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Friday, August 13, 2004

Secrets of N.I.M.H. (Brave New World Edition)

"I would like...if I take you on a strange journey."
- The Criminologist (The Rocky Horror Picture Show)

Well there's no need to complain,
We'll eliminate your pain.
We can neutralize your brain.
You'll feel just fine

- Simon and Garfunkel ("Big Bright Green Pleasure Machine")

One pill makes you larger
And one pill makes you small,
And the ones that mother gives you
Don't do anything at all.

- Jefferson Airplane ("White Rabbit")
Have we become a society of the pharmaceutically addicted? One might think so, given the number of ads that the pharmaceutical companies run on television. We are presented with products that promise to alleviate everything from mere allergies to acid reflux to erectile dysfunction.

So why do I start to worry when I see items like this?:
Procrastinating monkeys were turned into workaholics using a gene treatment to block a key brain compound, U.S. researchers reported on Wednesday.

Blocking cells from receiving dopamine made the monkeys work harder at a task — and they were better at it, too, the U.S. government researchers found.

Dr. Barry Richmond and colleagues at the National Institute of Mental Health used a new genetic technique to block the D2 gene.
It is almost a given that where there is pharmaceutical research, there is a marketable product (one way or the other - look at the attempts to rehabilitate Thalidomide as an anti-leprosy medication), and I can already hear the WalMartistas salivating over the prospect of a future product roll-out on this one.

This got me thinking about Attention Deficit Disorder. We have all heard about this "syndrome" in children for years now, and of course there has been all of the yelling and screaming about the (over) use of Ritalin (etc.) which, so we are assured, helps control it. Now we are starting to see the "warnings" (initially through those "Your Health" segments on the local TV news) about ADD in adults. Should we be worried?
Below is an adult symptom test with symptoms unique to the Attention Deficit Disorder adult. This self test is not a diagnostic test but a source of information for the adult trying to determine if Attention Deficit Disorder might be present in their life.

Adult ADD Symptom Test:

If you experience more than 10 points on this adult ADD self symptom test, Attention Deficit Disorder is likely present.

- An internal sense of anxiety
- Impulsive spending habits
- Frequent distractions during sex
- Frequently misplace the car keys, your purse or wallet or other day-to-day items
- Lack of attention to detail
- Family history of ADD, learning problems, mood disorders or substance abuse problems
- Trouble following the proper channels or chain of commands
- An attitude of "read the directions when all else fails"
- Frequent traffic violations
- Impulsive job changes
- Trouble maintaining an organized work and/or home environment
- Chronically late or always in a hurry
- Frequently overwhelmed by tasks of daily living
- Poor financial management and frequent late bills
- Procrastination
- Spending excessive time at work due to inefficiencies
- Inconsistent work performance
- Sense of underachievement
- Frequent mood swings
- Trouble sustaining friendships or intimate relationships
- A need to seek high stimulation activities
- Tendency toward exaggerated outbursts
- Transposing numbers, letters, words
- Tendency toward being argumentative
- Addictive personality toward food, alcohol, drugs, work and/or gambling
- Tendency to worry needlessly and endlessly
- "Thin-skinned" - having quick or exaggerated responses to real or imagined slights

By the criteria listed above most of the inhabitants (including myself) of the Western world would qualify as potential ADD "victims." Not wishing to denigrate those for whom ADD is a true mental disorder, but it strikes me that most of these symptoms can be regarded as the products of the kind of society we live in, with its over-emphasis of the great Calvinist work ethic and its equal over-emphasis on "instant solutions."

There is much to be said for the concept of "stopping to smell the roses" and, to me at least, it is the preferred method for alleviating the stresses of our current society. But that takes time, and that doesn't seem to fit in with the morés of our modern concrete anthills, which is why Prozac is (so far as I'm aware) the most-prescribed medication of our time (although it may have been supplanted by Viagra).

And that occasionally gives me the feeling that we are heading for a society that wants to encompass the worst of Orwell, Huxley and Rand into one insane totalitarian Dystopia.

At which point I go give something like The Chronicles of Narnia or the collected works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle a good, solid re-reading...
I think it's time we stop, children, what's that sound?
Everybody look what's going down.

- Buffalo Springfield ("For What It's Worth")
NOTE: As part of my web-meanderings, I found this site, which might offer a little bit of uneasy amusement for you...