Eating Drugs: Psychopharmaceutical Pluralism in India by Stefan Ecks

By Stefan Ecks

A Hindu monk in Calcutta refuses to take his psychotropic drugs. His psychiatrist explains that simply as his physique wishes foodstuff, the medication are nutrients for his starved brain. Does it subject how—or whether—patients comprehend their pharmaceuticals?

Millions of individuals in India are many times prescribed temper medicinal drugs. Pharmaceutical businesses provide medical professionals powerful incentives to write down as many prescriptions as attainable, with as little awkward wondering from sufferers as attainable. with no sustained public debate on psychopharmaceuticals in India, sufferers stay questioned by means of the thought that medications can therapy disturbances of the brain. whereas biomedical psychopharmaceuticals are perceived with nice suspicion, many non-biomedical remedies are embraced.

Stefan Ecks illuminates how biomedical, Ayurvedic, and homeopathic remedies are utilized in India, and argues that pharmaceutical pluralism adjustments well known rules of what medications do. in keeping with a number of years of study on pharmaceutical markets, Ecks indicates how medical professionals hire quite a lot of suggestions to make sufferers take the treatments prescribed. but whereas metaphors reminiscent of "mind nutrients" may well reach getting sufferers to just accept the prescriptions, additionally they vague a severe knowledge of drug effects.

This infrequent ethnography of prescription drugs should be of key curiosity to these within the anthropology and sociology of drugs, pharmacology, psychological wellbeing and fitness, bioethics, worldwide healthiness, and South Asian experiences.

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What have, so far, been described as “syndromes” are not discrete disorders but “culturally prescribed modes of understanding and narrating health problems and broader personal and social concerns” (2007: 835). To speak of idioms of distress emphasizes the communicative dimension of suffering: what seems like an exotic complaint might simply be “a way to express dissatisfaction with living conditions, legitimate difficulties in performing social roles, and allow the individual to seek outside help” (2007: 835).

The mind’s fire that burns slowly like the dried shell of the coconut (moner agun dhiki-dhiki jvale) is a mind that smolders after an emotional insult. Moner agun can also express passionate feelings for another person. In contrast to the “belly’s fire,” which can easily be sated with a good meal, the “mind’s fire” is hard to extinguish. A Bengali saying identifies the body with the belly and holds that the body’s fire can be put out, but the mind’s fire cannot (sharirer agun nibhana yay, kintu moner agun yayna).

Hot conditions usually have a “drying” effect, cold conditions a Popular Practice >> 35 “moisturizing” effect. Consider, for example, the health recommendations in a Bengali almanac (panjika) for the month of vaishak (April– May; Skt. vaishakha), one of the hottest of the year: In this month the sun will be very hot. For this reason, the land and the ponds will be very dry, people will suffer from a lack of water and from the reduction of fat. Because of the reduction of fat, the animals will get tired and weak.

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