September 1, 2001 10:13 AM   Subscribe

Prozac seems to be societies new legal LSD. In the 60's acid could cure anything. If you were feeling down, tune in turn on and drop out and everything will be good. Timothy Leary was a huge part of this whole "acid culture", but as Hunter S. Thompson so eloquently put it "He crashed around America selling consciousness expansion, without ever giving a thought to the grim meat-hook realities that were lying in wait for all those people that took him seriously." In the end the acid culture failed, but we have yet to learn the lesson that everything can not be cured with a magic pill or some powder, you can't just add some water and cure societies problems like making instant soup. Could this belief in drugs that Tim Leary promoted during the 60's have lead to the overmedication of children today? Those old acid heads that have since become working stiffs that have kids still believe in the back of their minds in "better living through chemicals" and allow doctors to over prescribe their kids chemicals such as Prozac and Ritalin. Do you think that there could be a connection between this overmedication and school violence?
posted by bytecode (60 comments total)
Sorry for the long front page post, but I've got a lot of free time on my hands now that I'm working tech support.
posted by bytecode at 10:14 AM on September 1, 2001

School violence is down over the last ten years, you know.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 10:23 AM on September 1, 2001

This topic (over-drugging) seems to pop up here a lot... Or maybe I'm just sensitive to it.

I think the general consensus is that, yeah, not all these kids need to be drugged up. Some do, some don't.

But I think drawing a connection to school violence is reaching a little too far. Haven't we blamed *everything* for school violence, by now? "News Flash! Wearing clothes causes school violence!"

Personally, I think that if people actually understand that people don't all have to be the same, things would be better in general. In this case, people see a kid who behaves different from the accepted norm: Drug 'em! But that has little to do with school violence.
posted by whatnotever at 10:28 AM on September 1, 2001

Kids are still killing kids in school
posted by bytecode at 10:28 AM on September 1, 2001

Sure, but fewer of them are doing so now than ten years ago. A lot fewer of them.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 10:28 AM on September 1, 2001

really? I actually didn't realize that. Do you have a link with statistics? Not that I don't believe you, I just would like to see the statistics.
posted by bytecode at 10:31 AM on September 1, 2001

School violence is down over the last ten years, you know.

But media coverage of school violence is up.

Back in my early-80s-post-LSD-pre-Prozac-pre-24hournews high school and middle shool career, we had plenty of school violence. In Jr. High a kid brought a gun in, shot up two or three bullies, then offed himself in front of his science class. In high school some whacko redneck dressed up like a Ninja and whupped the tar out of the Vice Principal with a pair of nunchuks, causing him to lose an eye and get blood all over the place. Neither of these incidents raised any more interest than a mention in the local paper. Neither got blamed on video games or rock music either. And there was not a single candlelight vigil... can you believe it?

And yes, at a small town Southern high school, "whupped the tar out of..." is the proper term for what happened. :)
posted by spilon at 10:36 AM on September 1, 2001

I'm not quite ready to blame antidepressants for really errant behavior like gun-slinging, but I know first hand that you use psycotropics to treat what, in our culture is more likely to be a blood sugar, rather than neurochemical, related mood problem, you get wound up real tight.
I, a distinctly non-violent person, punched a big ugly crack in my poor car's dashboard before it dawned on me that maybe my parents and I were being made patsies by our friendly neighborhood doctor.
I'm sure I'm not the only one.
posted by dong_resin at 10:36 AM on September 1, 2001

I can't speak to the larger societal issue, I can only tell you my direct experience. My 8 year old son is autistic, diagnosed as such when he was 14 months old. He didn't sleep for more than three hours at a stretch until he was well over a year old, and even by the time he was six he still regularly had sleeping problems. Aside from that, he had almost no verbal vocabulary and communicated primarily through sign language. For years we tried every non-medication thing we could, because we wanted to help our son and not just medicate him into a more manageable state. Finally two years ago after much debate, we decided to try Prozac. It took about two months to get the dosage level figured out, but his sleep patterns corrected themselves immediately thereafter. (Bear in mind that he gets his Prozac first thing in the morning with his juice, so it is not a sedative effect that is causing this.) He became much more focused, and much more "there". Anyone who has dealt with autistic children will know what I mean. In addition, his verbal skills took off at the same time.

My point is that Prozac, although very likely over-prescribed in general, really was a "magic pill" for my son. It is also a very small piece of the puzzle, combined with speech and physical therapy and some wonderful teachers at school. Maybe my son is the exception to the rule, but somehow I don't think he is quite as big an exception as you may think.
posted by Lokheed at 10:38 AM on September 1, 2001

Sure prozac has its uses, and works well when used correctly as it did for your son Lokheed. But I still believe that it is highly overperscribed to people who don't need it.
posted by bytecode at 10:43 AM on September 1, 2001

