Continuity and discontinuity in the historical development of modern psychopharmacology

Alan A. Baumeister, Department of Psychology, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA 70803, USA.
Mike F. Hawkins


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.