Article by Ariel Gershon published in History of Psychiatry

Congratulations to Ariel Gershon, Meds2019 for his "How Amytal Changed Psychopharmacy: Off-Label Uses of Sodium Amytal (1920-40)" article published in the History of Psychiatry (2019).

Ariel's research was supported by an AMS Hannah Summer Studentship, under U of T's Hannah Professor Edward Shorter, and was one of several medical history projects undertaken by Ariel during this four years at Schulich Medicine.

Ariel Gershon and Edward Shorter, "How amytal changed psychopharmacy: off-label uses of sodium amytal (1920-40)," History of Psychiatry 2019 May 30:957154X19847605. doi: 10.1177/0957154X19847605. [Epub ahead of print]

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.