School violence myths
posted by owillis at 10:46 AM on September 1, 2001

Considering our fast paced society, its no wonder kids are suffering anxiety at unprecedented rates. Anxiety and depression usually go hand in hand. As for the Prozac & Ritalin, the drugs really can help some people, for others it is detrimental. Psychopharmacology is truly experimental. And for the Dr's who prescribe medication like aspirin, shame on them. Most of them have never taken the medications themselves, they just let their patients be the guinea pigs. Psyco drugs are addicting, have withdrawal effects as well as side effects, just like street drugs do. And for those that don't think so....spend a few days at the ward of your choice and see how bad it can really be.
Like it or not, we created this society. The disgusting part is that our own precious children are paying the price for our mistakes.
posted by redhead at 11:00 AM on September 1, 2001

even if prozac is overprescribed, it doesn't necessarily do anything bad. if you're generally happy, prozac will not make you manic. and do i think prozac has anything to do with school violence? sure: it would probably help lower the numbers even more. as for ritalin, i cannot say.
posted by moz at 11:03 AM on September 1, 2001

Studying Prozac in psychology class, the overall tone was that Prozac works some of the time, but it's really just a temporary fix with some dangerous side effects. It goes to the part of the brain that's deficient, say, the part that's making you depressed or violent, and switches it around. Once you stop taking the pill, most kids go back. And every few kids come down with the violent side effects. I remember one story of a girl who hit her mother in the head with a croquet mallet after being put on prozac.

It may work for some people, but it's not the wonder drug that every problem kid should be on, which is what too many make it out to be.
posted by tomorama at 11:13 AM on September 1, 2001

Prozac is also good for PMS

It's like a wonder drug!
posted by crunchburger at 11:13 AM on September 1, 2001

People need to understand that this is not aspirin they are taking. Prozac and the other SSRI antidepressants are indeed lifesaving medications for those that need them-but do people realize that if they have an undiagnosed case of bipolar disorder, an antidepressant all by itself can do more harm than good? It scares me how many people get a prescription from a GP and go on their merry way.....Bipolar is not easy to diagnose, and you can bet your sweet bippy most GP's won't really be looking for it in the first place.

If you are depressed, please, I beg you, see a mental health specialist-preferably a psychiatrist if medicine is part of the solution for you!
posted by bunnyfire at 11:24 AM on September 1, 2001

hold on, a redneck dressed like a NINJA? that's freakin' ridiculous.
posted by lotsofno at 11:40 AM on September 1, 2001

Am I missing something? How is this post relevant to the content & purpose of MeFi? The information contained within the links that you posted is fairly common and readily available. Not only is this controversy old news, but your post offers no new information or perspectives that would otherwise be overlooked by the people in the MeFi community.

It seems like you just formulated a statement of opinion and tracked down a few links to throw in. If you want to go off on a rant, there are plenty of online outlets that are based on pure discussion or debate. I may be a new member, but this post strikes me as an abuse of the outlet that MeFi provides, going against the principles and standards of the community.
posted by hipstertrash at 11:40 AM on September 1, 2001

hipstertrash: perhaps MetaTalk would be more appropriate?
posted by lia at 11:45 AM on September 1, 2001

hipstertrash: I, for one, thought a pretty good conversation came out of the post.
posted by tomorama at 12:02 PM on September 1, 2001

It seems most of this thread is accepting the hackneyed and sweeping generalization that anti-depressants are a modern convenience to escape experience of the normal downs of life. While it is perfectly fair to point out that pill-pushing can be one of our culture's modern medical failings when it comes to the treatment of almost any malady (from heartburn to hypertension to the common cold), it is important to note that anti-depressants are just another drug that can be mis-prescribed. To imply that depression is a trumped up version of the blues instead of a documented illness, and to compare its treatment to use of a recreational drug is ignorant and reckless. Further, to imply that those who legitimately benefit from psychiatric drugs (children and adults alike) have pulled the wool over their own eyes, is insulting.

Your source, by the way, is alarming as a reference for impartial thought, and is a dubious one at best.
posted by katexmcfly at 12:05 PM on September 1, 2001

lia- point taken. I'll probably head over there and say something. But I still feel that it is appropriate to make the point in this thread as well, to ensure that bytecode actually saw the comment.

I'll admit that it didn't occur to me to go over to MetaTalk first. I acted rashly because this post really irritated me. I don't expect to log onto MetaFilter and get assaulted with an off the cuff diatribe about drugs and society without even having something new to offer. Judging by the links, this post was appropos of nothing but the author's desire to vent. If I wanted to wade through the gripes and prejudices of everyone and their dog, I'd be on another site.

In terms of content offered for discussion here are:

A) The author's opinion; and
B) Well tread arguments and information familiar to anyone who hasn't been living under a rock.

I'm all for debate, but give me something other than "drugs are bad" to work with. Otherwise, its a waste of time.

(Maybe I'm overreacting. I'm on stimulants for ADD, from time to time they make me a bit edgy)
posted by hipstertrash at 12:05 PM on September 1, 2001

As I recall the Tim Leary suggestion was to drop acid etc and DROP OUT. The meds given kids today, for better or worse, are to make them more compliant within the system.
posted by Postroad at 12:19 PM on September 1, 2001

Man. I'm on Adderall for ADD and I just woke up from a nap. Dexedrine made me a little edgy when I took it, but none of the stimulants have much of a stimulant effect on me.

(blinking) (padding away sleepily in search of PET scans of ADD brains)
posted by swerve at 12:20 PM on September 1, 2001

Here is a link to the metatalk thread about this post.

