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'Experts' Offer Hope for Generation Y2BD
by N. L. Wilbur
2008-12-15 08:43:10
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This week, breaking from my normal habit of ignoring anything outside the "(Post-)Election" or "U.S. Politics" categories of my personalized Google News homepage, I came across a particular headline that uncharacteristically detracted from my tunnel vision.

The San Francisco Chronicle captivated me with the words, "Experts urge wider use of brain-boosting drugs."

My close-mindedness and utter renunciation of any and all other-worldly happening -- everything outside of prospective talk of new administration heads and ongoing corruption scandals in Washington, D.C., -- keep me sheltered from most of the events that have occurred over past year and a half. (To use just one example: Were it not for its emergence of the short-lived policy debate during the election, I would have remained ignorant of Russia's invasion of Georgia. I am not proud of my ignorance, but I am hopeful that this single case of the wandering eye, slopping over into the "Health" news category, is a sign that political junkies everywhere will have the strength to work toward a full post-election recuperation.)

There have been few exceptions to my general rule that anything comprising "Heath" news or "Celebrity" news -- and especially "Celebrity Health" news -- are not cognitively stimulating enough for my over-politicized mind and are therefore not worth my time.

Perhaps it was the skepticism of seeing the word "experts" on a subject about pharmaceutical drugs. Maybe it was the thoughts reeling through my head as I anticipatorily digested the title and considered the possibility that the subject matter may very well dive off into the realm of sci-fi advancements in cognitive downloading, brain chips, robotic manufacturing. Whatever the case, it caught my attention, and for the first time since Obama announced his run for the presidency, I clicked outside the designated Google News areas.


According to the article, seven experts, mostly Ivy League professors -- just two of whom with any direct ties to the pharmaceutical companies -- had published an essay in the journal Nature about how we should all reconsider the negative connotations of "brain doping" or "brain steroids" and prepare to embrace the possibly earth-shaking discoveries still yet to arise from ongoing studies of the mental performing enhancing drugs such as Ritalin and Adderall.

The science talk delved into the positive effects of prescribed amphetamines on dopamine and serotonin levels in the brain -- processes that influence everything from behavior and cognition, motor activity, motivation and reward, sleep, mood, attention, and learning, in the latter case; and anger, aggression, body temperature, mood, sleep, human sexuality, appetite, and metabolism in the former. Of course, the article didn't touch on the negative side effects of taking amphetamines, which are usually reserved for people with illnesses and diseases -- including diseases that in my view don't deserve to be categorized as such -- like ADHD.

According to the Chronicle, the Nature article "is not a clarion call for widespread use of brain-boosting drugs, free of legal controls. Instead, the authors wanted to debunk arguments that drug enhancement is immoral per se, compared to other means of strengthening mental performance, such as a double espresso or an expensive tutor."

That's right. Brain drugs aren't really any different than the "immoral" use of coffee before a study session or a tutor to aid you in the understanding of a complex subject. One expert advised, "Society shouldn't reject them just because they're pharmaceutical enhancements," and yet another said that some students would take the drugs and before heading out to the court for a game of basketball with friends. (This, I assume, has something to do with the desire among college youth to gain that competitive edge during the grueling spelling requirements of HORSE.)

At the suggestion of widely administering these "medications," one expert argued that, in order to even the playing field, professors could offer the pills to everyone before a test, essentially eliminating any issues with classism that are expected to surface when the more well-off students prove to be the only ones able to afford the drugs.

It sounds like a bad Stephen King novel, but this was reported, in all seriousness, and placed in the all-important Google News "Health" section. But it also begs the question, asked repeatedly by scholars and transients alike, on a daily basis: What is this world coming to?

It's already been established, and daily proving adequate at one-upping itself, that we live in a culture of quick fixes. For a cold, skip the tea with lemon. Instead, take Robitussin, Coricidin or Cepacol. For allergies, take Benadryl, Claritin, Dimetap, Clarinex or Allegra. If you can't sleep, there's Ambien or Lunesta. If you can't stay awake, try a dose of NoDoz.

If you can't perform sexually, or you can't perform as vigorously as you did at 18, take Viagra. Or, if you perform too quickly and wish to de-sensitize your zealousness, there's the cleverly named Climax Control Lubricant, by Durex.

For Restless Leg Syndrome, now a studied and diagnosed "recognizable pattern of undesirable movements in the lower limbs," take Requip. Small breasts? BreastEnhancement-Guide.com lists Breast Actives, Breast Success and Zoft as the top three breast enhancement pills of 2008.

