BPS History of the Psychological Disciplines Seminar Series

The British Psychological Society History of Psychology Centre in conjunction with UCL’s Centre for the History of the Psychological Disciplines

Organiser: Professor Sonu Shamdasani (UCL)

Speaker: Dr Joanna Montcrieff (UCL)

Title: Magic bullets for mental disorders: the evolution of ideas about the nature of drug treatment for schizophrenia


When ‘antipsychotic’ drugs were introduced into psychiatry in the 1950s, they were thought to work by inducing a state of neurological suppression, which reduced behavioural disturbance, as well as psychotic symptoms. This view was reflected in the name ‘neuroleptic’. Within a few years, however, the idea that the drugs were a disease-specific treatment for schizophrenia or psychosis, and that they worked by modifying the underlying pathology of the condition, replaced this earlier view, and they became known as ‘antipsychotics’. This transformation of views about the drugs’ mode of action occurred with little debate or empirical evaluation in the psychiatric literature and obscured earlier evidence about the nature of these drugs. Drug advertisements in the British Journal of Psychiatry reflect the same changes, although the non disease-specific view persisted for longer. It is suggested that professional interests helped to facilitate the transformation of views about the nature of these drugs.

Time: 6pm

Location: UCL Department of Clinical, Educational and Health Psychology, Room 544,* 5th Floor, 1-19 Torrington Place, London WC1E 7HJ

3 thoughts on “BPS History of the Psychological Disciplines Seminar Series

    1. Bakso says:

      reasonsformoving: Well I think the problems with DSM stem from a mix of both – the scicene just isn’t there to support most of the new changes (and indeed many of the old disorders either) and yet the committee has decided to press ahead with them anyway, in many cases for clearly “strategic” reasons i.e. they’ve all but admitted that they’re adding “TDDD” mainly to stop kids getting diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder.But my point in this post is that whatever the details of debates, the way they’re happening out in the open (and that respected people like Spitzer are being openly critical) means that DSM-V is not going to be taken seriously when it arrives…

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