Is it right though Postroad to give kids medication to make them do what we want (fit better into the system).
posted by bytecode at 12:39 PM on September 1, 2001

Bytecode: I was diagnosed when I was 24. I deeply, sincerely wish that I had been diagnosed and treated when I was still a kid, treated with both medication and appropriate cognitive-behavioral therapy. I wanted to "fit better into the system." I just couldn't.
posted by swerve at 12:52 PM on September 1, 2001

I'm sorry if I offended you swerve, I meant it in a completely different sense. If there is actually a problem, and one that Prozac can solve then fine, that's great. If you've found your solution, more power to you. I just meant that we shouldn't be giving normal kids medication to make them more manageable by the system.
posted by bytecode at 12:59 PM on September 1, 2001

Bytecode: no, I wasn't offended at all. Just wanted to add some thoughts from the perspective of someone who has benefited from taking meds.
posted by swerve at 1:50 PM on September 1, 2001

Unlike many others who create change by encouraging society to do things, Timothy Leary practiced what he preached and lived his life doing what he thought was right - his motives were not profit; although its fair to say he did profit from his career it wasn't the a driving force in the changes he left as his legacy. He seemed to be a rather altruistic soul. Whatever anyones opinion of him is, they must respect him for that - even if it's that alone that they respect.
posted by Kino at 3:31 PM on September 1, 2001

Kino: I agree completely, I think he was a great guy and I think he was doing what he thought was right. Alter I posted I thought that it sounded awful anti-leary , which I very much am not. He thought that acid would lead people somewhere, somewhere good. But it just happened that he was wrong. Acid is great and can show you great things, but it isn't the solution he thought it was. I'm now going to post Hunter S Thompsons full quote which was too long to go on the front page. I think it describes well what happened.
"We are all wired into a survival trip now. No more of the speed that fueled the sixties. Uppers are going out of style. This was the fatal flaw in Tim Leary’s trip. He crashed around America selling “consciousness expansion” without ever giving a thought to the grim meat-hook realities that were lying in wait for all the people who took him too seriously. After West Point and the priesthood, LSD must have seemed entirely logical to him...but there is not much satisfaction in knowing that he blew it very badly for himself, because he took too many others down with him. Not that they didn’t deserve it: No doubt They all Got What Was Coming To Them. All those pathetically eager acid freaks who thought they could buy Peace and Understanding for three bucks a hit. But their loss and failure is ours too. What Leary took down with him was the central illusion of a whole life-style that he helped to create ... a generation of permanent cripples, failed seekers, who never understood the essential old-mystic fallacy of the Acid Culture: the desperate assumption that somebody—or at least some force —is tending that Light at the end of the tunnel."
posted by bytecode at 3:58 PM on September 1, 2001

Having once dropped acid years ago, it is my considered opinion that Timothy Leary was a fool.
posted by bunnyfire at 4:05 PM on September 1, 2001

Here's a quote on the topic,

"Imagine a society that subjects people to conditions that make them terribly unhappy, then gives them the drugs to take away their unhappiness. Science fiction? It is already happening...In effect, antidepressants area a means of modifing a persons internal state in such a way as to enable him to tolerate social conditions that he would otherwise find intolerable."

...from the Unabomber. Of course he has a point, if you hate your job and the stress is making you depressed, popping a pill that makes you happy about your job isn't a good idea. But many many people will say antidepressants saved their life at some point. Like all things it's nuanced and a matter of finding balance, which our culture is not good at.
posted by chrismc at 6:36 PM on September 1, 2001

Bytecode: The reason I posted was because you made a sweeping generalization instead of talking in specifics. I have no doubt that Prozac and other similar drugs are over-prescribed, just not to the degree you seem to believe. Case in point: the rate of autism ten years ago was 1 in 1000 births, whereas the rate today is 1 in 500 births. This is not a case of previously undiagnosed cases being caught, or one of over-diagnosis. Neurodevelopmental disorders bear striking similarities to mercury poisoning. The prevailing thought among researches now is that there are probably a handful of genetic markers that make a person prone to a neurodevelopmental disorder, and then there is some sort of environmental trigger. In other words, something has worked its way into our food supply, or perhaps elsewhere into the environment, that is triggering more cases. The fact is, ADD and ADHD are both very real neurological disorders that can be helped dramatically with the right medication. More kids are getting the medication, because more kids have been poisoned by whatever chemicals, preservatives, additives, and pesticides our society has pumped into the environment.
posted by Lokheed at 7:45 PM on September 1, 2001

I have an eight year old, diagnosed initially with PTSD and an anxiety disorder with alteration of mood and behavior. I would recommend, to all who would like an opinion (at least an experienced opinion, and those of you who have experience with mental health, I am not talking to you), to mentor a child, specifically one with learning disabilities or other mental health problems. The truth is that these medications are not necessarily being over-prescribed, just that the problem was under diagnosed and misunderstood. Do you remember the trouble-maker in your class, the kid who didn't seem to give a darn what the teacher thought or wanted, and laughed at the piddley little consequences the school, by law, is allowed to use? That is my son. He is in the hospital right now, and they are thinking that it may be bi-polar (which is rarely diagnosed as the cause in children so young, but actually makes some sense because the anti-depressants were not helping). My son wants to be good, he wants to comply, but he has a CHEMICAL problem that is (causing? I don't know, and I can't pretend to understand why a chemical problem in the brain causes bad behavior) but the truth is that the medication is helping him manage the behavior while a therapist helps him learn to control his impulses. We spent two years thinking that he just didn't want to do his work, that he was being lazy in class and tried everything to get out of it (and I mean everything), and denying the possibility is probably why he is in a mental hospital tonight. Don't judge psychiatric drugs, (doctors are not perfect, they are trying to understand and help), try to understand why they may be necessary.

