Maybe Its Time For A Reassessment, Baby

I did a news search for ‘high functioning schizophrenic’, and the only recent article that came up on the Google search engine was a post about the Elyn Saks interview I dealt with earlier. This is significant, and I’m getting around to the reasons why this should be so.

An article in the BBC, on the other hand, A Pandora’s Box full of Smart Drugs, deals in a critical fashion with the notion of drugs used to improve cognitive functioning.

These challenges aren’t theoretical but real. Cognitive-enhancing drugs, also known as “smart” drugs are already being used to help people with Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and brain injury. But is there burgeoning use among university students and others wishing to boost their brain power? It is this that’s posing the ethical dilemmas.

Although the author in the context of this article lists only 3 such cognitive-enhancing drugs, 2 ADHD drugs, and 1 antidepressant, and the credibility of the claims is somewhat suspect to say the least. I was struck by the mention of ‘schizophrenia’. Why? Most of the drugs used in the treatment of ‘schizophrenia’, to my way of thinking, are dumb drugs. They are drugs that interfere with, or impede, cognitive functioning.

If you’re thinking air-brained chicks, think again. These are also uglifying drugs. The newer ones are known to cause, as it is so often put, “excessive weight gain”. Becoming a candidate for the Biggest Loser television show, and having a substance abuse–oh, okay, chemical maintenance–problem to boot, is not going to make you an exemplary example of the species.

I referred to Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World in a recent post, and it’s apt that I bring up that novel at this time. Anti-depressant drug use has risen to all time highs thanks to the opening up of direct to consumer advertizing in the United States and New Zealand. In the Brave New World there was a happiness drug, Soma, mentioned that people were taking on a regular basis.

The power of anti-depressant drugs, oddly enough, is mostly psycho-somatic, as the placebo with side effects performs as well, if not better, in many trials.

In Huxley’s Brave New World, there are pockets of resistence against the absurdity of the establishment and those pockets of resistence seem to be centered somewhere around Taos New Mexico.

I feel that things have gone full circle. The counter cultural use of recreational intoxicants has evolved into something else, as an awareness of the dangers of excessive drug use, and the casualties therefrom, have mounted. The green revolution has come of age, to the fore, and now it is opposing the mainstream establishment that has its drugs that it is trying to entice people to abuse.

Huxley’s novel is about free choice. The big secret in today’s world is that people still have a choice. With choices come personal responsibilities. Drugs are not an adequate replacement for personal responsibilities. Even ‘the mental illness excuse’ is a lame excuse when it is used as an excuse for evading personal responsibilities. Some people in fact have become convinced that free choice is a myth. This is the point at which certain other people take to the woods.

It’s a more complicated world than it used to be. You could dump those pills down the toilet, and pollute the reservoirs of our drinking supplies, or you could find other and better ways to dispose of those dangeriously mysterious chemical compounds. Seduction, after all, is seldom about the real thing.

The tree’s are calling you and your tribe back to your circle at the center of the forest. Either attend, or return to the boring daily routine of your life as a depressed automaton.

There is nothing you can do about the matter. There is nothing else. Really? When you make that kind of a claim, don’t you see that somewhere else somebody is laughing uncontrollably at the very idea of you.

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6 Responses

  1. The term “cognitive enhancing” is generally used by people who want it to mean whatever they want it to mean. And the term is generally used by people who are providing rather than receiving the supposed enhancement.

    What does it mean? Is the term “cognitive” being used so we know we are not talking about anabolic steroids? OK, having established that we might assume that the word “cognitive” refers to a persons ability to think. And by “think” we might mean that the person is aware that they are thinking and remembering and making logical deductions and that their behavior is more or less logically congruent with their thinking.

    If we’re talking “enhancement” (and we’d all love to be enhanced) we can assume that the person’s ability to think has been improved AND that this improvement in thinking will also manifest in improved behavior. And we’ll do all that with a chemical.

    What a load of shit. It sounds like something you would hear if you were a fly on the wall whilst an advertising executive and a sociologist were engaged in foreplay.

    • “Cognitive enhancing”, of course, means drugs that would presumably improve on the thinking apparatus. I get an image of students using stimulants, such as crystal methadrine, to cram for exams. That image is not a good one. If they do find any “good” drugs to use as “cognative enhancing” agents, I imagine there will be something “bad” to be said about these drugs, too. You have to worry when it’s a matter of using a substance to improve upon nature. Nature has millions of years of evolution behind it. Nature doesn’t tend to improve with drug usage.

      Alzheimer’s disease is an example of where this kind of thing could be very helpful. I understand that there are substances used to delay the devestating effects of Alzheimer’s.

      Using 2 ADHD drugs, and 1 antidepressant as examples makes me wonder. The stimulants used to treat ADHD are known to have a slowing effect on the growth of children and adolescents. Think stunted growth, and you know that can’t be good. The antidepressants, as we know, don’t do much of anything. There may be detrimental effects in long term use, but you need long term studies to ascertain that as a fact, and there have been none. Thus where are your drugs to improve on basic human functioning?

