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The Myth of the Chemical Cure: The Politics of Psychiatric Drug Treatment

Seminar Center for Global Humanities Lecture/Seminar Series

Joanna Moncrieff

Senior Lecturer, University College, London

The seminar will challenge the myth that psychiatric drugs reverse underlying chemical imbalances or abnormal brain states. It will trace the historical development of this idea, and how it replaced an earlier understanding of psychiatric drugs as psychoactive substances that produce altered mental states, which can suppress the symptoms or manifestations of mental disorders. The seminar will suggest that the current view of psychiatric drug treatment reflects political, commercial and professional interests rather than scientific fact. The seminar will also explore the way that psychiatric drug treatment has promoted increasing medicalisation of human distress and social problems which has facilitated neoliberal social and economic policies.


Joanna Moncrieff is a Senior Lecturer at University College London and a consultant psychiatrist. She is known for her controversial work on the nature of psychiatric drug treatment, suggesting that psychiatric drugs, like other psychoactive substances, create rather than reverse abnormal brain states, and she has written on the history and politics of psychiatry and the pharmaceutical industry. She is the co-chair person of the Critical Psychiatry Network, which has campaigned against the increasing influence of the pharmaceutical industry, and the extension of psychiatric coercion. She is the author of The Myth of the Chemical Cure and A Straight Talking Introduction to Psychiatric Drugs.

Assigned Reading

Joanna Moncrieff, The Myth of the Chemical Cure: A Critique of Psychiatric Drug Treatment (Palgrave Macmillan, 2008)


A reception will be held at 5pm at the UNE Art Gallery


Center for Global Humanities


(207) 221-4335

6:00 PM
WCHP Lecture Hall

Portland Campus

Free and open to the public