That is all.
posted by Uncle Joe's Brother at 8:14 PM on September 1, 2001

bunnyfire, with due respect, the treatment for bipolar with a predominant depression component and periods of sub-manic behavior IS an anti-depressant. Admittedly, Prozac and other SSRIs aren't usually used for this, instead it's Tricyclic Antidepressants (much nastier drugs), but not every bipolar ends up on lithium or valproic acid.
posted by shagoth at 8:17 PM on September 1, 2001

'Having once dropped acid years ago, it is my considered opinion that Timothy Leary was a fool

Bunnyfire: Is that to state that you judge a mans life and character on the basis of you having had one bad-trip? If you would have chomped another the next day and enjoyed it ecstatically would he then be a genius? If you happened to not like broccoli, and you found out after me giving you your first taste, would i too be a fool? Or if i treated you to one of my special, irresistible culinary delights would you love me forever? Oh well, a guy can dream..

I like to think the positives of Leary's life outweigh the negatives. A reckless leader doesn't tirelessly encourage his followers to 'think for yourselves and question authority' at every opportunity - Leary did. It was much of what he was about. He just also happened to believe that LSD was a tool that could allow people to do it more effectively, a way for them to rewire their newly opened minds, reclaim their destiny and throw off the inescapable shackles of sociological programming they'd been subjected to growing up in 50's + 60's America. Shackles that many academics thought would eventually lead to turmoil. Those were his beliefs and he acted on them. To have not acted on them would have branded him a fool, amongst other things. LSD can be liberating and useful - it just turns out that perhaps it isn't for everybody.

Human nature is basically flawed isn't it, it's filled with a host of selfish traits and a range of inherencies that were essential for us to evolve this far. Some of those traits have grown to be counter-productive in our current evolutionary period. In Learys day there was a very real danger of that leading us into global destruction. There was a lot wrong with how society and its leaders were acting and to take risks and experiment with things that *could* have shuffled the cards a bit was a noble thing for someone with a conscience to do, in fact - it was the only thing for someone with a conscience to do. Timothy Leary did it.

'Alter I posted I thought that it sounded awful anti-leary , which I very much am not.'

Bytecode: It was the idea of Leary being featured in what became a predominantly anti-drugs thread that fueled my comment. Thought i'd offer some balance in defence of his name for whoever was looking in. Good to see you think he was a decent chap too.

Re. the Hunter S. Thompson quote: I think it was easy for critics to paint him as being a tragic figure who was to blame for leading the youth into a failed dream. Such provocational iconoclasm being the fuel of Thompsons brilliant writing career. Leary would have been such a tempting grain for a writer rub against; his actions and beliefs being so controversial. But, as we all know, the blame truly lies with the people who cashed in on the new windows of opportunity - chancers who filled the power void and sustained the leash on mankinds intellectual freedom and its distribution of entertainment, information and art. Chancers disguised as leaders. Chancers who wore the right haircut only to get out the scissors and iron a suit once they had the ability to infiltrate institutions (or create them) clutching the bargaining tools they now had to offer to demand themselves some riches. Pied-pipers with poisoned melodies. A lesser Leary would have done the same. This one didn't. People like Leary encouraged society to throw off the chains and progressively search for a new tomorrow, whatever that new dawn may have brought (and he did it right to the end with his 'design for dying' book). They never gave up that search in favour of opportunity and greed. Such people can't be blamed for mankind not arriving at the wonderful new tomorrows they encouraged society to seek - but to be fair - that part wasn't really their job. And whose to say them tomorrows wont yet be upon us?
posted by Kino at 8:53 PM on September 1, 2001

OK, here's the thing . . . I've probably had more experience with the mentally ill and the mental health system in the US than a first year psych resident. In my family alone, we have: schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, ADHD, severe panic disorder, clinical depression (above and beyond the "i'm unhappy" prozac stereotypes). i've seen much of the same among close friends. from this comes countless drugs, hospitalization, psychotic episodes, suicide attempts, insurance companies, medicare, more doctors than you can shake a stick at. this just covers the chemical side, as i've also seen severe psychological problems stemming from physical and emotional abuse in childhood and adulthood, massively dysfunctional families/relationships, etc.

I've seen overmedication, undermedication, irresponsible prescription in lieu of (costly and uninsured) psychological treatment, people turning to legitimate and illegitimate drugs for solutions to all of life's problems. modern mental health is a horrible tangle of miracles and horrors.

For the skeptics, I could recount my experiences and get them in touch with others who have lived it. I could provide heaps of scientific information on the biological aspects of mental illness. I could spell out the ways in which the insurance industry has left the mental health community with few viable options but drugs, by refusing to cover long term, non chemical treatments under many plans.

