Science

Heavy, man!The Mind Hacks blog has tipped me off to a 1997 documentary on the history of the use of psychedelic drugs for medical purposes. The documentary was produced by Bill Eagles and originally broadcast on the BBC program “Horizon.” It is now available, in its entirety (48 min) at Google Video.

Early in the video is a discussion of the uses made of LSD by Humphry Osmond and Abram Hoffer at the Weyburn Mental Hospital in Saskatchewan, Canada. Osmond and Hoffer believed that they could treat addictions, especially alcoholism, with LSD. Continue reading Psychedelic Science

Anne Harrington on Mind-Body Medicine

Anne HarringtonThe legendary e-zine Salon has published an interview with Harvard historian of science Anne Harrington about her latest book, The Cure Within: A History of Mind-Body Medicine. “Mind-body medicine,” she says, “is a patchwork of ideas about the way in which we think that our minds make us sick, and might make us well.”

The interview starts with a discussion of the power of suggestion: “the interesting thing about the power of suggestion in hypnosis is that it’s an emergent product of a much, much older interpersonal drama that actually goes back to medieval times, the drama of the exorcist who exorcises demons from the bodies of possessed people and exerts control over the demon.” Continue reading Anne Harrington on Mind-Body Medicine