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International Conference to address over-use of Psychiatric Drugs

Global leaders in psychiatry will gather at the University of Roehampton for a one-day conference to discuss the potentially harmful role that psychiatric drugs are playing in the profession.

Posted: 18 September 2015

image for news story International Conference to address over-use of Psychiatric Drugs
Dr James Davies will be addressing the international conference "More Harm than Good: Confronting the Psychiatric Medication Epidemic" held at Roehampton.

The sold-out international conference will welcome around 300 academics, journalists and medical professionals from universities such as Harvard, Copenhagen and King’s College London to debate the issue, which many believe needs more exposure amongst policymakers and practitioners.

The conference will be introduced by Dr James Davies, a Reader in Social Anthropology and Psychotherapy at Roehampton, who co-founded the Council for Evidence-based Psychiatry (CEP) which is hosting the event on Friday 18 September. Dr Davies will also address the conference on the origins of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which is the basis of the psychiatric profession, and, some think, a cause of the over-prescribing of drugs, due to its influence in ‘medicalising’ emotions and problems.

In 2013 Dr Davies released his widely-praised book Cracked: Why Psychiatry is Doing More Harm Than Good from which the conference takes its name. The book analyses the effect of psychiatric medications, and questions the science on which these are prescribed. Often, he argues, the evidence doesn’t show an improvement for the patient: indeed the drugs can even have a negative impact.

The conference is a joint event between the Research Centre for Therapeutic Education and Centre for Research in Evolutionary and Environmental Anthropology. It will be addressed by Professor Peter Gøtzsche, of the University of Copenhagen, and co-founder of the Cochrane Collaboration. He will explore why more patients are harmed than are helped by the medication, using his recently published work in which he has estimated that psychiatric drugs are the third leading cause of death after heart disease and cancer. Other speakers include Prof John Abraham, of King’s College London, explaining the role of pharmaceutical regulation; Dr Peter Breggin, a Harvard-trained psychiatrist, who will discuss the alternative – ‘How to practice psychiatry without drugs’; and finally the Pulitzer Prize finalist, Robert Whitaker, who will focus on the causes of over-prescription. The conference will finish with a panel discussion on “The Prescription for Change” within the profession, chaired by the incoming president of the British Psychological Society, Professor Peter Kinderman.

Dr Davies, speaking in the lead up to the conference, said “if enough people speak up, and speak up loudly enough, then change will be a possibility”. The conference will aim to provide those present with the ideas and networks to continue the work of changing psychiatry for the better.

Watch the conference live here.

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