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Allen Frances
Allen Frances MD is Professor Emeritus at Duke University and former Chair of its Department of Psychiatry. He was Chair of the DSM IV Task Force. He is the author of "Saving Normal" and "Essentials of Psychiatric Diagnosis."

Allen Frances was the chairperson of the DSM-IV Task Force, a former chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science at Duke University School of Medicine, and is the author of two new books: Saving Normal and Essentials of Psychiatric Diagnosis.

Entries by Allen Frances

Are Religious and Political Extremists Crazy?

(7) Comments | Posted October 24, 2014 | 1:43 PM

Every time there is a terrorist act or a mass murder, reporters start calling with questions on the psychiatric diagnosis of the perp. The default position seems to be that every religious extremist or political fanatic or mass murderer must be crazy. How else to account for their weird behavior?

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Finding a Middle Ground Between Psychiatry and Anti-Psychiatry

(7) Comments | Posted October 20, 2014 | 10:14 PM

There will never be any compromise acceptable to the die-hard defenders of psychiatry or to its most fanatic critics.

Some inflexible psychiatrists are blind biological reductionists who assume that genes are destiny and that there is a pill for every problem.

Some inflexible anti-psychiatrists are blind ideologues who see only...

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Surviving Suicide: A Mother's Search for Meaning

(0) Comments | Posted October 16, 2014 | 7:41 PM

If a mother can only be as happy as her unhappiest child, the unhappiest of mothers are those whose children have died, particularly when the death was intentional. For them, time seems doubly out of joint. It never feels right to survive a child, particularly one who has deliberately chosen...

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Perverse U.S. Drug Policies Promote Drug Addiction and Deaths

(43) Comments | Posted October 5, 2014 | 6:19 PM

To get your mind around just how dumb and perverse are our drug policies, you first have to absorb these astounding facts:

  1. The U.S. has more deaths from drug overdoses than from car accidents.
  2. Most are due to prescription narcotics, not street drugs.
  3. Heroin...
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12 Ways Parents Can Protect Their Kids From Too Many Pills

(23) Comments | Posted October 2, 2014 | 2:28 PM

We are turning our kids into pill poppers. The rate of ADHD has tripled in just 20 years -- it is now diagnosed in 11 percent of all children aged 4-17 and is medicated in 6 percent of them. And the percentages get really crazy for...

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How Not to Talk to Someone Dying of Cancer

(3) Comments | Posted September 29, 2014 | 3:54 PM

A friend of mine has been living well with lung cancer for five years -- working, running several miles a day, traveling, doing good stuff with his family, and generally enjoying the pleasures of everyday life. He knows the cancer will eventually kill him, but has been making the most...

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Treating the Ailing Doctor-Patient Relationship

(3) Comments | Posted September 15, 2014 | 3:39 PM

The practice of medicine is probably almost as old as the human race. An important part of the Shaman's job was the diagnosis and treatment of the physical and mental symptoms afflicting sick members of the tribe. Ever since, doctors have been admired and well-rewarded despite the fact that few...

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The Hall of Shame -- Who Is Failing the Severely Ill?

(9) Comments | Posted August 28, 2014 | 2:12 PM

This is the fourth in a series of blogs devoted to our society's shameful neglect of people with severe mental illness.

'Stigmatizing and Shunning The Mentally Ill' described the lack of treatment and housing that has led to their massive imprisonment and homelessness.

In '

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Treatment Before Tragedy: A Mother's Plea

(1) Comments | Posted August 20, 2014 | 8:01 PM

This is the third installment of a trilogy of blog posts depicting a tragedy. The first installment, "Stigmatizing and Shunning the Severely Ill," described the deinstitutionalization movement of 40 years ago that resulted in the sudden and massive closing of psychiatric hospitals -- under the pretense that more...

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Is This the Worst Time Ever to Have a Severe Mental Illness?

