Transcript: Thom on ADHD, drugs, depression, etc., Mar 22 2006
Thom is the author of many books on ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), and the creator of the "Hunter in a Farmer's World" metaphor. He riffed on several recent articles on ADHD. The soaring numbers of anti-psychotic drugs being prescribed to American children. A walk in the park could be an effective treatment for ADHD.
Thom on ADHD, drugs, depression, etc. March 22 2006
"Soaring numbers of American children are being prescribed anti-psychotic drugs". Are our drug companies taking control of our children? Is this the brave new world - Aldous Huxley's novel, "Brave New World" published back, as I recall, back in the 1950s I think. He talked about soma, the drug that everybody took. You know, frankly my take on it is that the modern equivalent of soma is television. But you look at some of these numbers and they're spooky, because anti-psychotic drugs are basically drugs that are designed to reduce you to drooling zombie status, you know, in high dosage. In low dosage they just move you in the direction of drooling zombie status. We're not talking, this is not even, you know, the Ritalin and speed and stuff although those are up as well; that's another story. But anti-psychotics being given to kids, this really concerns me. Especially it's being given to kids for ADD according to Lindsey Tanner writing, a medical writer for the Associated Press. "The annual number of children prescribed anti-psychotic drugs jumped fivefold between 1995 and 2002 ... from 8.6 out of every 1,000 children." Eight out of every thousand kids on anti-psychotics in the mid-1990s. Now it's 40 out of every thousand children, or 4 out of every 100 or 2 out of every 50 or 1 out of every 25 children in America on anti-psychotic medications? And then they go ont t0 say more than half of the prescriptions were for non-psychotic conditions like attention deficit disorder. This, to me, smacks of classroom management by pharmaceuticals.
I remember when my wife's grandmother at the age of ninety, what was it, 92 as I recall? When grandma went into a nursing home, this was back maybe 4 or 5 years ago, we were living in Vermont, and we saw a sudden change in her behavior. She went from being rather crotchety but pretty sharp, she just physically couldn't get around any more, and, you know, to the point where she needed more help than my mother-in-law, her mother, could provide, her daughter could provide for her. She went from that to being somebody else. And my mother-in-law and my wife got involved in this and they discovered that this nursing home had just been drugging her. And there was this huge battle to get her off these drugs. And what they were doing was basically giving people, giving old people drugs to get them to shut up and sit in the corner and be quiet. Is the same thing happening in our schools?
"The increasing use", Lindsey Tanner writes in the Associated Press, "The increasing use of anti-psychotics since the mid-1990s corresponds with the introduction of costly and heavily marketed medications such as Zyprexa and Risperdal". Now Risperdal's been around for ever. They say this is costly. This stuff should have, I mean I'm not a detail man for a pharmaceutical company, maybe they've changed the formula recently or something, but that's a drug that's been around for a long time; it should be generic. In any case, "The packaging information for both says their safety and effectiveness in children have not been established." The drugs typically cost several dollars per pill, "can have serious side effects, including weight gain, elevated cholesterol and diabetes".
At the same time, there's this new thing called TeenScreen popping up all around the country. Article by Mary Collins. "TeenScreen is a 'mental health' screening system. Using a computer program, teenagers are asked questions to root out the symptoms of 'mental illness'. Those students giving the right (or wrong) answers to the questions are then delivered to persons trained to spot psychiatric 'disorders', usually employees of a local 'mental health' treatment facility. TeenScreen claims to be funded mainly by private foundations, the identities of which are carefully kept secret", writes Mary Collins. "TeenScreen's critics claim that the operation is nothing but a slick marketing tool designed to bring new customers into the multi-billion-dollar psychiatric 'mental health' industry." TeenScreen, by the way, does not have a diagnostic category for normal teenage Angst. The "positive results always lead toward specific psychiatric 'mental disorders', like Depression Disorder or Anxiety Disorder." Questions like "has there been a time when you felt you couldn't do anything well or that you weren't as good-looking or smart as other people?". If you answer that question "yes", you'd be flagged as having potentially depression, and shipped off to a psychologist, psychiatrist or social worker for diagnosis. This is spooky. And no, I'm not a member of the Church of Scientology. This is just absolutely spooky.
