David Cohen is Professor of Social Welfare and Associate Dean of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. Dr. Cohen’s research looks at psychoactive drugs (prescribed, licit, and illicit) and their desirable and undesirable effects as socio-cultural phenomena “constructed” through language, policy, attitudes, and social interactions. He also documents treatment-induced harms (iatrogenesis), and pursues international comparative research on mental health trends, especially involving alternatives to coercion. Public and private institutions in the U.S., Canada, and France have funded him to conduct clinical-neuropsychological studies, qualitative investigations, and epidemiological surveys of patients, professionals, and the general population. He is also interested in international comparative research on mental health trends, as well as efforts to implement non-coercive mental health practices.
In his clinical work for over two decades, Dr. Cohen has developed person-centered methods to withdraw from psychiatric drugs and given workshops on this topic around the world. He designed and launched the free CriticalThinkRx web-based Critical Curriculum on Psychotropic Medication for child welfare professionals in 2009, since taken by thousands of practitioners and updated in 2018. Tested in a 16-month longitudinal controlled study, CriticalThinkRx was shown to reduce psychiatric prescribing to children in foster care.
Dr. Cohen has authored or co-authored over 120 articles and book chapters. His co-authored and edited books include Challenging the Therapeutic State: Critical Perspectives on Psychiatry and the Mental Health System (1990), Médicalisation et contrôle social (1994), Guide critique des médicaments de l'âme (1995), Your Drug May Be Your Problem: How and Why to Stop Taking Psychiatric Medications (with Peter R. Breggin, M.D.; 1999/2007), Critical New Perspectives on ADHD (2006), and Mad Science: Psychiatric Coercion, Diagnosis, and Drugs (2013). His research experience spans large-scale surveys and meta-analyses to in-depth qualitative inquiries, with more than 20 externally-funded projects as principal or co-principal investigator.
Prior to joining UCLA in 2013, Profgessor Cohen taught at Université de Montréal and Florida International University. In Montreal, he directed the Health & Prevention Social Research Group, and at FIU, he served as Director of the PhD Program and Interim Director of School of Social Work. He held the Fulbright-Tocqueville Chair to France in 2012. He received the Eliott Freidson Award for Outstanding Publication in Medical Sociology, the Times Educational Supplement Prize for Best Academic Book, and numerous other awards for research, teaching, mentoring, and advocacy. His views have been published in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Seattle Times, the Toronto Globe & Mail and other popular media, and debated on NPR's Science Friday.