Article ID: CBB367985449

How amytal changed psychopharmacy: off-label uses of sodium amytal (1920–40) (2019)


In the early 1930s, American neurologist and psychiatrist William Bleckwenn used sodium amytal to render catatonic patients responsive, so that he could engage in talk therapy. Bleckwenn found a new, ‘off-label’ use for this anaesthetic and anxiolytic medication in psychiatry and, in doing so, allowed for important discoveries in the diagnosis and treatment of catatonia. Pharmacological textbooks reveal a ‘label’, while the Index-Catalogue of the Library of the Surgeon-General’s Office reveals explorations ‘off label’ of barbiturates. The ‘off-label’ use of barbiturates facilitated talk therapy, heralding an important shift in psychopharmacy. Drugs previously only used as chemical restraints became a form of treatment for specific psychiatric diseases. The current strictures against off-label prescribing are overprescriptive and close off innovative new uses.

Citation URI

Similar Citations

Thesis Metzl, Jonathan Michel; (2001)
The Freud of Prozac: Tracing psychotropic medications through American culture, 1955-2001 (/isis/citation/CBB001562624/)

Book Healy, David; (2002)
The Creation of Psychopharmacology (/isis/citation/CBB000201849/)

Article Mat Savelli; Erika Dyck; (2019)
Psychoactivity for Sale (/isis/citation/CBB818756451/)

Book Dyck, Erika; (2008)
Psychedelic Psychiatry: LSD from Clinic to Campus (/isis/citation/CBB000850398/)

Book Herzberg, David; (2009)
Happy Pills in America: From Miltown to Prozac (/isis/citation/CBB000951092/)

Book Campbell, Nancy D.; (2007)
Discovering Addiction: The Science and Politics of Substance Abuse Research (/isis/citation/CBB000930475/)

Book Lucas Richert; (2019)
Break On Through: Radical Psychiatry and the American Counterculture (/isis/citation/CBB588038334/)

Article Baumeister, Alan A.; Hawkins, Mike F.; Lopez-Munoz, Francisco; (2010)
Toward Standardized Usage of the Word Serendipity in the Historiography of Psychopharmacology (/isis/citation/CBB001034930/)

Essay Review Berridge, Virginia; (2001)
Illicit drugs and internationalism: The forgotten dimension (/isis/citation/CBB000101405/)

Article Kruse, Paul R.; (2010)
The Danish Pharmaceutical Industry: Preconditions and Establishment (/isis/citation/CBB001000204/)

Book Spillane, Joseph F.; (2000)
Cocaine: From Medical Marvel to Modern Menace in the United States, 1884-1920 (/isis/citation/CBB000111222/)

Article Maria Luisa Valacchi; Davide Orsini; Francesca Vannozzi; (2019)
Solo "roba da matti"? Le sostanze di origine minerale della Farmacia del Manicomio di Siena (/isis/citation/CBB203353902/)

Article Shehata, Diane Mulvey; (2010)
A History of the Women's Professional Pharmacy Fraternities, 1913--1988 (/isis/citation/CBB001000206/)

Thesis Lauren N. Haslem; (2017)
"Too Hot to Handle": LSD, Medical Activism, and the Spring Grove Studies (/isis/citation/CBB533172000/)

Authors & Contributors
Dyck, Erika
Valacchi, Maria Luisa
Haslem, Lauren N.
Orsini, Davide
Vannozzi, Francesca
Spillane, Joseph F.
Pharmacy in History
History of Psychiatry
Atti e Memorie, Rivista di Storia della Farmacia
Medizinhistorisches Journal
Medical History
Journal of the History of the Neurosciences
Johns Hopkins University Press
Yale University Press
University of Michigan Press
The MIT Press
Harvard University Press
Purdue University (Lafayette, Indiana)
Psychotropic drugs
Narcotics and drugs
Beddoes, Thomas
Time Periods
20th century, late
20th century
20th century, early
19th century
21st century
18th century
United States
East Germany
Purdue University (Lafayette, Indiana)

Be the first to comment!

{{ comment.created_by.username }} on {{ comment.created_on | date:'medium' }}

Log in or register to comment