Professor John Read, back in the UK after a long period away, is struck by some important changes in the way we view mental health problems.
For years, drugs were it. If you felt paranoid, heard voices or were diagnosed with schizophrenia, the only thing likely to be on offer was ‘antipsychotic’ medication. Like all drugs, these have a number of different effects on our nervous system. Some of the effects can be helpful, for example calming us down or making our experiences less intense or distressing. Others may be less desirable. The unwanted effects – euphemistically called ‘side’ effects – of these particular drugs can be seriously distressing. For some people, they can be more disabling than the original problem. Despite the drug industry hype, it’s been a fine balance for many people, and worrying evidence is now emerging that some drugs can cause serious and permanent problems such as brain shrinkage if taken long-term.