Monday, February 20, 2006

Justin Holmes doesn't need titles!

The ongoing scare over the warning label being placed on stimulants is starting to bother me.

My problem with this drama first started a week or so ago, when the headlines all played various themes of, "Ritalin and similar drugs...." As I have said before, I have a problem with the extent to which the powers that be have convinced us to willingly except their terminology for drugs – from the classifications (“medicine,” “drug,” “drink,” on one level, “stimulant” and “depressant” on another level) right down to the actual names of the drugs – we repeat, with a straight face, names from “Paxil” to “Adderall” to “Acid” to “Crank” without ever really considering how biased this naming system is.

When the news media repeats this jargon, it compounds the problem. When it occurs in headlines (and not just a few of them – hundreds in one day), it becomes truth in too many minds.

Now we see an interesting juxtaposition. For so long, speedy drugs like amphetamine and methylphenidate have been billed as “medicine” for the treatment of “attention deficit disorder,” an affliction I’m quite sure I could have been diagnosed with as a child and probably even now if I wanted even easier access to these drugs than the market on a college campus already affords. Suddenly, when people report having side effects which are very typical of these kinds of drugs, a stark reminder is cast that yes, indeed, these are drugs.

"Every single adult patient I saw today, the first thing out of their mouth was, 'Am I going to drop dead on this?' Every single one of them," said Dr. Timothy Wilens, a psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

We have come to blindly trust the “established” medical regime so much that we forget our own experiences (personal or otherwise) with drugs. We have come to accept the schema of “disorders” to such a degree that we have forgotten the infinitely fine scale of human thought and the chemistry with which it corresponds.

Of course, it goes without saying that these drugs do help some people with concentration problems, just as SSRIs help some people with chronic depression. They may not be addressing the most fundamental cause, but their effects are obviously helpful for a segment, albeit small, of the population suffering from these problems.

Personally, I don’t really care much about whether or not these drugs have one warning or another on the side of them – I don’t think it will make people think any more critically about their role in society and the disorders which are invented to market and sell them.

Perhaps a more appropriate warning would read, “Caution: The disorder, malady, disease, ailment, sickness, bug, infection, syndrome, or condition for which this drug has been prescribed may not actually exist.”


800 pound gorilla said...

That's what's so ironic about this situation. The pharmaceuticals promote this quick fix mentality showing miserable, afflicted people transformed into happy and healthy and vigorous people after using their drugs. That image holds because we so desperately want to blame our problems on something like "outside allergens" or "acid reflux disease" rather than on our own abusive lifestyle. So selling a drug on that premise is so appealing. Even without disclosure requirements pharmaceuticals would have warnings - at least until the GOP and bipartisan Democrats can fully shield big corporations from their actions or results of their products.

The irony is that pharmaceutical companies that promote the dangerous drugs mythology by bankrolling PDFA and other "drug education" websites are soon going to be forced into repudiating their own lies. The fact that drug related problems have to do with misuse is going to be their only defense against these pernicious lawsuits when people misuse their products. There used to be a warning label on all drugs that stated "Not to be used for longer than 10 days. If conditions persist consult physician". Of course that was to defer liability to doctors. The fact that their own ads and "free samples" pressured doctors into prescribing medications rather capriciously is rather cynical to say the least.

Of course when the manufacturers of Vioxx make statements about their drug being perfectly safe and that it's all about how the patient uses the drug, people don't make the connection to "dangerous drugs" promoted by the DEA. The pernicious drug war ads and perversion of language has created an artificial separation between those banned and those legally available. It was as if we had two different types of drugs out there: one that causes people to become addicted and lose their independence and the other that cause great good until some idiot decides to misuse the drug. Of course the dangerous drugs mythology deliberately creates drug ignorant generations of people who do make stupid decisions about drugs because they aren't taught. What did they expect?

asb. said...

Justin, in my experience many people do indeed put a lot of blind faith in doctors and pharmaceuticals to provide quick fixes for their behaviorally and socially-mediated ailments. Moreover, I appreciate and agree with the vast majority of what you said. Your last sentence, however, gives me pause.

For instance, there is a considerable segment of the population that believes that vaccines are merely tools of social control or there to provide the big-bucks for big-pharma while drug companies make such a meagre profit on immunizations that most have gotten out of the business of producing or researching them entirely and several countries have seen outbreaks of formerly controlled infectious diseases because of lax immunization records.

Similarly, there are people that still believe that HIV does not in fact cause AIDS, that it does so exlusively in homosexual or injection drug using persons, or that it was created by the government to control certain undesirable populations.

When you use langauge like that in your last sentence, "The...bug, infection...for which this drug has been prescribed may not actually exist." I worry that people are hearing that they should be wary that physicians are foisting prescription drugs on unknowing patients who have been purposefully misdiagnosed as having an infectious disease. This, I think, is a dangerous message to send in our current climate.