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The Social Construction of the Chemical Imbalance Theory: Part I

The chemical imbalance theory was introduced in the mid-20th century. Various scientific findings brought this about, including: the potential of chlorpromazine to treat psychosis; monoamines acting as neurotransmitters in the CNS; and an understanding of how monoamines operate in the brain, such as their synthesis, storage, release, and activation. These discoveries also brought about the emergence of the discipline of psychopharmacology and the practice of treating mental disorders by means of prescribed medication (France et al. 411).

The first antidepressant drugs of the modern era, iproniazid and imipramine, were introduced in the 1950s. Originally, such drugs were used to treat tuberculosis, but when it was discovered that some tubercular patients had elevated moods upon using this medication, iproniazid and imipramine were tested on psychiatric patients both in and outside the United States. It remained a popular treatment for depression for many years until concerning potential side effects had surfaced (France et al. 411-412). This scenario shows science as a rather messy practice. It was clearly not the original intention of the doctors to use these drugs to treat depression, but rather, it was an opportunity they stumbled upon through a more calculated treatment of a different illness.


Works Cited:
France, Christopher M. et al. “The 'chemical imbalance' explanation for depression: Origins, lay    endorsement, and clinical implications.Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, vol. 38, no. 4, 2007, pp. 411-420. DOI: 10.1037/0735-7028.38.4.411.

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