Summary and Analysis

Psychiatrist Dr. Thomas Insel headed the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) for more than a decade. The mission of NIMH is to “conduct and support research that seeks to understand, treat, and prevent mental illness.” In that addiction is categorized by the medical profession as a mental disorder, placing it under the mainstream mental health umbrella, Dr. Insel’s general insights into the efficacy of popular medical and neurological views on mental illness are important to CSDAP and many others involved in addiction recovery.

In a new book by Dr. Insel, referred to by some as “America’s Psychiatrist,” he makes the startling statement that advances in neuroscience have yet to benefit patients.

Numerous reviews of the book have already appeared. An article published by Mad in America interprets Insel’s book as making a case for abolishing psychiatry. The article notes:

While the public may understand that it is possible for a medical specialty to embrace practices that, at some point in the future, will be found to be harmful, and to do so in good faith, there is the expectation that a medical specialty will be an honest purveyor of scientific findings about the risks and benefits of a medical intervention, and that if its research tells of treatment that is worsening long-term outcomes, then the medical specialty will inform the public of those outcomes and rethink its practices.

According to their analysis, psychiatry has thus far failed to fulfill that pact.

Excerpted from New York Times

A new book by Dr. Thomas P. Insel, who for 13 years ran the United States’ foremost mental health research institution, begins with a sort of confession. During his tenure as the “nation’s psychiatrist,” he helped allocate $20 billion in federal funds and sharply shifted the focus of the National Institute of Mental Health away from behavioral research and toward neuroscience and genetics.

Dr. Insel, 70, who left N.I.M.H. in 2015, calls the advances in neuroscience of the last 20 years “spectacular” — but in the very first pages of his new book, he says that, for the most part, they haven’t yet benefited patients.