But it doesn't fucking matter, and it would be a waste of my time. because as we've seen here, the skeptics are not interested in the hard facts. they will bring in everyone from leary to the unabomber to gun toting high schoolers to exploit mental illness for their own ends. whether its "drugging our children!" or "social control through prozac!" or "violent, dangerous crazy people!," the stigmas surrounding mental illness are perfect fodder for every social agenda. Becuase that is what a vast majority of mental health debates are about: advancing some social agenda, be it family values or the war on drugs or conspiracies or religion or back-to-nature anti-science, whatever. The mentally ill are largely defenseless: often poor, many have been ostracized or abandoned by family and community. Often, these people have enough trouble surviving day to day, much less fight back. mental illness is not pretty or sympathetic, you won't see a telethon for schizo-effective disorder anytime soon. the blatant or underlying message is that because prozac and ritalin are abused in this society, the legitimacy of mental illness as a whole is dubious. funny, i don't see people questioning the use of morphine for cancer patients because there are junkies in the world.

as much as it hurts me, i've learned that those who come ou with their guns blazing, with scare tactics and hyperbolic social commentary, there is no point. They don't know the facts and they don't want to know, because misinformation and prejudice are essential to their pretty little constructs. And besides, all mentally ill people are either weak, or self-obsessed, or faking it, or drug addicts, or deluded, or dangerous and criminally insane, so its not as if the distortion and propaganda are hurting REAL people, right?
posted by hipstertrash at 9:38 PM on September 1, 2001

Thanks for the post, hipstertrash.
posted by Uncle Joe's Brother at 9:44 PM on September 1, 2001

Why don't you do those things hipstertrash instead of just bitching and moaning and saying that I use scare tactics and hyperbolic social commentary. Where did I do either. SHOW ME HIPSTERTRASH, SHOW ME THE WAY. Why don't you inform us and try and teach us, throw me a link or two maybe. I don't question morphine because I don't think its over-prescribed. Besides I'm not saying anything about people with a real mental illness, as I've stated before in this very thread, I'm talking about the medicating of children that don't have a problem!
I'm sorry but I really feel that your post was a personal dig against me.
posted by bytecode at 12:15 AM on September 2, 2001

Having taken a lot of acid when a hip young thing I must agree with bunnyfire.

never trust a hippie
posted by fullerine at 3:12 AM on September 2, 2001

Having taken plenty myself in my acid-tinged youth, and still being a 'hip young thing' all these years later, i have to conclude that my own personal acid experiences are no bases for me to make sweeping, generalizing comments on Timothy Learys work or 'fool levels'. His thoughts and ideas, his integrity, what he did or didn't add to the world with influence from his originality, his motives for trying, and his brilliant scientific, sociological, psychological, philosophical, independent, charismatic, literary mind are what should be considered. How he lived his life for others. How he made such an effort to further our development as a species and discover ways forward for us, and how he encouraged others to do the same. I don't defend him in the name of drugs, i don't write this to subliminally state that 'drugs are good', i defend him in respect of his name. My own thoughts on drug use in general, especially prescribed, haven't entered the discussion.

never trust anyone who groups a diverse bunch of people together into one caste and dismisses them. even if some of them do smell, and ewwwwwwerghghgh.. have tatty hair.
posted by Kino at 6:06 AM on September 2, 2001

Uncle Joe's Brother: Must be tough for you at the moment. Apologies for following your post with a big one on a side topic earlier. Your situation obviously takes priority over discussions of some guy whose dead and gone. Best of luck to you, your wife and your little boy. (i think the 'naughty kids' often turn out the best. I would say that though - i was one myself).
posted by Kino at 6:21 AM on September 2, 2001

posted by Kino at 6:24 AM on September 2, 2001

Number 0ne: Who said i didn't enjoy the "trip" at the time?

Number two:

Actually that is exactly what I am presently being treated for-they thought I was unipolar at first. They don't JUST leave you on an antidepressant-they add a mood stabilizer or something that acts as one.

But my point is that I went to a real psychiatrist who knew how to monitor me. What if I had gone to a gp who threw a Prozac prescription at me and left it at that?

It is not as simple as the drug companies would like to make it.
posted by bunnyfire at 7:12 AM on September 2, 2001

The above would make so much sense if the cut and paste had worked the way it was supposed to....see Shagoth's post if you are confused.
posted by bunnyfire at 7:14 AM on September 2, 2001

a few examples of hyperbolic/ reactionary thought in this thread:

you can't just add some water and cure societies problems like making instant soup

Those old acid heads that have since become working stiffs that have kids still believe in the back of their minds in "better living through chemicals" and allow doctors to over prescribe their kids chemicals such as Prozac and Ritalin.

Sure prozac has its uses, and works well when used correctly as it did for your son Lokheed. But I still believe that it is highly overperscribed to people who don't need it.

(In what other area of medical science is this kind of attitude ever prominent . . . its as if the 'legitimate' cases are seen as the exception, rather than the rule?)

