Ridiculously Simple series of textbooks is well known to medical students for
providing concise, humorous summaries of the massive quantities of information
that doctors-in-training are expected to memorize. A highlight of many books in the series is the extensive use of
outlandish mnemonic devices to help students retain vast amounts of rather boring
medical minutiae. So it was with considerable
anticipation that this reviewer opened the 4th edition of Clinical
Psychopharmacology Made Ridiculously Simple.
volume, a scant 74 pages long including appendices and index, is organized into
chapters covering major categories of mental illness, including depression,
bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, and miscellaneous
disorders (ADHD, borderline personality disorder, and others). Each chapter contains a brief description of
diagnostic categories and sub-categories, a list of medication treatment
options, a review of side effects, and some guidelines about treatment
sequence. Closing sections of the book contain illustrative case studies and a
symptom checklist. The intended target
audience is apparently internists and family practitioners, and the texts are
written in easily accessible and generally non-technical language. Major points are emphasized by repetition,
and most chapters include a set of talking points that should be conveyed to
patients confronting new psychiatric diagnoses.
So far, so good.
Unfortunately, the utility of the books format is not always matched by
the quality of information that it contains.
The depression chapter, for example, contains the erroneous statement
that premenstrual depression occurs before ovulation (in fact it occurs
afterward); the outdated statement that research supports the effectiveness of
St. Johns wort (a major study recently disputed that); and the controversial
statement that after one antidepressant fails, doctors should switch medication
classes (many experts advocate trying at least two medicines in the SSRI
class). Perhaps most damaging, and
potentially dangerous, are the omissions of medical warnings associated with
some psychiatric medications. For
example, no mention is made of the need to monitor of heart rhythm when
prescribing tricyclic antidepressants such as desipramine or antipsychotic
medications such as thioridazine and ziprasidone. To be fair, the rate of change in psychiatric prescribing
guidelines is very rapid, and it is difficult for textbooks to remain
current. But in a book aimed at primary
care providers, with limited time and access to psychiatric research, the need
to present up-to-date recommendations is all the more pressing.
many of the errors in this book are the result of a lack of recent
revision. According to the title page,
the books copyright has been renewed nearly every year since 1990; however,
the text does not appear to have been updated substantially since then. Hopefully, the authors and editors will
correct the errors and anachronisms in an extensively revised fifth
edition. Until then, this book cannot
be recommended with confidence. The
interested reader is referred instead to the concise, pocket-sized Handbook
of Psychiatric Drugs by Albers et al.
© 2002 Michael Brodsky
Review slightly revised 11/26/2002
Brodsky is a psychiatrist in training in Los Angeles, California, and an avid
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