Junk Medicine, reviewed by Roswyn Hakesley-Brown
"This polemical text exposes what the author sees as the wilful misconceptions, lies and evasions of the past 200 years with regard to heroin addiction. Psychiatrist Theodore Dalrymple challenges the received view that opium addiction is an illness with a medically defined solution. While there is some acknowledgement in the text of the existence of physiological dependency, this is seen largely as a pseudo-scientific justification for any intervention. Paradoxically, the author uses a similar strategy in his approach to an analysis of opiate addiction.
In his work as an NHS psychiatrist, Dr Dalrymple claims to have met many clients who were addicted, but he fails to back this up with data on levels of addiction in specific populations - in his case prison inmates - despite referring to 'the figures'. However, what this text lacks in evidential rigour it makes up for in the creative integration of current medical orthodoxy with the insights of romantic poets such as Coleridge on the enhanced efficacy of opiates on the literary muse.
All healthcare professionals need to engage in practive thinking when providing care. This engaging book will help them do just that."