TAP 204 - Robert Whitaker on The Facts And Myths About Antidepressants


This week we chat with Robert Whitaker about the myths and science behind psychiatric drugs. Robert is the author of five books. In 2010, his Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness won the U.S. Investigative Reporters and Editors book award for best investigative journalism. Prior to writing books, he worked as a science reporter at the Albany Times Union newspaper in New York for a number of years. He is the founder of madinamerica.com, a website that features research news and blogs by an international group of writers interested in “rethinking psychiatry.”

Robert Whitaker’s work:




In this episode you will learn:

  • How did Robert get into writing about psychiatric medicine (4:00)
  • The impetus for antipsychotic drugs (7:14)
  • The idea of the Magic Bullet (10:42)
  • What would happen if we actually had a miracle pill for anxiety? (13:27)
  • Human resilience (18:00)
  • Ticking that “I’m not going to die” box (18:40)
  • The myth of the Chemical Imbalance (21:40)
  • Why are we still promoting these drugs? (22:38)
  • What happens to your body when taking anti-depressants (23:51)
  • Can people benefit from anti-psychotic drugs? (26:14)
  • How people compare themselves pre and post anti-depressants (30:00)
  • The impact of the DSM3 (34:12) 
  • Quaker Principles (42:00)
  • The Rosenhan Experiment (45:00)
  • The dangers or misdiagnosis and asylum treatment (49:00)
  • How did the DSM3 change today’s current therapeutic business model (51:45)
  • Is the problem getting worse? (56:00)
  • Changes to the model around the world (1:00:00)
  • What are the next steps to change the model (1:02:55)



“It causes a chemical lobotomy” (8:46)

“We were clearly made to be emotional beings.” (15:35)

“It seems like you are trying to do something that’s not really possible - to fix your life with a pill" (16:37)

“When we start to rely on a pill all the time, we are forgetting that humans grow up and they become resilient.” (18:09)

“If you follow the scientific trail as opposed to the marketing trail for the drug, the failure to confirm the hypothesis happens right away.” (20:45)

“The American Psychiatric Association in concert with the drug industry basically promoted to us a false story.” (22:00)

“They did not find that people with depression had low serotonin levels before they went on anti-depressants. They found that when you go on an anti-depressant it drives your body into a sub-serotonergic state. You end up with the very thing hypothesized to cause depression in the first place." (23:51)

"I don’t know any other area of medicine where you can say ‘you have this problem’ when you don’t have it.” (26:00)

“Every day you are taking a pill that says you are not quite right. That’s a horrible internal message.” (33:58)

“By adopting the disease model, psychiatry gets to present itself as doctors of the brain.” (39:38)

“There is no good alternative to [drugs] that has replaced that narrative in mainstream medicine.” (57:34)

“People are hungry for a difference.” (1:02:33)



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