And if you're the kill-two-birds-with-one-stone-type, the hormone inhibitor Finasteride, according to a CNN article, reduces a man's chances of developing prostate cancer by 25 percent and, at a lower dose, happens to be the same medication in the anti-baldness drug Propecia.

Large belly? Dexatrim. Gray hair? GreyBan or Silver Fox. Not blonde enough hair? Clarol Nice 'n' Easy Born Blond Hair Color. Jock itch? Cruex Powder Spray. Coprophobia? Try the Vanquish Fear & Anxiety Home Study CD Program and flush away those sphincter troubles for good.

For every malady there is a cure, and with this exclusive, limited-time offer and full-money-back satisfaction guarantee, you can return to normal for just eight payments of $19.95.

Of course, like everything, there's the small print, which is small for a reason -- it's not worth reading. For the devout literary nuts out there who need no stimulants to energize the desire of knowledge, this is what it says: "Side effects Yet to Be Determined. A lot of possibilities, but nobody's died so far -- except those few stupid college students who took too many (the definition of too many: Y2BD) while beer-bonging magnums of champagne at a Lamda Chi Omega live-out."

And if you feel like you've cheated the system, if you experience shame or guilt -- which are different, just ask a pharmacist; if you wish you'd prepared instead of procrastinating and then popping a few performance enhancers to help cram before the big test; if you regret not choosing to weather the storm of your personal life's struggles with the academic requirements of your future; if you, as is customary, completely forgot everything you "learned" while spinning on the prescription -- similar to the epiphanies you have with marijuana, LSD and mushrooms, except with a slightly less hallucinogenic effect -- then perhaps you should talk to a doctor to see if Prozac, Paxil or Electroconvulsive Shock Therapy is right for you, because you very well may be suffering from depression.

You think I'm kidding, but depression as a result of amphetamine use (amphetamine being the main ingredient of these brain drugs) isn't all that unprecedented. Artificial increases in dopamine and serotonin levels have the effect of later lowering them as a balance to the high. Deficient dopamine levels show signs of reduced motivation and an inability to experience pleasure. Pramipexole and Ropinirole, also used to treat the growingly prevalent "Restless leg Syndrome," have been shown to "limit anti-anhedonic properties as measured by the Snaith-Hamilton Pleasure Scale."

I'll avoid the whole lecture on addictive qualities of dopamine and serotonin highs and note only that the aftermath of a high is a low -- the classic case of withdrawal from an addictive substance. And do you know what we call someone who exhibits an abundance of dopamine? Schizophrenic. That is, detached from reality; hindered in the ability to decipher actual life from the mind's visual and cognitive tricks; desensitization; the elimination of highs and the accentuation of lows.


The ripple effect of this movement -- to moralize brain boosters -- is years off. But the pebble has been dropped, and the consequences, while yet to be determined, are likely to impact more than a few pharmaceutical companies' profits. How it plays out depends on those would will subscribe to this fix-all philosophy. Whatever happened to that old "Just Say No" D.A.R.E. campaign?

If we're constantly searching for ways to escape reality, to avoid hard work, to anesthetize the emotional ups and downs of life, to escape consequence and reward, then exactly what is the point of living?

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Alexander Mikhaylov2008-12-15 18:58:28
Yes, it is the saddest truth of our times - millions of people, brainwashed and stupefied by mass media beyond all normalcy and duped by legal and illegal drugs, prefer to live in an altered reality altogether. Well, thanks to modern pharmaceutical ‘wonders’ we are so drastically out of touch with our own bodies, that even perfectly natural processes, such as ageing, sadness etc, terrify us like signs of lethal sickness and drive us to consume more and more body and mind altering legally prescribed poisons. The same applies to our mental processes as well. We cannot control our eating habits, we cannot relate to each other, we cannot even relate to ourselves.

Sand2008-12-15 19:31:02
Unless one is suffering from something severe the possibility if medicating a problem away may seem unnatural but there is no doubt that there are circumstances in which drugs are a major help. Like anything, they can be misused but a general diatribe against all drugs is totally unwarranted.

Alexander Mikhaylov2008-12-15 19:37:45
Of course!

Emanuel Paparella2008-12-15 20:03:47
"A professional and physician-based health care system which has grown beyond tolerable bounds is sickening for three reasons: it must produce clinical changes which outweigh its potential benefits; it cannot but obscure the political conditions which render society unhealthy; and it tends to expropriate the power of the individual to heal himself and to shape his or her environment. The medical and para-medical monopoly over hygienic methodology and technology is a glaring example of the political misuse of scientific achievements to strengthen industrial rather than personal growth. Such medicine is but a device to convince those who are sick and tired of society that it is they who are ill, impotent and in need of technical repair." (Ivan Illich in Medical Nemesis)

Public health professional Alex Scott-Samuel commented on that book that:

"Ivan Illich was well ahead of his time in identifying and classifying the health hazards of the ‘medicalisation of society.’ …He used medicine as an example of his general thesis that industrialisation and bureaucracy were appropriating areas of life previously regarded as personal. In particular, he identified how drugs and other medical technologies remove personal responsibility for suffering and create dependence on health care, which itself has a wide range of hazardous side effects."

