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Book Excerpt Questions Value of Anti-Depressants

Photo by ProjectManhattan, via Wikimedia Commons

Editor's Note:

Also in the news: Predictions for 2018 from 1968, and a stirring defense of Fahrenheit 451. It’s your Daily Blunt!

“Is everything you think you know about depression wrong?” asks Johann Hari in an excerpt from his book Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression – and the Unexpected Solutions, reprinted in The Guardian. Hari’s work examines the way certain mental illnesses are popularly understood and treated as a “chemical imbalance,” despite the fact that to this day, very little is understood about how the medications we treat them with actually work. In a followup Q&A, Hari discusses his own mental health history, and confronts the details in his past that led to his forfeiting the Orwell prize in 2011.

In the same paper, author William Leith expounds on a popular form of self-medication: drinking, which he has managed to walk away from — but not entirely. “I’d stop, and I’d be sober for 120 days,” he writes. “Being sober felt great. So why did I always go back to drinking?” Exploring the effects of alcohol on the brain, and tying in what we know about patterns of addiction, Leith paints a picture of alcoholism that extends far beyond his own (kicked) habits.

The 1968 book Toward the Year 2018 fantasized about a world where technology might have eliminated most of mankind’s problems — and invented many new ones to contend with as well. While most of the book’s theories still remain solidly in the realm of science-fiction, The New Yorker notes one particular prediction which seems disturbingly prescient in retrospect: “‘Large-scale climate modification will be effected inadvertently’ from rising levels of carbon dioxide,” their article recaps. “Such global warming…might require the creation of an international climate body with ‘policing powers.'” The author added that he believed this process should be “as nonpolitical as possible.”

David Williams is uniquely qualified to extol the virtues of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451: when the classic was challenged by parents in Santa Rosa County who deemed it unsuitable reading material for their children, Williams’ book When the English Fell was proposed as a replacement. Writing for LitHub, he explains why it remains important to challenge kids with books like Fahrenheit: “They are vital specifically because they are not written for young readers. Instead, they prepare a young person for adulthood a nation that requires both our critical attention and our hopeful imagination.” Ultimately, the school board in Santa Rosa agreed with him, and restored Bradbury to his proper place in classrooms.