The glowing review of Judith Warner's new book, We've Got Issues, in The New York Times this week didn't exactly catch me by surprise -- anyone who has read Warner's guest columns in recent years knows her take on psychiatric drugs -- but it did bewilder me.
Why, I wondered, did the Times choose that particular book to review so prominently in its science section; was it because Warner has such a cozy relationship with the paper, having been a guest columnist for many years?
The reviewer says that Warner "sallied forth to interview all the pushy parents, irresponsible doctors and over-medicated children she could find — and lo, she could barely find any." And that made me wonder just who did Warner actually interview for the book (which, let me admit right off, I have not read). Did she only talk to the parents of children with "issues" and the doctors who prescribed meds for them, as the review makes it sound? If so, she seems to have missed half the story. After all, parents who put their kids on psychoactive drugs and the doctors who prescribed them are probably quite earnest in believing they did the right thing. As a parent myself, I know: it's very hard to admit publicly that you may have done the wrong thing; ditto for the medical profession.
What I want to know is: did Warner bother to interview any of the folks who were forced to take powerful psychoactive drugs as children and grew up to be psychiatric survivors who have since turned to more effective, alternative methods of healing? Did she interview any of the foster children in Florida and other states where these drugs have been used for years as chemical straitjackets to control behavior caused by abuse and neglect? Did she interview the mother of four-year-old Rebecca Riley who was recently convicted of pumping her daughter full of the anti-psychotic drugs that killed her?
Did Warner interview any of the teachers or professors who deal with the detritus of inappropriately medicated children and teenagers every single day?
And where the heck did she get the information that psychiatric drugs help change the structure of the developing brain for the better? I'd like to see the evidence backing up that wild claim.
Finally, I'd like to know who orchestrated Warner's book publicity because it was a stroke of genius to postulate that this woman ever initially believed that children were being over-medicated and then changed her mind after doing the research for her book. Judging from what Warner herself has written over the years, I seriously doubt that claim. But I have to acknowledge: it's a brilliant piece of marketing.