After describing the history of psychopharmacology, including its early successes, Dr. Paris reviews the relationship between psychiatry and the pharmaceutical industry. This problem has received considerable popular attention in recent years and Dr. Paris documents initiatives to increase transparency and decrease the influence of pharmaceutical marketing on diagnosis and prescribing habits.
Dr Paris then examines some major controversies. One is the fact that newer drugs have not been shown to be superior to older agents. Another is that while the number of prescriptions for antidepressants has increased dramatically, meta-analyses show that their value is more limited than previously believed. Still another is the widespread prescription of mood stabilizers and antipsychotic drugs for patients, including children and adolescents, who do not have bipolar illness. Polypharmacy is an especially contentious area: very few drug combinations have been tested in clinical trials, yet many patients end up on a cocktail of powerful drugs, each with its own side effects.
Dr Paris briefly considers alternatives to pharmacology and again calls for more clinical trials of these approaches. He also discusses the current trend to medicalizing what many would describe as normal distress and states succinctly: Some things in life are worth being upset about.