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Eating Drugs

Eating Drugs: Psychopharmaceutical Pluralism in India

Stefan Ecks
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 233
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  • Book Info
    Eating Drugs
    Book Description:

    A Hindu monk in Calcutta refuses to take his psychotropic medications. His psychiatrist explains that just as his body needs food, the drugs are nutrition for his starved mind. Does it matter how - or whether - patients understand their prescribed drugs?Millions of people in India are routinely prescribed mood medications. Pharmaceutical companies give doctors strong incentives to write as manyprescriptionsas possible, with as little awkward questioning from patients as possible. Without a sustained public debate on psychopharmaceuticals in India, patients remain puzzled by the notion that drugscancure disturbances of the mind. While biomedical psychopharmaceuticals are perceived with great suspicion, many non-biomedical treatments are embraced.Stefan Ecks illuminates how biomedical, Ayurvedic, and homeopathic treatments are used in India, and argues that pharmaceutical pluralism changes popular ideas of what drugs do. Based on several years of research on pharmaceutical markets, Ecks shows how doctors employ a wide range of strategies to make patients take the remedies prescribed. Yet while metaphors such as "mind food" may succeed in getting patients to accept the prescriptions, they also obscure a critical awareness of drug effects.This rare ethnography of pharmaceuticals will be of key interest to those in the anthropology and sociology of medicine, pharmacology, mental health, bioethics, global health, and South Asian studies.Stefan Ecks is Director of the Medical Anthropology Program and Senior Lecturer in Social Anthropology at the University of Edinburgh.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-6030-7
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Introduction: “Mind Food”
    (pp. 1-20)

    The first time I heard psychopharmaceuticals described as “mind food” was during a psychiatric ward round in Calcutta. Dr. Roy, one of the city’s most illustrious psychiatrists, invited me to join him at the Advaitananda Seva Prathishthan, a general hospital run by a Hindu philanthropic organization. Located in a busy part of south-central Calcutta, the Advaitananda Hospital attracts patients from all over the metropolitan area. Founded in the first years after Indian Independence, the hospital caters primarily to low-income patients, but richer people also come because of the good reputation of its staff. As in most charitable hospitals in India,...

  5. 1 Popular Practice: The Belly and the “Bad Mind”
    (pp. 21-68)

    The first principle of Bengali body concepts is that the belly is the somatic center of good health. The basic Bengali term for belly ispet, which signifies “stomach,” “belly,” and, in women, also “womb.” Bengali has terms for the various organs that are contained in the belly, such asyakrit(“liver”),pliha(“pancreas/spleen”), orantra(“intestines”), butpetis most encompassing and most widely used. The belly is so vital for health because it is like a kitchen where food is cooked and refined.Pakasthali, the “place of cooking,” is a Sanskrit word for “the belly.”Thalihere stands...

  6. 2 Ayurveda: “You Are the Medicine”
    (pp. 69-106)

    Dr. Sengupta and I first met at his house on the southern outskirts of Calcutta. He was seventy-five years old at the time. We sat cross-legged on the veranda. His wife served tea and traditional Bengali sweets. Dr. Sengupta always preferred to speak in Bengali, as this allowed him, he explained, to speak in more precise terms. He practiced Ayurveda in the third generation, following the tradition of his father and grandfather: “From small I saw how they were being made at home. My father never bought anything from outside, he used to make his own medicines by hand. I...

  7. 3 Homeopathy: Immaterial Medicines
    (pp. 107-148)

    In Calcutta, as in most of northern India, homeopathy is the second most popular system of medicine after allopathy. Among homeopaths, Calcutta is known as the “world capital of homeopathy.” The first homeopathic college in Asia was the Calcutta Homoeopathic Medical College, which opened in 1881. The National Institute of Homeopathy was established in 1975 to rival the flagship national institutes of other medical systems that had been set up in other Indian cities. Founded in Calcutta, the Homoeopathic Medical Association of India (HMAI) is probably the world’s largest homeopathic professional association. There were more than eight thousand registered homeopaths...

  8. 4 Psychiatry: Medicating Modern Moods
    (pp. 149-186)

    Psychopharmaceuticals have been generically produced by Indian companies for decades. Between 1972 and 2005, India’s laws only covered the mechanical processes of drug manufacturing, but not the active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs). In practice, this meant that any molecule, even if protected by patents in the originating countries, could be reverse-engineered and generically produced in India. Over the past decades, this patent regime allowed the Indian pharmaceutical industry to become the world’s leading producer of generic medications (Chaudhuri 2005). Indian companies have taken up psychopharmaceuticals as a major segment in both domestic and export markets. With India’s full accession to Trade-Related...

  9. Conclusion
    (pp. 187-198)

    Mood medications are paradoxical things. More people are on these drugs now than ever before, but the disorders they are supposed to treat are also said to be increasing. Those who welcome the rise of psychotropics praise their efficacy and safety. Others say they are no better than placebos and allege that they only benefit pharmaceutical corporations. Subjective experiences of them are ambiguous. To some, it feels as if the drugs are giving them their lives back. Others find that getting a psychiatric prescription labels them as “mad” and alienates them from friends and family. Instead of solving problems, taking...

    (pp. 199-202)
    (pp. 203-216)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 217-222)
    (pp. 223-223)