HEALTHY LIVING
03/28/2008 02:45 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Overmedication Nation

This storyline persists despite the fact that government research has repeatedly shown that most adults and children with mental health issues don't get the specialized help that they need. It persists despite the fact that there's really no way to meaningfully evaluate the degree of over-diagnosis and medication unique to our era, because to do so is essentially to look at the current era in a vacuum. We don't know how many adults suffered from things like depression in the distant past because no one ever asked. The words and concepts through which we understand common mental health disorders today didn't exist until the last few decades.

The narrative survives largely uncontested despite the fact, shared by psychiatrist Peter Kramer in his Slate review of Barber's book, that only tiny numbers of people are receiving mental health services without real, clinical levels of mental health dysfunction or a history of mental illness or trauma. And despite the fact that, contrary to received wisdom, the United States is not a world leader when it comes to the use of psychiatric medications. (The U.S. is "'in the middle' relative to other countries, and is not an outlier," a study from M.I.T's. Sloan School of Management, cited by Kramer, showed last year.)

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