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Medicine and Mental Illness

Marvin E. Lickey and Barbara Gordon

Reviewed by members of NAMI's Literature Committee

Medicine and Mental Illness by Marvin E. Lickey and Barbara Gordon. W.H. Freeman & Co., New York: 1991. 459 pp. NAMI Price: $18.

This book could serve as an excellent text in a family training class, as well as up-to-date reading material about the brain and nervous system for mental health professionals in need of continuing education.

"Until the early 1970s, we had not paid much attention in our research and teaching to the medical application of neuroscience, supposing psychiatry (to be) a rather unscientific, not really medical profession whose responsibility was to look after helpless people who were not medically ill," write the authors, both professors of psychology at the University of Oregon.

The first impetus in writing the book was the authors' students, who challenged their aloofness in the use of medicine to treat mental illness. The second impetus was the experience of a colleague who suffered a severe episode of mental illness.

"After nearly two years of floundering with ineffective therapies, misdiagnosis, and inappropriate drugs, our friend finally consulted a psychiatrist, who gave the correct diagnosis, an effective drug treatment, and effective psychotherapy. His recovery was so dramatic that in an earlier age it would have been called a miracle."

The authors sought to better understand the reasons medical treatments can produce such beneficial results, and this textbook was one product of their deeper understanding.

Designed to teach basic principles of psychopharmacology to students in the fields of psychology and neuroscience, this book can be read easily by educated family members, patients, and professionals who do not have extensive scientific training.

The original version, published about a decade ago, offered in-depth chapters on schizophrenia, mood disorders, drugs, and side effects. The authors have added new information on agoraphobia, panic, and obsessive compulsive disorders.

Noting that much progress has been made in the last decade in understanding the biological basis of psychiatric disorders, the authors are optimistic about the effectiveness of many medications.

They describe current developments in drug therapy in detail, but they do not neglect to mention treatment failures and problems. They also discuss the value of psychotherapy, especially for depressed individuals.

The authors draw from recent medical research to compile and expand their bibliography. Each chapter ends with many helpful references for readers who want to explore a topic more thoroughly.

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