Sand2008-12-15 22:15:13
I would be most interested to learn that Paparella has decided to forgo anesthesia when undergoing a major operation or decided on not taking any pain killing medicine when seriously injured because it might benefit the medical complex.

Emanuel Paparella2008-12-16 05:31:45
Since the quote came from one of Ivan Illich's books and the commentator was not me, I wonder how does Mr. S. know what I would prefer. He must have been told by the visiting voices of Christmas. Hopefully they have not advised to consign Ivan Illich's books to a great bonfire.

Sand2008-12-16 06:01:44
As idiotically perverse as Mr.P. usually is I wonder why he would broadcast opinions without comment, his own or others, that he disagrees with.

Sand2008-12-16 06:53:56

This incessant insistence that anyone who disagrees with a book must therefore consign it to conflagration betrays a rather obvious and strange obsession of Paparella to burn literature characteristic favoring the most deplorable actions of the Catholic Church at its worst and the Nazis.

Emanuel Paparella2008-12-16 13:43:15
The burning of classical books was actually done by philistines of every stripe who eventually graduated to burning books. Tell the visiting voices of Christmas when they visit uncle Scrooge late at night that the image of book burning is now a metaphor for unadulterated cultural philistinism. What is indeed troubling in their contempt for past culture which they have never read and never intent to read is the vitriolics and the aspersions that are cast on anybody who even suggests that they should unburden themselves of so much ignorance before jumping on their horse for an attack. It makes one wonder what would such authoritarian narcissistic personalities do if they acquires a modicum of power, besides silencing people who disagreed with them. Actually it is narrated in Dostoyevsky's The Possessed, another book put on the bonfire by the Nazis and their birds of a feather, authoritiarian personalities intolerant of others' opinions and points of view.

Emanuel Paparella2008-12-16 14:23:40
Errata: books on line 2 should be people.

Sand2008-12-16 15:33:28
Since I never suggested or even hinted that a book should be burned, the initiative on that score is exclusively Mr.Paparella's. By his own definition he thereby qualifies as a philistine.

Emanuel Paparella2008-12-16 16:37:38
Obviously at the Pratt School of Industrial Design they never taught the symbolism of metaphors or if they did (as I suspect) Mr. S. was not paying much attention; he was already busy grinding axes against the Catholic Church and slandering its adherents and escogitating bizarre historical connections. Pity.

Sand2008-12-16 17:04:59
Pratt, of course, seems to bug you terrifically, but be assured that I have many other sources.
It is a shallow cleverness you keep using to try to disguise your openly pyromaniac intensities. It's quite clear that book burning plays a major part in your subconscious life and it is not easily passed off as mere metaphor. At night before sleep overtakes you the imaginary fires of burning books, the delight of those imaginary sparks flying up dance against the dark and of course a bit of wild drool drips to your chin. No, no, Paparella, you cannot any longer hide your wild fiery dreams under the guise of metaphor. You cuddle to that metaphor and it cannot be denied.

Emanuel Paparella2008-12-16 17:44:09
Obviously the voices have paid a visit last night... What is lamentable is that they don't seem to be very wise or honest as the ones who paid a visit to uncle Scrooge on Christmas Eve.

Sand2008-12-16 17:50:00

Emanuel Paparella2008-12-16 18:01:46
Hum bug might have been more fitting for the season.

Sand2008-12-16 18:06:13
I have no idea about your miserly qualities, Paparella, but the torrent of idiotic words you generate seems to have nothing to do with seasons.

N. L. Wilbur2008-12-16 20:36:21
I'm pleased at the engagement I have spurred with this posting, however, I'm suddely rethinking the whole stigma against ADHD drugs.

Sand2008-12-16 20:56:28
You have to keep in mind, Mr. Wilbur, that if Paparella gets into a discussion it unerringly gets involved with the Holocaust and the total innocence of the Catholic Church for any misbehavior and of course the seven Phd dwarfs who buzzed around all those concentration camps gassing and raping and torturing Jews. Very little, I'm afraid, to do with the inappropriate use of drugs. That's the price you pay for writing articles in Ovi.

