Monday, August 30, 2010

Vol #1, Col #12: One Pill Makes you Larger, One Pill makes you Small, And the Ones that the Doctors Give you?

Too fat? Too thin? Too stressed? Too lethargic? Too happy? Too sad? Too moody? Too mellow? Irrespective of your problem, society’s got a cure…at least that’s what the “medicalization model” tells us (ie: there’s a drug for everything).

While I’d be a fool to argue that all advances in health care technology are bad (ie: we’d still be suffering from outbreaks of scurvy and the bubonic plague without ‘em!), there’s something to be said about modern society’s obsession with the “quick fix” and the medical community’s response, “well, we’ll devise a diagnoses and just invent another drug for that.” I’d even go so far as to argue (as controversial as it may seem) that some of these so-called diseases that have reached recent scary degrees of prevalence have quite frankly been made up. Take ADHD, for example.

While I’m sure that there exists out there some people who truly have been/are afflicted with what was once known as “hyperkinesis” (perhaps due to brain circuitry differences), its rate of diagnosis in contemporary society has reached such epidemic proportions that it has made me seriously question exactly what it is we are trying to “drug” and therefore control (after all that is the purpose of medicalization, ie: social control).

Last time I checked, childhood was a time of innocence. Moreover, running about, getting into mischief, having seemingly endless energy, in my view, during one’s formative years is quite “normal”; after all, said time in one’s life is characterized by a lack of responsibility (we should savour that while we can!). And yet, somehow we’ve convinced ourselves that children who possess these traits are acting up, and are problematic to deal with. Well, if children do have excessive amounts of energy, problems maintaining focus, and/or are not responding to authority figures as well as they used to, I’d like to propose it’s not because of any kind of “new” psychological disorder. No, it’s because of the structure of modern society itself. Allow me to explain:

It’s virtually impossible, these days, for a couple to substantiate themselves with one only partner working (Moreover, society’s obsession with material accumulation forces many of us into positions we don’t truly find fulfilling just so we can earn a quick buck in order to retire sooner). Therefore, you end up with situations wherein if a couple has kids, parental supervision is limited. This is commonly dealt with via one or two means: 1) the children are left to be raised by the tv, their video games, and computer systems or 2) the parents outsource the task of raising their kids to daycare services and/or babysitters. In either case, the kid’s real folks well, because they can’t be around as much as they’d like, feel guilty and so they try to “befriend” their children. The result? A generation who has no respect for authority figures. You may think it’s harsh of me to say, but it is a good thing for children to live under a certain amount of fear. Trust me (and no that is NOT a statement in support of child abuse, don’t put words in my mouth).

Further adding to this dilemma, as discussed last week, is the over-processed and questionable foodstuff that the vast majority of us are consuming. Think about it – is it really so shocking that children have an excess in energy when everything you’re feeding them is full of sugar, hormones, additives, and god knows what else?

Finally, because parents are so busy trying to make ends meet, kids aren’t participating in active recreational activities to the same degree they used to. Instead of being out there in the sunshine kicking the can, playing ball, or even skipping double dutch – pastimes that at one point were rather common – instead they’d rather remain IV-ed to their video games, and television screens for their taste of entertainment. And seriously, we wonder why they have so much energy?

Hmm…makes perfect sense to me: lack of adequate supervision/discipline + unhealthy sugar-filled foods + the inability to expend one’s vigor? What do you get? Apparently ADHD!

That’s the thing with the “medicalization model” though. Instead of acknowledging that perhaps there’s a problem with the way in which society is structured, it takes all pathology right back down to the individual level. What few people realize is that the “discovery” of the above mentioned so-called “psychological” disorder now found so commonly among our youth, coincided with both a growing interest in child psychiatry and the pharmaceutical revolution. Still convinced it’s real? I don’t know, personally I’d like to see kids just be allowed to be kids for Christ sake, but that’s just me!

While modern medicine has allowed us to control and monitor the severity of physical ailments (something that I agree is uber-beneficial and in many cases, “life saving”), because we’ve now gotten a handle on said conditions, we’ve become increasingly focused on attempting to do the same thing with psychological maladies. The problem with this, of course, is that even neurologists, who specialize in the field, admit that there is still a great deal UNKNOWN about the brain and its functions. Further, in societies like North America, where we have EVERYTHING (ie: access to the basics like fresh water, food, education, work etc., not to mention a shitload of other unnecessary luxuries), the diagnosis of psychological disorders is disproportionately concentrated.

Maybe if we started making more informed decisions about our lives, and reworked our definitions of health to mean “optimal functioning” as opposed to “symptom-free, but on your third double double of the day” (well, and your second helpng of Advil to ward off the inevitable migraine that will coincide with your caffeine crash), maybe, just maybe we’d start to see where we’re going wrong. In sum, call me crazy, but it seems to me, that we CREATE as many diseases and disorders, these days, as we CURE.

I remember being a high energy obnoxious little brat of a kid. Guess what my parents did to counteract that? I was in every sport imaginable, my tv viewing was rationed depending upon the chores I completed each day, and I certainly wasn’t chugging down Pepsi or Coca Cola by the freakin’ case. I think I turned out quite fine if I do say so myself, and no believe it or not, I was never put on Ritalin.