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The experimental generation December 5, 2005

Posted by Matt Hurst in Uncategorized.
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We all laugh at drug advertisements on television and in magazines. It’s a regular punchline in most stand-up comedians’ repetoir that they never actually tell you what their drug is for half the time. Rather we see how the drug brings vague happiness to people’s lives, whether its the full night’s sleep with a sleeping pill or the intimate freedom of herpes medication. Sometimes we have a good chuckle at all the side effects the drug might have if we took it. And we still buy these new trademarked and advertised name-brand drugs over their cheap generics, because we’ll follow on the prompt to ask our doctor about it.
The advertisements force us to act hypochondriacly by considering a condition we might not have at all. True, underdiagnosis persists in many fields, but mental health is the exception today. Why can’t we be like those happy people in the ads, besides the anamorphic blob that found happiness in Zoloft?
In 1954 the amphetimine Methylphenidate was introduced as a supplemental drug in the treatment of depression, chronic fatige, and narcolepsy. In the 1960s this stimulant began to be used to treat children suffering from minimal brain dysfunction. By the 1990s, the drug known more widely as Ritalin, began widespread use in the treatment of MBD which had been re-labeled Attention Deficit, Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), after some effort to begin better diagnosis. The condition, for which this presciption in itself is condsidered the cure for, is usually diagnosed in children (and now Adults) between the ages of 3 and 7. Boys are more than 4 times as likely to be diagnosed as ADHD than girls.
ADHD is a condition that effects focus of attention and is charecterised by an overactive personality. The cure for it, Ritalin, is thought to released the chemical dophamine to help the person become more sated. More often than not the diagnosis is made in classrooms the children attend, as a means of dealing with “problem” children that require much more energy to keep up with and keep them focused.
Our generation became the first widespread experiment in drug use to control mental health. We still don’t know the long-term effects of Ritalin, but it is fair to speculate that as an amphetamine we can expect a persistant dosage over a period of years could lead permenant neurological damage in the dopaminergic systems of the brain. That’s the part of the brain that produces pleasurable sensations, the kind that anti-depresents are supposed to treat. As the brain builds up tolerance for Ritalin, we can expect that it will produce less and less of its own dophamine as it begins to rely on the Ritalin to produce it.

At such a young age we have begun to explore the idea that a person can be made more perfect. Their personality, which does not fit into the median behavior for children, causes a difficult situation with an easy way to control it – Ritilan. Granted, ADHD is a legitimate condition that can create problems for the child’s development, but more often than not we see any flaw in personality as something to change. Changing a developing child’s brain is something we still don’t understand (even in adult brains), but we suspect that Ritalin is safe and easy. And there’s always the possibility that ADHD is a geneticly advantageous trait. Until then, we seek to perfect behavior pharmacutically.

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1. nilsinedeo - December 5, 2005

People would also rather just take a pill than admit that they need therapy. Right now, ritalin is the best way to help children diagnosed with ADHD; behavior mod therapy does not work as well. It’s overdiagnosed in boys, yes, and ADD is underdiagnosed in girls.

The advertisements force us to act hypochondriacly by considering a condition we might not have at all.
They don’t tell us the condition to counteract that. If they give you no condition to fret about, you can’t really fret about it, now can you? 😛

[T]here’s always the possibility that ADHD is a geneticly advantageous trait.
When the individual is older, sure. You’d have to be in a career where you have to pay attention to details and move quickly from one job to the next for it to be a real advantage though.
For children, ADD and ADHD hinders their development. They aren’t able to concentrate on school work (or anything they aren’t interested in), and don’t interact as well with other children because of it. I don’t know how that would be an advantage.
I had a boyfriend in high school who had ADHD, and was fucking nutters when he wasn’t on his meds. I didn’t even want to be around him. It was like he was a completely different person – he was an egotistical asshole that would drive you up a wall. On his meds, he was a lot more relaxed and a hell of a lot less annoying.
Now think about how ADHD would effect a child’s relationships. Children can be mean, and typically do not want to be around hyper asshole kids. Not giving them the option of taking Ritalin is like forcing them to suffer with something they can’t help.
I also know a lot of parents take their kids to the doctor for Ritalin, and then take it themselves. I know one personally. That may also account for kids being overdiagnosed, but I’m not sure how much.

There are plenty of mental disorders that have to be medicated or the individual is unable to function. I wouldn’t jump to say that we are striving to be perfect by medicating ourselves. A large percentage of the hospital beds in psych wards are taken by schizophrenics, who have to be medicated. No amount of therapy can help them.
Mood disorders? Mostly medicated, depression is meds+ therapy. Anxiety disorders? Meds + therapy. Personality disorder(s)? I would probably go with therapy for most, and therapy + meds for some (although one of my psych teachers said they were untreatable in most cases). Cognitive disorders? Medicated, except amnesia-type disorders which only require therapy. Psychotic disorders? Medicated. Saying that we all seek to perfect behavior pharmacutically is just… blah. It’s wrong. People that don’t need medication are only put on it because either their psychiatrist has mis/overdiagnosed them (they spend between 10 and 30 minutes per patient, per diagnosis) or the person is a minor, and their parent demanded they be medicated (I know parents like this, too). (Demanding to be medically treated for few/fake/no symptoms is another disorder altogether).

Anyway, the whole point of this post is that writing off the medication of mental disorders is as wrong as saying the only way to treat them is with medication. Psychology is not black/white like that.

Damnit, I told myself and you that I wasn’t going to argue in your journal but you’ve pissed off my inner child psychologist. I couldn’t help it.


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