Emanuel Paparella2008-12-16 21:47:18
Surely it has not escaped Mr. Wilbur nor any other reader that the first one to mention Nazis and Catholic Church in this thread was Mr. S. I simply began with a quote from Ivan Illich and Samuel Scott which was promptly ignored in order to attack the one who brought it forth. Welcome to argumenti ad hominem Mr. Wilbur. I too was surprised when an article on Levinas which I wrote as my first contribution in this forum and which ended up being the most read that month, was viciously attacked as confusing and nonsensical. After a while I realized that no matter what I wrote I could expect that reaction as normal and part of the price one pays for free speech. I do think though that it is not wise to tolerate boorish and bullish behavior even in a virtual forum. It only encourages the bully.

N. L. Wilbur2008-12-16 23:13:56
Ah yes, but isn't tolerance a great virtue to exercise, especially for the online contributor -- considering the aggitation that is often to arise from a rebuttal? Not tolerating a bully has its own consequences, least of them being the presence of an audience to fuel further "debate."

Emanuel Paparella2008-12-17 00:30:35
Point well taken Mr. Wilbur. I suppose some kind of balance has to be achieved between free speech and slander. The Greeks called it harmony but it is easier to define than to practice.

Be that as it may, I do remain interested in what you make of Ivan Illich critique of the medical profession and the practice of modern medicine especially as spelled out in his book Medical Nemesis. That book came out some forty years ago in the 70 and I still remember a lecture Illich gave at the University of Puerto Rico in front of doctors and how vehemently he was attacked by them. Obviously he had hit a nerve. I for one think that book still relevant and worth pondering today.

Sand2008-12-17 07:08:01
This is the first mention of Nazi methods in this thread (by Paparella, of course)

Emanuel Paparella 2008-12-16 05:31:45
Since the quote came from one of Ivan Illich's books and the commentator was not me, I wonder how does Mr. S. know what I would prefer. He must have been told by the visiting voices of Christmas. Hopefully they have not advised to consign Ivan Illich's books to a great bonfire.

Burning books is the incessant connection to the Nazis that Paparella leaps on to move into his standard rants defending the indefensible behavior of religions,

N. L. Wilbur2008-12-17 09:32:35
I think you could indeed give Illich some prophetic credit, as he seemed to have foreseen this industry's shift and sickening peak (if you don't mind the pun). It reminds me of the harvesting of corn. (Stay with me for a moment). Farmers met lobbyists, gained favor in government circles and thrived with subsidies and growing production. Like anything else, things were going fine but annual profits weren't making headlines every year, so the industry had to reinvent itself. And now have corn-based platics -- including those cups you can thrown in the compost pile. Starches are used in construction materials, oil and mining now use corn, and of course how could we leave out its role in the cosmetic and, to come full circle, pharmaceutical industries.
I haven't read the book, but the quote above does demonstrate the shift we're seeing today: everyone has something worth artificially "healing," and each of us is subject to the same demogoguesque informercialization of modern medicine -- and ever scarier, modern diseases. It's really no wonder why we rush to the medicine aisle every time we have a tickle in our leg (blood clot in need of blood thinner???!!!!). Of course, there is some personal responsibility involved in everything, and I would argue that personal ignorance remains a prominent reason that reform in this area has been blacklisted for decades now (profitability being another). A future column, perhaps...
On a personal note, I saw your bio, and I'm reading Thucydides' "The Peloponnesian War." Have you studied this? (And yes, I acknowledge the break from topic...)

Sand2008-12-17 10:29:35
The unmentioned rhinoceros in the living room is the capitalistic swerve given to every commodities. Pharmaceutical companies are ostensibly created to produce viable medicinal cures for diseases but they are structured, like any business, to be profitable and their profitability has become dependent, not only on their capability to assuage medical problems, but basically on their ability to persuade the public to use their latest profitable patentable product. They spend far more on marketing than they do on research and much of their research is derived from basic research sponsored by the government. Many effective older cures have been phased out because the patents have run out, not because the newer patented (and far more profitable) cures are any more effective. That the public is responsive to direct advertising is the result of a public trained by the entire system to respond to media prompting, a characteristic of political response as well as medicinal ones. Rational behavior is not fostered in populations because it is not profitable to do so and therein lies the basic problem.

N. L. Wilbur2008-12-17 11:41:54
See there, even alleged bullies can return to course after the abandonment of certain campaigns.

Sand2008-12-17 12:14:54
Thank you, Mr. Wilbur, for the "alleged". I have not abandoned whatever campaign you might have in mind as my only objective is to reveal the truth as it appears to me and I speak out in response to whatever comment is made by anybody I see attempting to distort information in a partisan manner. My obvious reactions to Mr. Paparella's disreputable attempts to wreak destruction on truth and history is not a "campaign" but a reaction to outright lies and it seems to me there have been sufficient lies floating around in the media these years to prompt anyone with an eye for truth to be disturbed.

