Let me start by saying that I am not generally opposed to modern pharmaceuticals. As a sufferer of kidney stones, I am very happy that morphine and its opiate relations are available to me. But I have to wonder if we, as a nation, are not using modern pharmaceuticals a bit too much. For example, at a recent physical, I was told my cholesterol was outside the norm. So rather than tell me to lose 40 pounds – which would be a good idea and a goal I have – I was put on a commonly prescribed statin drug. One described as clean, meaning few side effects and few interactions. For grins, I will take it for a while and see what happens, but I will work harder at losing the weight.
Further, two reports made me sit up and take notice that this is getting worse, rather than better. The first was that more than 25% of boys have been diagnosed as ADHD. The second was that 1 in 50 children are suffering from an Autism spectrum disorder.
1 in 4 boys are suffering from ADHD? And the solution for this is to medicate them?! ADHD is characterized by either significant difficulties of inattention or hyperactivity and impulsiveness or a combination of the two. Without getting into it too far, this describes most boys between the ages of 2 and 30 (and a number of teenage girls too). I am sure there is a standard by which the rather subjective definition of significant is, but I am also wondering if part of the problem is a simple lack of exercise. I do remember growing up, that we had a lot of running around. Sports, recess, after school sports, and walking back and forth to school. Today, not so much. As I have written numerous time, we are seeing a serious decrease in exercise in schools. Recess is almost non-existent, sports are more standing than participating, and we all know that walking to school is almost a vanished skill. So I am skeptical that medication is really the answer. Or even the primary solution.
Autism is a little bit harder though. The new guidelines lump a whole mess of spectrum disorders under the heading of Autism and do not take into account the level of severity. Again, autism is characterized by impaired social interaction and communication, and by restricted and repetitive behavior. We are all familiar with the gross levels of autism, but again I have to wonder if we have not gone too far in the diagnosis. Under these descriptions, I could be suffering from it, to some extent. Of course, there are no drugs currently available, although I heard that a study into an Alzheimer’s drug might help some of the more severely affected sufferers.
This is not to say that there are individuals who are bona fide sufferers. Clearly and without question. But based on the two survey’s, these numbers are going up, not down, which begs the question – are we over targeting people that are not really suffering from these (or other) diseases, or has the genetics of humanity finally failed? Only time will tell.
* From Robin Williams’s sketch on Drugs, Alcoholism, And More Drugs, on Weapons of Self Destruction