Monday, November 12, 2007

Drugs and the Human Condition

I am delighted that Ritalin doesn't work. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) has always been a dodgy diagnosis and one that is suspiciously convenient for the drugs companies. It is also satisfying that the same study that seemed to find it worked in 1999 is the one that has found it doesn't now - not only that, it stunts the growth. Such switches are lessons in how science actually works, as opposed to how the media would like it to work. Anyway, if I had a hyperactive young child now I'd run a mile from Ritalin. The big point is, of course, that both Ritalin and Prozac - they appeared at roughly the same time - were sold as drugs that solved fundamental behavioural problems. We seemed to be on the brink of a shiny, happy world of human enhancement through drugs. The question is: can there ever be such a world? One answer would be yes because, though Ritalin and Prozac had their problems, we will one day get better drugs. The right answer is no because enhancement is an incoherent concept and the human condition is incorrigible. One could, of course, drug people to the point where the concept of the 'human condition' would be incoherent and the world would consist of shiny, happy post-people. Perhaps that is the real intention.


  1. Huxley's 'soma' (?) in Brave New World springs to mind.

    i was on prozac & some other anti-depressant when i was a fiery adolescent, made me worse as i recall; or i got worse independently, who can say? - sometimes circumstances are such that depression is actually a sane & reasonable response, and to be a shiny happy person would be downright suspicious. The idea of drugs etc. seems to be to circumvent the obvious causation between circumstances (e.g. job, being in prison, in pain, etc.) and emotions, so you could have your leg hacked off and grin cheerfully - thanks to Prozac.

  2. The causation is not always quite so obvious, Elberry. Reactions can be incongruous. External factors are clearly not the cause in many cases, but merely the trigger. Enhancement should not be the goal. The goal should be correction to deviation from the norm. It would be inappropriate to grin if one's leg had just been hacked off, unless of course someone cracked a really good joke just at that very moment.

  3. I'm a firm believer in the efficacy of all kinds of recent (last 40 or so years) drugs. Don't know about Ritalin -- happily neither kid was ever diagnosed with that -- but I sure do believe in asthma inhalers, antibiotics, lithium for people with bipolar disorder, antidepressants, and so forth.

    Or, you could believe as Tom Cruise does, that a few vitamins and some exercise will solve post-partum depression. Or like 7th-Day Adventists do, that chemotherapy is bad and God will save whom he chooses (and let the others die, often painfully, even if they're children).

    I also believe in strong painkillers for the mortally ill. I believe in epidurals for mothers in labor.

    Some drugs don't work, or are bogus, but, man, a lot of them do work and they've improved the quality of life for all kinds of people.

    PS: My kid at university says Ritalin is a highly desirable drug around final exam time: Kids who do NOT have ADD say it focuses them marvelously and allows them to study to great effect. So what's that about?

  4. it's interesting how no matter where i wander on the net viewing folks' opinions about this & that, i see religion brought into almost every subject. it's good when it's from a yearning to get to the deepest truth, less good when it's just an excuse to criticize others. my own opinion? no doubt drugs have beneficial effects, so it can seem odd when some people abstain in accordance with their own views on what their Creator wants them to do with the body they have been given to rule. they often accompany it with faith for a miracle, bravery in accepting pain, looking forward to the next world etc. if it includes feelings of responsibility to help others to get to a better place of Faith as well, that's when the critical naysayers really go nuts "on behalf" of the "victims". it's currently unpopular to acknowledge a spiritual source for any occurence, so there's a tendency to choose potions over exorcism, though both are only dimly understood. none of us can prove who or what we are, but we love to act like we know everything don't we?

  5. i guess in my own life the causation has been obvious to me, e.g. long periods of doing crappy jobs, being bullied, totally broke, ill, insomniac, pikey neighbours playing this pikey muzak till 0500 at maximum volume, etc. i've never met anyone who was depressed who didn't seem to have a plausible causation, usually doing a job they hate. Even if there's no proximal trigger, there's often a long history of woe that has left them deeply damaged and over-responsive. Knew a chap who would pace up and down his flat, paranoically, with a weapon, on Bonfire Night - some people are like that, to me that's not something to be sorted out with drugs.

    However i'm no doctor or psychiatrist, though at work i often masquerade as both & offer my ad hoc surgical solutions to the problems of the public, so i'd qualify my distrust of such drugs with that admission.

    It occurs to me that if one's leg was blown off the thing to do is to say, "dammit, my leg's gone", thus inspiring mirth in others. i believe one of Nelson's chaps did this during a sea battle?

  6. The doctor gave me ritalin long time after suffering from back pain, I did not take importance to this icon in order to feel pain, until no stamina, after many doctor visits and many tests I found chronic fibromyalgia, and after evaluating and conduct a comprehensive review told me that the most appropriate to ease the pain were ritalin, Vicodin or Oxycodone, but I asked my doctor to prescribe me the most effective and less addictive and prescribed ritalin, have already taken this medication 2 years and though it causes some kind of anxiety I control myself properly, I have no problems so addictive, I think if they know their anxiety is effective restraint, this is good because these narcotics findrxonline indicate that opioids can be very dangerous.