Emanuel Paparella2008-12-17 15:07:53
Mr.Wilbur,I concur that Illich was indeed a prophet of sort but he was also and astute observer of the reality of the “brave new world” we live in and have our being, so enamored of technology and push button solutions and so destitute of wisdom. I consider him one of the sanest minds in the confusing times in which we live and have our being. Had the likes of Michelangelo who at the age of ninety was still sculpting his fifth Pietà, resorted to drugs for what ailed him in his old age, I think we would have been deprived of a good half of his artistic production. What I personally find objectionable with much of modern psychiatry is that instead of delving into why the individual feels alienated it tries to “adjust” him to society, quite often with the use of drugs. This time I have to excuse myself for changing the subject slightly but art belongs with every subject.

Yes I did read Thucydides’ “The Peloponnesian War” when I was writing a dissertation on Vico (a philosopher of history of the 18th century) at Yale university; I remember being impressed by the fact that were it not for Thucydides and Herodotus the Greeks never had a great appreciation for history per se. They considered it too messy and too much in the particular; they were more interested in universal principles of reason. Certainly both Plato and Aristotle give that impression. And yet, as Vico well taught us, without those particulars the universals attained may also turn out to be what Alfred Whitehead dubbed “misplaced concretness.”

Emanuel Paparella2008-12-17 15:29:58
P.S. Which reminds me: I just finished teaching a course on biomedical ethics to nurses and doctors. The textbook utilized is titled Taking Side: Clashing Views on Bioethical Issues, edited by Carol Levine. Are you familiar with it? It treats 21 issues among which animal experimentation, genetic enhancement, abortion, and Direct-to-Consumer Drug Advertising. Both and pro and con of the issues are given by experts and practitioners in the field which lends itself to spirited discussion and debates in class. On the very very first class I ended up spending a good two hours lecturing on Ethics in general which formally begins with Socrates, Plato and Aristotle to impress upon them that while a Socrates would always debate the pro and the con of any issue that came up, that does not mean that he was a relativist who believed that Truth does not exist or at best it is relative to the society and the culture in which one live. After that clarification we still debated the various issues but the goal was not to simply throw hot air around and determine who is the better debater (the goal of all sophists, be they ancient or modern) but to understand the opposite view and then shed some light on the issue as a whole even if one remaines unpersuaded by the opposite view.

Sand2008-12-17 15:49:12
I cannot help but be impressed by a medical diagnosis of the effect of modern drugs on a man dead 445 years and how that would destroy his artistic abilities. Since medical diagnosis even today is a very iffy area of medicine with the patient alive and available for modern instrumental probing I assume the diagnosis of Michelangelo was made through the direct intervention of God, a most unusual and unprecedented event.

Emanuel Paparella2008-12-17 16:34:20
Indeed Alexander Mikhaylov, you have it on target with your first comment, To alter one's reality with drugs is automatically to become out of touch not only with one's body but with one's mind and one's spirit as well, which in turn that one will also become a second or third rate thinker, artist, scientist. We do not need Michelangelo to teach us that, but he was one of those who eschewed medicines, drugs and palliatives of any kind for he wanted to feel alive and in control of his powers, more in the tradition of Nietzsche who said that whatever does not kill us makes us stronger.

Emanuel Paparella2008-12-17 16:42:39
P.S. There is a saint recently proclaimed such, a Capuchin friar who lived in a monastery in San Giovanni Rotondo in Italy by the name of Padre Pio. He had to undergo an operation and refused anaesthetic saying that he wante to some share in the sufferings of Christ on the cross. Now, I don't recommend to anybody, not even to myself, that kind of heroic or saintly behavior but the point is clear, to be put out of every discomfort and misery before we are dead means that we are already hafl dead, for it also means to be put out of our creativity and spirituality. A materialist and an epucurian who thinks that we are nothing but the sum part of our chemical components will surely fail to get the point; but that wouldn't be a great surprise.

Emanuel Paparella2008-12-17 16:44:06
Errata: epucurian should be epicurian.

Sand2008-12-17 17:23:15
It is interesting to hear Paparella's outright approval of masochism. And since masochism frequently finds sustenance in Sadism it is difficult to condemn that once masochism has been approved. This throws a new and fascinating light on the Church's outlook on the Holocaust where both sadism and masochism were permitted full play.

Sand2008-12-17 17:25:39
Now I suppose I must start to feel guilty about my morning cup of coffee.

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