Friday, November 28, 2008

Kids on Drugs

Hyperactive Child

I’m tired of kissin’ ass
I can’t sit still all day
You know I know your school’s a lie
That’s why you dragged me here
“You’re a hyperactive child
You’re destructive, you’re too wild
We’re going to calm you down
Now this won’t hurt a bit”
Drag me to the floor
Pullin’ down my pants
Ram a needle up my butt
Put my brain into a trance
“No more hyperactive child
Got too much of a mind
Wouldn’t you rather be happy?
Now this won’t hurt a bit”
Cameras in the halls
No windows, just brick walls
Pledge allegiance to a flag
Now you will obey...

(Song: Dead Kennedys, Album: In God We Trust, Inc.)
Margaret Soltan points us in the direction of a Frontline episode on The Medicated Child. Her interest is in Joseph Biederman, a doctor who published an epochal paper, and later a book, claiming that a large number of ADHD kids were really bipolar, which in turn helped fuel a massive upsurge in bipolar diagnoses. Essentially, you have millions of kids taking drugs that were never tested on children for a disorder that they might not have. As the Dr. Spaceman character on 30 Rock once said, ''Well, medicine is not a science''.

The fear that some of us have that these people have no idea what they're doing is not helped by the fact that Biederman has since admitted that he failed to acknowledge over a million dollars in fees from drug companies whose antipsychotic medications he had promoted to treat bipolar disorder in children. Whoops! Soltan writes: ''It’s not easy to get a handle on how cruel people like Biederman are, and how complicit in that cruelty universities that retain faculty like Biederman are. People don’t want to believe that reputable institutions can be viciously crass and cynical.''

It's just as hard for me to understand parents who are relieved to discover that their child has a psychological disease because otherwise their hyperactivity or depression might reflect badly on life in the suburbs. About a month ago, I went off Prozac, partly because it wasn't really helping, and partly because I decided that, in light of the fact that I live in a shit-hole town with nothing to do and study at a university with no intellectual community whatsoever and a strong dedication to moneymaking above all else, I really should be cranky and depressed from time to time. Was I maybe right at age 16? Isn't this culture really kinda stultifying? Dissatisfaction drives human endeavour. So, aren't many of these psychological ''symptoms'' really a boon to human societies that we shouldn't be trying to wipe out? What's going on here?


narrator said...

It's another thing the academe is all about - causal arrows. The structure of the university encourages this nonsense, as do the structures of both medical and social sciences - which are dedicated to pathologizing difference wherever it appears.

Once you accept that "ADHD" is a "disorder" and not a form of being human, and once you accept "bipolar" as a "disorder", and once you believe that people should be "drugged to normal" - you are right there.

gregvw said...

What about hardcore schizophrenics?

rufus said...

I'd agree with medicating schizophrenics, but I don't think that sets in during early childhood. Actually, I'd have to ask the social worker in the family, but I'm fairly certain that bipolar almost never kicks in before adolescence. It just seems weird to me to medicate kids for these adult onset conditions.

Ira- I think the other thing with universities is this need to be on the cutting edge of whatever trend is selling the most books and making the most money for researchers. I've sort of lost faith in the idea that Harvard has any sense anyway.

gregvw said...

Too bad the "Iconoclasm, fuck yeah!" T-shirts don't sell well.