      If the potential exists to create a more capable human through bionical engineering. (The Bionic Man (& woman) remember.) Drugs that improve functioning are a long way off, if they can ever come at all. Technology, yes, drugs, probably not, at least not any time soon.

  2. I’m posting this as an expansion of the intended sentiment expressed at the end of para 2 above.

    I’ve known shrinks (bigtime), one of whom I administered morphine over a period of several days. This guy had hit a tree while skiing. I treated him decently but probed him with intent. He was 48 yo and appeared, at least under the influence of morphine, to be very concerned about whether he might soon require open heart surgery to repair inevitably blocked cardiac arteries. He expressed this particular concern (which was ludicrous) in an attempt to derail me. Even drugged he knew that I was very much taking the piss out of him and sufficiently fluent to make a decent case..

    The guy was a total asshole but I don’t give a fuck. He’s just another idiot who has also has a bunch of broken limbs. Over a period of a week I gained enough information just from this one guy to sink a shitload of psychiatristic propaganda. But we know that the establishment can apologize for the utterrings of a lone practioner The establishment can try to say that because I am using an anecdote about a single person that that is shit and that every other thing I say is necessarily also shit.

    So how does this relate to the end of para 2 (above above)?

    Who do these people think they are that they can determine a treatment from their warped observations, interpreted from the vexatious reports of imbeciles that would have us believe that they are stakeholders and fairy tale believers in a world that never existed anywhere?

    • “a fly on the wall whilst an advertising executive and a sociologist were engaged in foreplay”

      Yes, exactly. You’ve always got that kind of clinical, and thus totally heartless, perspective. People get wrapped up in this business (BS) because they don’t know any better.

      I call myself a human rights advocate. I know of another person who referred to herself as a recovery advocate. That’s good, I suppose, but it still makes one an invester. One thing I am not is a “consumer” advocate. I consider myself a psychiatric survivor of human rights violations on the part of the mental health system. I would never advocate the “consuming” of that which destroys people. I don’t endorce the pretense.

      The stakeholders in the system are fools, especially when you have a completely broken system. Consider, if you will, who is really the fool, the person who breaks into the nuthouse, or the person who breaks out of the nuthouse? I say the person who attempts to break out of the nuthouse has more sense than the person who makes no such attempt. Years and years in therapy can be truly wasted years. Duh. There is more to life than counseling. Duh.

      I couldn’t imagine what could be easier than dispensing with an imaginary prosthetic device. I once heard a ‘consumer’ speak as if recovery from her ‘condition’/’illness’ was a prosthetic limb. She should look again. The reality is that she has no prosthetic limb. Oh, dear.

  3. The following is taken from one of the numerous and looong comments at Jonah Lehrer’s blog by Ronald Pies, M.D. (one of PsychCentral’s pets) who got a little upset about Lehrer’s NYTimes article “Depression’s Upside (Upside?! You must be kidding!!):

    “Antidepressants do not “suppress” anything, and there is not an iota of credible evidence that they interfere with one’s learning problem-solving skills while they are being used. Both antidepressants and psychotherapy are useful and effective treatments for severe depression,…”

    “Effective”, well well. But if you mention doubts, you get the “You’re referring to Kirsch. His research is flawed.”-reply. (I haven’t read anything by Kirsch. Not yet.) Anyhow, just a few comments further down the thread, you can read the following, written by the same Ronald Pies, M.D.:

    “Antidepressants are known to increase various nerve growth factors, such as BDNF, which actually improve connections between neurons in the brain. This is probably why the cognitive difficulties (that’s “difficulties”, not “benefits”)we see clinically in severely depressed patients improve with antidepressant treatment. There are dozens of studies to support this finding.”

    Okay, Dr. Pies, what now? Do antidepressants interfere with/improve cognition, or don’t they?? Ah, I see. They don’t interfere, they improve… Sigh!

    • About Irving Kirst…

      Irving Kirsch is an expert in statistics and in clinical trial methodology. In The Emperor’s New Drugs, he absolutely dismantles the case for antidepressants as a pharmacologically effective treatment.

      The cornerstone of the book is a careful analysis of a vast database of drug company data. Using the Freedom of Information Act, Kirsch managed to get the data that the drug companies had sent to the FDA in the process of getting their medications approved.
      ~Listening to Prozac, but Hearing Placebo

      Dr. Kirsch did a meta-analysis of research on antidepressants, and he found from his assessment in this data that antidepressant drugs worked no better than placebos for relieving the symptoms of depression. He then gathered all this info under the FOIA from the FDA, and the conclusions of that investigation were similar to the results from his earlier research.

      These doctors, such as Dr. Pies, are finding fault with him only because, by doing so, he was running his head up against the orthodoxy of mainstream psychiatry. Anything that doesn’t support, in their view, the leading theory of the biological medical model of psychiatry must, of course, be due to ‘flawed’ research methodology.

      The new “connections between neurons” in the brain may actually be a result of brain damage. I believe Dr. Peter Breggin has written on the subject at one point or another. That would not necessarily be a good sign either.

      Yes, and if these doctor’s can make brain damage an improvement in thinking, this is obviously a little more alarming than suggesting that the pills might merely interfere with cognition.

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