- chrismc's Unabomber quote

. . . it wasn't meant to be a personal dig at you, bytecode, rather a comment on the mindset evident in the things that you (and others here) have said. And as katexmcfly noted, your source does not exactly inspire confidence that the real issues behind mental illness were present in your thinking when you wrote this post. And I agree with kate's comment that "To imply that depression is a trumped up version of the blues instead of a documented illness, and to compare its treatment to use of a recreational drug is ignorant and reckless." That being said, I don't see you or anyone here as malicious or intentionally manipulating the issues for your own purposes. Rather, the overall tone (not just yours) of the posters whose opinions are sympathetic to the original comments and source material is just symptomatic of the ways in which mental illness is demonized and manipulated in the discourse of social issues. Whatever the intentions, these attitudes do contribute to the marginalization of mental illness in this society. and no, I don't see much in your comments or the comments of others here that makes me think that an educational crusade would be fruitful. I don't know any of you as individuals, this is just judging from the opinions and general tone.
posted by hipstertrash at 8:31 AM on September 2, 2001

About 10 years ago I suffered from major psychosis. Eventually I was given very strong medications which brought this nightmare to an end. In such a circumstance, these drugs are truly a miracle. But they are a miracle with a price, for the cure is almost as debilitating as the disease. I was also a teacher, and was horrified by the ease with which some teachers would recommend drug therapy for students who were mildly disruptive. I believe it totally inappropriate for drug therapy to be used as a mechanism for classroom control. Much of the time, all these little children need is a little tolerance, and time to grow. If drug therapy is used indiscriminately, what it does is cheat the children of the time and experience they need to develop self-control.
posted by phewbertie at 9:30 AM on September 2, 2001

phewbertie, the last time I checked teachers could not prescribe medication. They might recommend that a parent take their child to a doctor and *ask* about medication, but it takes a trained and licensed medical professional to actually prescribe it. Are there bad doctors out there who will do that just because mom and dad ask them to? You becha, just like there are bad and incompetent people in every field (even *gasp* teachers!). It's the 15% rule in action.

bytecode, just how much direct personal experience do you have dealing with children who have neurodevelopmental disorders? My guess is zero. Tell you what, why don't you go out and adopt a kid? Get one who looks absolutely normal, but doesn't behave normally. Enjoy taking him with you to the grocery store, spending 75% of your time telling him to stay next to the cart and chasing after him when he doesn't. Enjoy the glares of the other patrons, who think you are a bad parent who can't control their child. Enjoy taking him to the playground and being scolded by a sweet little old lady for using a raised voice with your child (HINT: kids whose brains aren't wired normally don't generally respond to direction given in a normal tone of voice).

The fact is that you, and people like you, don't think morphine is overprescribed because when you look at the person getting it there is no doubt in your mind that they are sick. Neurodevelopmental disorders are every bit as real as cancer, and require medical treatment. As with anything else related to health there are steps before medication that have a huge positive impact (diet, exercise, the general living environment), but you wouldn't dream of telling a cancer patient to just eat right and get some exercise and then expect the cancer to go away. At some point in many cases medication is simply necessary, and until the root cause is discovered and removed from the environment you are going to continue to see more children being "overprescribed" medication. Because they need it.
posted by Lokheed at 10:54 AM on September 2, 2001

Every parent who does have a legitimately diagnosed and treated child does not have to believe they are included in broad statements about societal trends that enable inattentive parenting.

I realize that is a fairly convoluted sentence, but I think everyone knows that the art of medicine can literally be a lifesaver for one group and that it can also lead to disasterous results for a second. That recognizing the second group doesn't mean those who are part of the first group are tarred by that recognition. Those who have been harmed or seen the harm done are not trying to eclipse those who have been helped. Members of both groups are entitled to be heard.
posted by Sqwerty at 11:37 AM on September 2, 2001

That's what we call in England "swings and roundabouts" Sqwerty.. "one mans meat is another mans poison" etc, etc. It's always nice to see it pop up. It's recognition that there's often many answers to a problem, and many problems within a problem, and sometimes even more problems emerge because those answers conflict with each other when applied across the board - when all the elements are wrongly taken as a whole. That's why it's often so hard to discuss important scenarios and trends that really need to be considered on a case-by-case basis. I think recognising the diversity and complexity of the problem/s and that care and attention needs to be paid to each instance of it is often the best that can be hoped for.

It's the 15% rule in action

Lokheed, is this the rule that 15% of everything is crap.. or good? I need to know which before i commit myself either way (commit.. haw haw.. geddit? oh ok).

Some good posting going on in here folks.. Carry on.. Don't mind me.
posted by Kino at 11:55 AM on September 2, 2001

Lokheed - While we're on the subject of things that people should try . . . how about watching your older brother cry and scream and punch holes in walls, then try to talk him down and convince him that there are not demons in every corner of the house? Watch his rage turn into frightened confusion when you tell him that no, you don't see them or hear them, that they aren't there. This is the kid who got hounded out of school at 16 for having an 'attitude problem.'

Or maybe watch one of your best friends, a gifted musical prodigy at one of the most respected conservatories in the world, in the hospital, unable to complete a sentence or even stay awake for too long. Seeing the mental deterioration caused by the drugs and electroshock that saved what was left of her sanity. Imagine trying to sit quietly and bite your tongue while her father berates her because she 'needs to get her shit together.' I imagine that her father would nod in agreement with much of what has been said here. Of course, he also has been known to throw things like telephones and stereos in her general direction.

