In 382 pages, the authors describe the effects and side effects of hundreds of the psychiatric medications currently in use in the USA. There are ten chapters; chapters 2-7 are devoted to different categories of mental disorder - antidepressants, anti-anxiety, mood stabilizers, insomnia, anti-psychotic, and attention deficit. Each of these chapters starts with several pages of explanation of the mental illness, the typical symptoms and the available treatments. The first chapter gives a short account of the importance and role of psychiatric medications, while the last three chapters are on cognitive-enhancement, herbal and "natural" medications, and finally special considerations for women, children, and seniors. In the middle of the book are four pages of color pictures of many pills. There are 14 pages of glossary, 8 pages of organizational resources (including some web site address), and 12 pages of index at the end. Each drug is listed under its generic name, and then the following information is given:
- Available in generic form (yes/no)
- Brand name
- Scientific drug class
- Conditions the drug is prescribed for
- General information
- Dosing information
- Common side effects
- Whether the drug is safe when combined with alcohol
- Food and beverage restrictions
- Possible drug interactions
- Use in pregnancy and breast-feeding
- Use in children
- Use in seniors
- Special considerations
The writing is clear and helpful. For example, the authors mention when a drug originally designated for one disorder becomes used for other disorders. For example, Zoloft was first used for depression, but now is used for many disorders including obsessive compulsive disorder and borderline personality disorder.
Why would you want to use this book when you can simply go to the world wide web and look up information? For instance, Rxlist will give detailed information for most psychiatric and other medications, and there are many similar sources of information, such as Yahoo's massive list of medications. I compared the information available in the book about Zoloft with the information available in several web sites. With the web, I found several dead links, several sites of highly technical information that was hard to understand, some sites with very basic information, and no site with as comprehensive information as that given in the Hales' book.
Nevertheless, very few of us take more than two or three prescription drugs for mental disorders each year, so most people would only need read a small number of entries for themselves. Furthermore, the information in this book is probably already a little out-of-date, given the number of new medications and all the new research that is being done. I suspect that books like this get used most when talking to friends and family members. For example, several years ago a number of my friends started on a number of medications and I happened to have a copy of The PDR Family Guide to Prescription Drugs. There were countless times when they would call up and say their doctors had prescribed some new drug and they wanted to know what it did. Books like this are especially useful when psychiatrists are evasive, hurried, unhelpful, or even incompetent, and patients need more information to work out why they have been prescribed a medication and what to expect from it.
I was disappointed with the chapters on cognitive enhancement (only two medications listed) and natural/herbal medicines (only seven listed). Given the strong public interest in these areas, the authors should devote more pages to those chapters. However, The Mind/Mood Pill Book is a very useful guide to prescription medication for mental disorders.
© 2001 Christian Perring. First Serial Rights.
Ph.D., is Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College,
Long Island. He is editor of Metapsychology Online Review.
His main research is on philosophical issues in psychiatry.
He is especially interested in exploring how philosophers can
play a greater role in public life. He is available to give talks
on many philosophical or controversial issues in mental health.