Allen Frances, MD

Allen Frances, MD

Dr Frances was the chair of the DSM-IV Task Force and of the department of psychiatry at Duke University School of Medicine, Durham, NC. He is currently Professor Emeritus at Duke.  

He is author of Saving Normal: An Insider's Revolt Against Out-of-Control Psychiatric Diagnosis, DSM-5, Big Pharma, and the Medicalization of Ordinary Life (New York: William Morrow; 2013) and Essentials of Psychiatric Diagnosis (New York: Guilford Press; 2013).


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In just 20 years, rates of ADHD have tripled and autism and childhood bipolar disorder have increased forty fold. The last thing our kids need is to be misdiagnosed with “Sluggish Cognitive Tempo” and bathed in even more stimulant meds. More in this opinion piece.

Firearms are the means of death in thousands of suicides and homicides every year. There is no denying that free access and wide availability has made gun death a major threat to our public health. More in this commentary.

Mental health professionals can predict high-risk groups but can’t pick out who will go on a rampage. Murder is too much of a-needle in-the-haystack rare event to ever be reliably prevented with psychiatric tools. More in this commentary.

ADHD has more than tripled in just 20 years—it is now diagnosed in 11% of all kids and in an astounding 20% of teenage boys. More in this commentary.

What harms are there in labelling (or rather often mislabelling) more than a quarter of our troops as mentally ill? The harms are numerous and potentially quite dangerous. . .

According to the author, stimulant drugs that 20 years ago had annual revenues in the tens of millions now are a Pharma "cash cow" with sales that will soon hit $10 billion per year. How did this happen?

"Psychosis Risk" can now be diagnosed as “Attenuated Psychosis Syndrome” and used to bill for insurance reimbursement. Many bearing the diagnostic label are young adolescents and adults in whom schizophrenia or any other psychotic disorder will never develop.

Sexual abuse is shockingly common in the US prison system. It has been reported that about 200,000 prisoners are victims of coercive sex each year. Most of those abused are psychiatric patients misplaced in prison.

Psychiatrists have patients who need help and we have the tools to help them. Some of these tools are technical and specific (meds; CBT); but even these work best only in the context of a rich therapeutic relationship that is based on all that makes us human.

Ideology is much less important than common sense solutions. The mentally ill have many unmet needs and suffer from great and undeserved coercion.


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