In addition, "Use of attention deficit drugs rose nearly 19 percent among ages 20 to 44". Now, oddly, ironically, strangely, whatever, use of these stimulant drugs for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is actually decreasing in very young children, which I think is a good thing. Brains are very, very plastic at these early ages. In my humble opinion, only in the most extreme of cases should we intervene in anybody's brain with a chemical, particularly a child. But now we're seeing young adults, 20 to 44, up 20%, or 19%. An estimated 1.7 million U.S. adults and 3.3 million children 19 and younger taking stimulant medication for ADHD. But "the biggest jump in use - a 19 percent rise from 2004 - was among adults ages 20 to 44". And it's interesting. Where I'm broadcasting from, a complex of radio stations, well, just the town where I'm broadcasting from. There's, you know, one of the morning shows, a couple of hosts on the morning shows, talk on the air about how they're taking Ritalin or whatever they're taking, you know. It's spooky, I mean, it's just, it's out there, all over the place. You wonder, you know, what's the deal. Well, you don't wonder; it's an industry. There's money to be made and it's an incredibly wealthy industry. It's an industry that has the ear of George W. Bush.
Here's another piece in USA Today. This is interesting. This isn't a rant about this but, you know, about the pharmaceutical companies coming after us or seeing us as customers rather than as people who actually have problems. Each year, 10 to 14 million Americans experience clinical depression and what they've found is that women who are treated for clinical depression, now this - mothers who are treated for clinical depression - this doesn't specify, this article by Rita Rubin in today's USA Today, doesn't specify whether we are talking about psychiatric treatment, which would be drugs, or whether we are talking about psychological treatment, which would be talk therapy, behavior management, changing environment, things like that. But they did point out that when mothers are treated and they experience less depression, their children experience less depression. Among children of mothers who were still depressed, there was an 8% rise in diagnoses." And which raises an interesting question.
There was a piece that I saw, this was, I'm going to have to put this out as purely anecdotal data. I wrote about it on one of my books, and even at that time, all I, I had the transcript from the program and I'm not sure where it is now. But this is 10, 15 years ago or so. Back when the Gorillas In The Mist thing and all, you know, people were looking at primates. And the observation had been made that primates, that the higher apes experience depression at about the same rate as humans. You know, 5, 10%, whatever the number is. And that it also appears to be like humans,. They kind of take turns being depressed; it's episodic. And that the symptoms are very similar. They become socially disengaged. They withdraw to the perimeter of the group. They don't participate socially. And so, there was a study done in Eastern Africa, my recollection is that it was in Kenya, where they went in and they found a troop of chimpanzees. They identified the depressed monkeys, the depressed chimpanzees, hit them with a dart, tranquilized them, pulled them out, took them out of the area. And they said, "Let's see what happens". They were expecting the rest of the monkeys to turn into party animals, right? The bummer monkeys are gone.
A year later, the troop is dead. Why were they dead? Because the depressed ones were the early warning system. Because they had socially disengaged, because they weren't participating with the others, and they didn't sleep well, they were hyper-vigilant, they were the ones who always noticed the python coming through the jungle or the lion trying to sneak up on the group. And they were the ones who sounded the alarms. And the psychologist who conducted the study said, "Perhaps in humans it's the same thing". You look at the depressives among us, people like Franz Kafka and Ernest Hemmingway, who with their writings were waving the flag, saying, "Look out!". Kafka in particular, Albert Camus, you know, who committed suicide. Hemmingway committed suicide. But still they were waving the flag, "Look out! There's problems". You know, "Look out for fascism" in the case of Kafka in particular. And are we medicating our own internal warning system out of our culture in our drive to have everybody be the same? Everybody made out of ticky tacky and we all live just the same. We all behave just the same and all our schools are just alike. I don't think it's healthy, I've got to say, although at the same time, you know I agree with Brook Shields, people in trouble need help!
The article about more adults being on ADHD drugs is already being discussed here.
There were a couple of phone calls to discuss issues raised from the above. Then Thom brought up another article:
This from USA Today, actually, today, "A walk in the park could be an effective treatment for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), some researchers believe." Now, this is an actual study; it was published in the American Journal of Public Health and they found that when people went outside and got 20 minutes of outdoor activity, that their ability to focus returned. Interesting. So, instead of telling your kids 'you have to do your homework before you can go outside', what you should be doing is saying, 'Go outside for 20 minutes or half an hour! And then, after you're done playing, come on in and do your homework'. And you get better results. Very interesting.