Continuity and discontinuity in the historical development of modern psychopharmacology

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In the middle of the twentieth century psychiatry underwent a transition that is often referred to as the "psychopharmacology revolution." Implicit in the term revolution is the idea that a paradigm shift occurred. Specifically, it has been argued that psychiatry abandoned the psychoanalytic paradigm in favor of a qualitatively distinct conceptual system based on brain chemistry. The validity of this view requires that psychoanalysis had the status of a paradigm. This paper presents evidence that psychoanalysis did not constitute a paradigm and that the advent of psychopharmacology was not, technically, a scientific revolution. Instead, the rise of modern psychopharmacology was the culmination of a linear growth of biological knowledge that began to develop in the nineteenth century.

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Journal of the history of the neurosciences

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