cover image Blue Dreams: The Science and the Story of the Drugs That Changed Our Minds

Blue Dreams: The Science and the Story of the Drugs That Changed Our Minds

Lauren Slater. Little, Brown, $28 (416p) ISBN 978-0-316-37064-6

Psychologist Slater (Playing House) runs through the checkered history of psychopharmacology and mental illness treatments while sharing her own battle with depression and medication in this ambitious work. Slater begins with psychiatry’s first blockbuster drug, Thorazine, which was developed in the early 1950s and seemed to free patients “locked inside psychotic states.” She moves on to discuss the clinical and financial successes of lithium, tricyclic antidepressants, and Prozac and other selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Slater also relates her own experience with an extensive list of prescriptions and their physical toll on her health, wondering whether she’d have been better off without them: “For thirty-five years, then, I have been trying to soothe my brain with psychiatry’s medicines, but I cannot confidently claim that I am better because of it.” She even questions whether “the pill to cure depression was in fact causing it,” noting the skyrocketing rate of diagnoses since the introduction of antidepressants. In Slater’s view, psychedelics will lead to “our next golden era of psychopharmacology,” along with neural implants that provide a “malleable and reversible form of psychosurgery.” Slater offers many insights here, and her moving personal story truly illuminates the triumphs and shortcomings of psychotropic drugs. Agent: Dorian Karchmar, WME. (Feb.)