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Book Forum: Psychopharmacology   |    
Drug Effects on Psychomotor Performance
ROBERT CANCRO, M.D.
Am J Psychiatry 2002;159:168-168. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.159.1.168
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New York, N.Y.

By Randall C. Baselt, Ph.D. Foster City, Calif., Biomedical Publications, 2001, 475 pp., $109.00.

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There are some books that, by their genetic code, are meant to sit on a shelf and be referred to on occasion rather than read. This volume is a quintessential example of that category. Nevertheless, such infrequently used volumes can be exceptionally useful.

In this age of spurious litigation, when every possible person is held responsible for a negative outcome except the individual who is truly responsible, it is wise for the psychiatrist to have information readily available. Courts have held pharmaceutical companies liable for the homicidal acts of patients receiving selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. The psychiatrists who prescribe such medications can be held legally responsible as well. This modification of the Twinkie defense (i.e., "The Zoloft made me do it") is upon us.

The intent of this volume is to list alphabetically a broad variety of available psychoactive drugs, both legal and illegal. The CNS effects of each drug are described, with a particular focus on effects on psychomotor performance. Other side effects are also described, such as agitation, insomnia, and anxiety. A list of published articles supporting the findings described is included. It would have been of greater benefit to the clinician if the author had included more data on variables other than psychomotor performance.

One can quickly learn the number and nature of the psychometric studies that have been performed on these compounds. The greatest immediate value of these data is to assist the practitioner in evaluating the potential motoric effects of a particular drug on driving, operating dangerous equipment, etc. From the parochial perspective of the psychiatrist, it would be valuable to have a few citations on aggressive behavior. Parenthetically, it is fascinating that the courts recognize the unpredictability of future violent behavior, except in the case of prescription drugs, where the evidence in support of their role is trivial.

In summary, this volume is easy to use and has useful information. Access to it, if not possession, will be of value to clinicians.

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