Try spending three years struggling to do the only thing that has ever meant anything to you, writing in this case. Watch yourself self medicate, drinking pretty much every day, working at dead end jobs, blowing your paychecks on pot, coke, booze. Distracting yourself with hopeless, destructive relationships and casual (often dangerous) sex. Then bite the bullet and go to the doctor. You know that he isn't the most thorough or cautious doctor in the world, he's eager to send you off with a script for the drug of your choosing within five minutes of your first visit in five years. You pay for the visit and the drugs out of pocket because you can't bear to stay in the same job long enough to get insurance. Within months of being on the drug, you are writing again, drinking maybe once every two weeks and never outside of social situations, your moods are stablized. you are in a healthy and functional relationship, engaged even. Topping yourself, a daily thought for years, hasn't entered your mind in months. And then realize that the price for these developments is coping with the questions and self doubt raised by a society that says you are using a crutch, taking a pill to escape the normal difficulties of life, defiling your body and brain (and therefore compromising the words that come from that brain). That what you are doing is the moral equivalent of the booze and drugs and aimless fucking that you've left behind. On the other side, if you told any of your aquaintences, you know that you'd be looked down upon as a pill popping drone who is being zombified by The Man, compromising your art, because after all, Van gogh didn't go to a shrink, being crazy is sanctified in genius, that admitting to faulty neurological connections taints your creative endeavours. Leary and Thompson and Burroughs and Lester Bangs used drugs romantically, somehow their outlaw stances absolve them of similar accusations. You have seen first hand the lax attitudes in the medical system, know of the abuses and excess wrought by the bottom-line macinations of the drug & insurance companies, but as a young adult with a spotty record of chemical excess, you know that, in your case, these lax attitudes have been instrumental in your ability to obtain the Schedule II controlled substance (amphetamine) that has helped you turn your life around. Stuck between the things that you have seen and lived, critics of the Prozac Nation who are ill-informed but occasionally accurate, stereotypes prevalent in both the 'straight world' and the 'subculture,' you try to carve out a personal position on things that acknowledge the valid points made by the critics while still retaining some sense of self-worth, identity, justification. The blind self-affirmation of the happy drones and facile quasi-mysticism of drug gobbling youth are the only outside perspectives to which you can look to for support or understanding, but you're not buying what any of them are trying to sell you. You just want to take your pills and write and enjoy thoughts of a future with your fiancee and her joy of a six year old daughter, learn how to live without a malignant tumor of desperation in your gut. But life, experience, observation and contemplation confirm your instincts; in this life, in this society, with that bottle of pills on the shelf, it will never be that simple.

thank you, lokheed, for going out on a limb and sharing your story, and inadvertently lending me some courage anc conviction. even if i'm correct in thinking that all of the evidence in the world will not change most minds, you've reminded me that making the effort is the the right thing to do regardless.
posted by hipstertrash at 12:28 PM on September 2, 2001

You know what Hipstertrash, i suspect it's time for you to personally think "fuck 'em".. to not give a damn whether anyone thinks your treatment and medication is just 'the man' keeping you in your place. Don't let it affect you, get to you, infect your world, have a chance at disrupting your sanity. You know it's helped you and that's all there is to it.

However, i also suspect it isn't that simple. This isn't just about you is it? You care too much about other people for that. You care that others are going to have to go through what you and your brother have and suffer from the attitudes you see in others - the attitudes you despise - the ones that troubled you so much in darker, less stable hours. As a result i'd imagine you see ignorance in every corner because of it, and not just to mental health and its treatments. I wish you luck on that quest to change opinions, it's obvious you've got the talents as a writer to do so. I just hope you don't let the effort take too much out of you along the way. Because that would be tragic and such a waste of unlimited potential.
posted by Kino at 1:17 PM on September 2, 2001

Kino - its complex, and the issues are deeper than the current debates. Along with bipedal locomotion and opposable thumbs, the brain is synonymous with human evolutionary identity. The brain is the finely tuned biological miracle machine that has made the entirety of human civilization possible. The demystification process inherent in psychology, psychiatry and neuroscience threaten the sanctity of the brain, striking at the core of our identity as individuals and as a species. To claim that this instrument is just a mass of tissue subject to fallability, decay and imperfection . . . the reactionary attitudes and demonization are understandable. Changing perceptions of mental illness is therefore just a small part of changing human self-perception. Such a shift seems insurmountable, when yiu think about the extent to which history, spirituality, culture and philosophy are rooted in that sanctity. Our concept of the brain/mind is inextricably linked to what we see as the soul, as well as our achievemnts as a species. The fear, disgust and disbelief that people experience when facing the truth make it easy for them to turn away and embrace the pat, easy answers that protect them from the idea that the seeds of these horrors could exist within their own skulls. This is also why the mentally ill are notorious for rejecting treatment, because these instinctive attitudes about the brain/mind tell them to sanctify their difference much in the way that society enshrines the perfection of this organ.
posted by hipstertrash at 1:51 PM on September 2, 2001

Hypertrash, i can think of nothing more troubled than a person who regards their psychological abnormalities as being symptoms of what they must come to think of as their mutant, flawed soul. Especially if that person despises aspects of their own psychological state. If they connect that to their very spiritual essence, rather than just medical malfunctions of a bodily organ then must have a problem that is SO much harder to overcome. I can see why such people would reject treatment and even contemplate doing unthinkable things.

