Psychiatry and Drug Use: Challenging “The Great Disconnect”

In recent years, the modification of marijuana laws in the United States, multiple doping scandals in professional sports (from Lance Armstrong to A-Rod), and the right-to-die debate have helped focus the public’s attention on drugs. At the same time, academia, policy-makers and interest groups all have a need for superior information about the complex role that recreational drugs and pharmaceutical products play in our lives.

According to Alan Leshner, “There is a unique disconnect between the scientific facts and the public’s perception about drug abuse and addiction. If we are going to make any progress, we need to overcome the ‘great disconnect.’”

Progress, whatever that meant for Leshner, will certainly be accompanied by a public discussion. And psychiatrists will continue to play a major role in shaping our understanding of drugs.For the uninitiated, it is all too easy to characterize the average psychiatrist as having been an agent of the medico-industrial complex. In recent years, such well-respected authors as Daniel Carlat, David Healyand Allen Frances, among others, have leveled devastating accounts of the failures in psychiatry and suggested that the profession has had far too much influence on Americans’ lives. And, indeed, the link between the psychiatric profession and the titanic rise of the pharmaceutical industry is undeniable.

Yet psychiatrists have also long challenged preconceived notions of certain recreational drugs, seeking to recast them as valuable tools in the therapeutic armamentarium.

– Read the entire article at AlterNet.