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7 Psychopharmacology 1952–2017
  1. David Healy
  1. Professor of Psychiatry, Bangor University


David Healy is a Professor of Psychiatry at Bangor University.

David studied medicine in University College Dublin, Ireland, and at Cambridge University. He is a former Secretary of the British Association for Psychopharmacology, and author of over 210 peer reviewed articles, 250 other pieces and 24 books, including The Antidepressant Era, and The Creation of Psychopharmacology from Harvard University Press, The Psychopharmacologists Volumes 1–3, Let Them Eat Prozac from New York University Press, Mania from Johns Hopkins University Press and Pharmageddon from U California Press.

His main areas of research are treatment related adverse events, the exploration of individual experience, clinical trials, the history of psychopharmacology, and the impact of both clinical trials and psychotropic drugs on our culture.

He has been involved as an expert witness in homicide and suicide trials involving psychotropic drugs, and in bringing problems with these drugs to the attention of American and British regulators, as well raising awareness of how pharmaceutical companies sell drugs by marketing diseases and co-opting academic opinion-leaders, ghost-writing their articles.

With colleagues, he is a founder of He writes on

Psychopharmacology began in 1952 in a hierarchical world. Its emergence along with the drugs like the oral contraceptives contributed hugely to the Revolutions of 1968. Some of these drugs were treatments for an illness that would restore people to their place in the social order but others threatened to change that order. Psychiatrists, at the centre of these issues because the drugs were available on prescription-only, were inclined from the beginning to side with the establishment blaming conditions like tardive dyskinesia on the underlying condition rather than the treatment.

The new treatments gave rise to Big Neuroscience, and later a Corporate Psychiatry, developments that brought onto the professional radar critical issues like conflict of interest and access to RCT data, and replaced a psychobabble in the wider culture with a biobabble.

The treatments also gave rise to RCTs and Evidence Based Medicine. The apparent efficacy of treatment in RCTs, along with the rating scales RCTs were linked with, created a new healthcare focused on Risk. The operational thinking embodied in trials and scales has spread throughout clinical practice and training and contributes significantly to current shape of healthcare and mental healthcare – in ways that at present look unfortunate.

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