But these thoughts also give me confidence in the sciences that try to help them. Confidence that someday it will be able to do so more fully. It's such a shame that the relatively new fields of psychological exploration are often in conflict with the deep routed cultural elements you've outlined above.
posted by Kino at 2:11 PM on September 2, 2001

Hipster trash, with that qoute from the unabomber I was just trying to make a point that over prescription is a danger and we need to look at the function certain medicines play in modern society at this time. However I thought I was clear to say that moderation is key. I and many people I know have taken various medications for anxiety and depression and they help.

However if so many little kids need to take pills to get through school, maybe the pills are the easy way out when there could be a more complicated answer that is ultimately better. Maybe we need to look at different methods of teaching and classroom situations for example. Clearly medications help a lot of people. I really wasn't trying to go into hyperbole, maybe if the quote was from someone not in prison it would have come off better.
posted by chrismc at 2:41 PM on September 2, 2001

Kino, Hipster and chrismc, those particular posts in that particular order gave me pause.

It seems that as a society we sometimes rush towards solutions for what ails us at the expense of stopping and evaluating the source of harm. It is easier to stop the sniffles than to finally discover a cure for the common cold.

No one is condemning anyone for stopping their own symptoms, but recognizing the duality of medicine itself. One end of the spectrum of experience does not eclipse the other.

I've seen medication work wonders and I've also seen it used as a ball gag to deal with socially exhaustive individuals. Probably that is why most good doctors insist that patients and their families be monitored for changes both physiological and emotional.
posted by Sqwerty at 3:40 PM on September 2, 2001

heh. acid... heh. awwwwww yeahhhhh... heh...
posted by quonsar at 5:20 PM on September 2, 2001

It is generally considered, in the medical community, that psychiatric drugs are UNDERprescribed, simply because mental illnesses are underdiagnosed and undertreated. The prejudice, stigma, and cost involved in treating mental illness keep many from seeking treatment, and those who d so often wait until their illness has done significant damage to their life.

I will not dispute that many of these drugs are misprescribed. I suspect that this has more to do with our climate of managed care than a desire to make people more compliant. Primary physicians are pressured by insurers not to refer their patents to specialists, and the (relatively) mild side-effect profiles of newer drugs make non-psychiatrists less wary of trying to treat mental illness on their own. The problem is that they lack the level of experience and knowledge to accurately diagnose and differentiate between various illnesses which may manifest similar acute symptoms, but require very different treatment.

Behavior problems in children are especially complex, but it is far cheaper to prescribe Ritalin than to get the child the kind of psychological, developmental and physical testing needed to tell if it is ADD, or another disorder, or a learning disability, or just plain bad discipline.

However, the idea that there are many people taking psychiatric drugs "cosmetically," when they aren't needed, is laughable. Even the most benign have side effects severe enough to keep many who need them from taking them. More to the point, they will have no positive effect on someone without the illness for which they are intended. If you give Prozac to someone who doesn't suffer from an illness related to serotonin regulation, you will just make them sweaty, cranky, and unable to have an orgasm. If you give Ritalin or Dexedrine to a child who doesn't have ADD, it won't make them "compliant." It will make the kid bounce of the walls, lose weight, and sleep only 2 hours a night. It will become readily apparent if the child doesn't have ADD, because the child's symptoms will not be alleviated.

Sorry to go off on a rant. If you knew the kinds of hoops through which my insurance makes me jump, just because the organ which is sick happens to be my brain, you'd want to set the record straight too.
posted by _blackjack_ at 9:54 AM on September 4, 2001 [1 favorite]

As far as Leary goes, I think his mistake (and also that of the government, whose fear of LSD's influence on youth was responsible for the War on Drugs) was in overestimating the appeal of LSD once the novelty wears off. With the exception of those with a mystical, introspective bent, and polydrug abusers for whom it is just another escape, most people stop finding acid all that interesting after a few trips. It even gets kind of annoying, once you reach the "That was cool, but I'd like to sop grinding my teeth and go to bed now" phase. If Nixon had realized that most of the hippies would get bored and drop back into society in a year or so, we might have never seen the Drug War as we know it today.
posted by _blackjack_ at 10:00 AM on September 4, 2001

Uh, Leary/LSD/Prozac/Ritalin connection?

Coors. Kool. Budweiser. Miller. Schlitz. Marlboro. Absolut. Camel. Jack Daniels.

And do also check the number of prescriptions for "Vitamin-V" (valium) written during the 60s.

You'll find the number of alcoholics, nicotine abusers (such a fine little anxiolytic), and the upper crust who need a little benzo-boost to get themselves through their oh so tough days overwhelmingly dwarfed (and still overwhelmingly dwarfs) the number of abusers of LSD, heroin, etc.
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 4:21 PM on September 4, 2001

« Older Percent of World Military Spending.   |   ask alphonso Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments