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Blue Dreams
Cover of Blue Dreams
Blue Dreams
The Science and the Story of the Drugs that Changed Our Minds

"Capacious and rigorous . . . Blue Dreams, like all good histories of medicine, reveals healing to be art as much as science." —Parul Sehgal, New York Times


"Terrific." —Michael Pollan


"Ambitious...Slater's depictions of madness are terrifying and fascinating." —USA Today


"A vivid and thought-provoking synthesis." —Harper's


A groundbreaking and revelatory history of psychotropic drugs, from "a thoroughly exhilarating and entertaining writer" (Washington Post)
.
Although one in five Americans now takes at least one psychotropic drug, the fact remains that nearly seventy years after doctors first began prescribing them, not even their creators understand exactly how or why these drugs work—or don't work—on what ails our brains. Blue Dreams offers the explosive story of the discovery and development of psychiatric medications, as well as the science and the people behind their invention, told by a riveting writer and psychologist who shares her own experience with the highs and lows of psychiatric drugs.


Lauren Slater's revelatory account charts psychiatry's journey from its earliest drugs, Thorazine and lithium, up through Prozac and other major antidepressants of the present. Blue Dreams also chronicles experimental treatments involving Ecstasy, magic mushrooms, the most cutting-edge memory drugs, placebos, and even neural implants. In her thorough analysis of each treatment, Slater asks three fundamental questions: how was the drug born, how does it work (or fail to work), and what does it reveal about the ailments it is meant to treat?


Fearlessly weaving her own intimate experiences into comprehensive and wide-ranging research, Slater narrates a personal history of psychiatry itself. In the process, her powerful and groundbreaking exploration casts modern psychiatry's ubiquitous wonder drugs in a new light, revealing their ability to heal us or hurt us, and proving an indispensable resource not only for those with a psychotropic prescription but for anyone who hopes to understand the limits of what we know about the human brain and the possibilities for future treatments.

"Capacious and rigorous . . . Blue Dreams, like all good histories of medicine, reveals healing to be art as much as science." —Parul Sehgal, New York Times


"Terrific." —Michael Pollan


"Ambitious...Slater's depictions of madness are terrifying and fascinating." —USA Today


"A vivid and thought-provoking synthesis." —Harper's


A groundbreaking and revelatory history of psychotropic drugs, from "a thoroughly exhilarating and entertaining writer" (Washington Post)
.
Although one in five Americans now takes at least one psychotropic drug, the fact remains that nearly seventy years after doctors first began prescribing them, not even their creators understand exactly how or why these drugs work—or don't work—on what ails our brains. Blue Dreams offers the explosive story of the discovery and development of psychiatric medications, as well as the science and the people behind their invention, told by a riveting writer and psychologist who shares her own experience with the highs and lows of psychiatric drugs.


Lauren Slater's revelatory account charts psychiatry's journey from its earliest drugs, Thorazine and lithium, up through Prozac and other major antidepressants of the present. Blue Dreams also chronicles experimental treatments involving Ecstasy, magic mushrooms, the most cutting-edge memory drugs, placebos, and even neural implants. In her thorough analysis of each treatment, Slater asks three fundamental questions: how was the drug born, how does it work (or fail to work), and what does it reveal about the ailments it is meant to treat?


Fearlessly weaving her own intimate experiences into comprehensive and wide-ranging research, Slater narrates a personal history of psychiatry itself. In the process, her powerful and groundbreaking exploration casts modern psychiatry's ubiquitous wonder drugs in a new light, revealing their ability to heal us or hurt us, and proving an indispensable resource not only for those with a psychotropic prescription but for anyone who hopes to understand the limits of what we know about the human brain and the possibilities for future treatments.

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About the Author-
  • Lauren Slater is the author of Welcome to My Country, Prozac Diary, Lying: A Metaphorical Memoir, and Opening Skinner's Box, among other books. She has received numerous awards, including a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, and a Knight Science Journalism Fellowship at MIT. Opening Skinner's Box was nominated for best science writing by the Los Angeles Times, and her work has been reprinted numerous times in The Best American Essays. She lives on a farm in Fitchburg, Massachusetts.
Reviews-
  • Library Journal

    October 1, 2017

    Who better than the author of Prozac Diary to offer a thoroughgoing history of psychotropic drugs? Science writer Slater tracks back nearly 70 years to Thorazine and lithium, then moves through Prozac and antidepressants to Ecstasy and the new memory drugs, discussing their discovery, their use, and everything we don't know about how they work and indeed how our brains function. With a 100,000-copy first printing.

    Copyright 2017 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    January 15, 2018
    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.

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    Little, Brown and Company
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The Science and the Story of the Drugs that Changed Our Minds
Lauren Slater
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