Thursday, February 25, 2010

A few questions for Judith Warner and her editors

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.

7 comments:

Stephany said...

Exactly! I wrote about this also, she has about credibility as the silver spoon status the NYT gives her, in my post about it, I wrap it up with looking forward to Robert Whitaker's new book due out in April 2010, which will wipe hers off of the map and give people the true information they need on this topic, which includes interviews of families of children damaged by psychiatric medications.

Stephany, soulful sepulcher blog

Sara said...

Anyone who understands the cozy relationship Judith has had with Peter Kramer over the years (he wrote a blurb for her book jacket cover and they are both Brown graduates) can't really be surprised that this is what she finally came up with. It's pretty sad because she has a lot of followers and is a good writer. But really it's a long leap from saying yes, there are a ton of troubled kids out there who need help, to saying we need more child psychiatrists pushing drugs and that child psychiatry is a "success story" in our health care system -- oh my! And that claim about drugs and the developing brain -- I suspect that's good old neurogenesis rearing its ugly head again as something we should all esteem as some great wonder of human technology instead of a side effect of toxicity. Let's hope Abigail Zuger's review is the last good one this clueless book receives.

Stephany said...

Sara, that comment by Zuger about the drugs "helping" the brain is one of the most outrageous statements I have ever read, that Zuger is a doctor saying it makes it even more wreckless.

Frankly, I have no idea who would take the time to read a book written by Warner, I sure won't.

Warner has no idea what this world of damaged medicated kids is like, that's why I invited her to Thanksgiving dinner in 2007. (she didn't take me up on it).

Glad to see someone else write about this Alison, with Dawdy off the radar for a while, I felt compelled to write about it.

Bob Johnson said...

I read Judith's book, and you just don't get it. She has written a thoughtful account from all sides of the "issues." She in no way supports medication as a first resort. She makes it clear that the drug companies have created massive distrust with their unethical and biased drug testing. She praises CBT and talk therapy as necessary. She finds that many professionals really want to help parents and not just write 'scripts. Read her book first, then blog.

Andy Alt said...

Bob, why read a book if the reviews are inaccurate or don't make it enticing for a consumer to buy? According to the review,

"sallied forth to interview all the pushy parents, irresponsible doctors and over-medicated children she could find — and lo, she could barely find any."

She didn't look very hard or it's an outright lie.

From your statement, it sounds like the book might be worth reading, but the reviews make the book sound pretty one-sided.

Alison's questions were based on the statements made in usually reputable publications. She didn't claim to have to have read the book and then make a lot of inaccurate or false statements about it.

But Bob, you appear to be saying the book is pretty fair-and-balanced, so are you disagreeing with the description given in the reviews in the Times and Time Magazine?

Hubert Haley said...

Why, I wondered, did the Times choose that particular book to review so prominently in its science section; was it propecia because Warner has such a cozy relationship with the paper, having been a guest columnist for many years?

angelinamixe said...

And where the heck did she get the information that psychiatric drugs help change the cialis structure of the developing brain for the better? I'd like to see the evidence backing up that wild claim.