(31) Comments | Posted August 6, 2014 | 12:11 PM

My personal response to this depressing question would have to be an ashamed 'Yes' for the United States; a relieved 'No' for most of the rest of the developed world.

Admittedly, though, I am not the best person to provide a long view answer. We will soon be...

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Stigmatizing and Shunning the Severely Ill

(10) Comments | Posted July 30, 2014 | 7:28 PM

We are civilized people in the United States. We don't set up leper colonies or concentration camps or psychiatric snake pits to banish people with severe mental illness. Instead we send them to jail or prison -- almost 400,000 of them, more than 10 times the number receiving care in...

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Will $650 Million in Genetic Studies Solve the Mystery of Mental Illness?

(7) Comments | Posted July 24, 2014 | 4:54 PM

I am a great supporter of mental-health research but worry that it has lost its sense of proportion and is chasing the wrong priorities.

The really glamorous stuff consumes almost all of the enormous NIMH budget and now has behind it the huge addition of a $650-million private donation aimed...

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The U.S. Can't Afford to Continue the Death Penalty

(4) Comments | Posted June 27, 2014 | 10:05 PM

I am not strongly against the death penalty on principle or on moral grounds -- assuming, of course, that it could somehow be narrowly and efficiently restricted to a very few egregiously deserving and certainly guilty criminals.

I don't even find it particularly appalling (or cruel and unusual) punishment...

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The Mind of the Mass Murderer

(118) Comments | Posted June 1, 2014 | 12:00 PM

Mass murders are becoming a depressingly familiar routine in the United States -- we can now expect to experience a media grabbing shooting about once a month. And the frequency can only increase as future cohorts of copycat killers are spawned by the seductive opportunity to temporarily gain the spotlight.

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Does Pharma Have a Constitutional Right to Push Dangerous Drugs?

(70) Comments | Posted May 24, 2014 | 5:26 PM

Two contrasting news stories illustrate the ups and downs in the crucial David vs Goliath battle to contain the dangerous greed of drug companies.

Score one for David that two California counties are suing five makers of prescription narcotic drugs for their illegal and unethical off-label marketing practices....

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10,000 Young Toddlers Are on Stimulant Drugs for ADHD

(17) Comments | Posted May 17, 2014 | 3:03 PM

How crazy is it to drug babies?

It was shocking enough to discover that 20 percent of teenage boys get labelled as having ADHD, and 10 percent are on stimulant medications for it; that 11 percent of all kids aged 4-18 get the diagnosis of ADHD and 6 percent the...

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"These Days, You Have to Rob a Bank to Get Mental Health Treatment"

(6) Comments | Posted May 9, 2014 | 12:43 PM

This is a quote from a prison psychologist. She was not joking or exaggerating -- many of her imprisoned psychiatric patients had committed a fake crime to get "three hots and cot." And even more had been arrested for nuisance crimes easily avoided had they received anything approaching adequate treatment...

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My Prediction: The ADHD Fad Is About to Fade

(10) Comments | Posted April 23, 2014 | 4:44 PM

I have been blogging and tweeting about ADHD a lot lately because I believe that change is in the air.

This is the worst of times for ADHD diagnosis because statistics show it is wildly overdiagnosed and overtreated. This is possibly the best of times for ADHD diagnosis because...

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No Child Left Undiagnosed

(14) Comments | Posted April 12, 2014 | 3:39 PM

'Sluggish Cognitive Tempo' may possibly be the very dumbest and most dangerous diagnostic idea I have ever encountered.

And I have seen some beauts during my forty years of shooting down crazy new diagnostic dream lists. The wild suggestions are usually created by 'experts' brimfull with diagnostic exuberance...

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When It Comes to Mass Murder, Think Method and Means, Not Motive

(22) Comments | Posted April 10, 2014 | 4:30 PM

After every mass murder, the question everyone asks is why it happened. How could anyone possibly be so violent, or so evil, or so out of control, or so crazy as to engage in the wholesale and indiscriminate killing of a bunch of people who are usually complete strangers?


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