Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Harry Magnet Mentioned in Podcast

My harrymagnet.com website has been up for over 5 years, but there have been very few external web references to it. I was pleased to find today a Mysterious Universe podcast from June 19 that mentions me. The entire podcast is over an hour in duration. The discussion turns to animal magnetoreception at 14:30. The narrators then discuss Robin Baker's human experiments at 17:35. They discuss me beginning at 20:00, ending at 24:15. The discussion is partly humorous, partly serious, but I think they give a pretty good brief summary of my ideas.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Adult ADHD Drug Use Skyrockets

A recent article reported that American adults now exceed children in ADHD drug prescriptions. In 2007, adults accounted for 39% of 37 million total ADHD drug prescriptions. In 2014, adults accounted for 53% of 63 million total ADHD drug prescriptions. Note that the total number of yearly ADHD drug prescriptions to both children and adults increased by 70% (from 37 million to 63 million) during this 7 year time period.

Why are so many adults taking ADHD drugs? While the official line from the psychiatry establishment is that previously undiagnosed adults are finally coming forward to doctors and getting diagnosed with ADHD, a New York Times article from a few months ago tells a different story. Many adults are obtaining ADHD drugs (legally via prescription or illegally from friends or dealers) not because they are ill, but because they want to perform better at work. They want to be able to get by with 4 hours or less of sleep per night. They want to knock out PowerPoint presentations to keep up with the competition.

The article opens with an example of Elizabeth, “a Long Island native in her late 20s”, who purchased Adderall from a drug dealer to do an all-nighter to complete a PowerPoint presentation. She was doing this presentation for investors in her health-technology start-up company. Why did Elizabeth feel compelled to purchase Adderall from a drug dealer, given the risks inherent in illegal drug sales, along with the risks of amphetamine use, such as anxiety, addiction, and hallucinations? According to Elizabeth, “not to take Adderall while competitors did would be like playing tennis with a wood racket.” Elizabeth also tried the legal route to obtain amphetamine, going to a psychiatrist and complaining that she could not concentrate on work. In 10 minutes, she received a diagnosis of ADHD and a prescription for Adderall. The article isn’t clear why she got Adderall from (illegal) drug dealers in addition to the (legal psychiatric) dealers. Perhaps her doctor wouldn’t prescribe enough Adderall for her to knock out all those PowerPoints.

I play tennis. I wouldn’t want to try to play with a wooden racket. But I don’t see how my playing with a modern racket is anyway comparable to popping Adderall to stay awake and focused. Modern tennis rackets don’t have any side effects. They’re not addictive. They don’t alter brain chemistry.

The article mentions the darker side of stimulant use. A young woman became hooked on Adderall while in college, getting the drug from classmates for $5 or $10 a pill. She began taking more Adderall while working after college. Becoming too wired to relax or sleep, she tried taking Xanax to calm down. After experimenting with alcohol, cigarettes, and other prescription drugs to try to stabilize her intense mood swings, she ended up in a treatment center.

Many times a brief chat with a doctor is all that’s needed to get an ADHD diagnosis and Adderall, Vyvanse, Concerta, or Ritalin prescription. A Houston lawyer increased his dosage from 20 mg of Adderall to 100 mg, twice the highest FDA recommended dose, by getting prescriptions from multiple doctors, a felony in Texas. His bosses and clients were thrilled with his productivity. This lawyer soon realized that there were negative consequences to his drug use: rapid heartbeat, sweating, acute anxiety, and sleep deprivation. His wife divorced him, he lost his job, and he spent six weeks at a drug treatment center.

In a Room for Debate follow-up article, three “experts” try to convince us that this use of ADHD drugs for workplace performance enhancement is a new trend of modern life. Titles such as “This Is the Probable Future”, “Equalizers in a Stressful World, If Used Properly”, and “A Symptom of Modern Life” suggest that we are facing something that represents a viable way to cope with the stress and demands of the contemporary workplace. According Julian Savulescu of Oxford University, “Ritalin and other stimulants improve impulse control,” and impulse control is one of the most important determinants of success in life.

Ritalin and other stimulants improve impulse control? Huh? They are highly addictive drugs. Taking an addictive drug for whatever reason, to get high, or to perform better at work, or to pull an all-nighter, is not an example of impulse control, but the opposite—a surrender of one’s long-term best interest to short-term gain (feeling high and energetic). That’s what the supposed experts in our society are advising us to do, but it doesn’t make it right.

These articles suggest that ADHD drug use is some new trend to cope with the twenty-first century workplace. This is inaccurate. ADHD drugs like amphetamines are nothing new. The amphetamine Benzedrine dates from the 1930’s, decades before first generation antidepressants and antipsychotics were introduced. The young people like Elizabeth who feel compelled to take amphetamines to perform better at work are making the same mistakes that many of their parents’ and grandparents’ generations made. Doctors who prescribe stimulant drugs today are making the same mistakes that doctors made decades ago, only for different reasons. While doctors in the mid-twentieth century prescribed amphetamine for people to lose weight, or treat mild depression or psychosomatic ailments, without knowing the adverse effects, doctors today cannot be ignorant about the abuse potential of these drugs. That’s the reason that they are Schedule II controlled substances in the U.S. The different today is that the alliance between Big Pharma and Psychiatry has fooled people and doctors into thinking that many children and adults have a disorder called ADHD that can be treated with stimulant drugs. They “prove” their case for the efficacy of the drugs based on short-term studies. There’s no question that the drugs improve short-term attention. The problem is long-term functioning. Since Pharma doesn’t need to prove long-term efficacy for drug approval, and Pharma provides most of the funding for studies, we know little scientifically about long-term efficacy.

My father was a habitual user of amphetamines for about 40 years. When he started with them as a young man for weight loss, little was known about their adverse effects. Although the pills may have helped him lose weight and perform better at work, he paid the price when he got older. He developed chronic severe depression and anxiety beginning in his fifties. He had a major depressive episode leading to a suicide attempt that landed him in a treatment center. After he was weaned off amphetamine and put on "safer" drugs like antidepressants and antipsychotics, he couldn't function at work and was forced to retire from a career he loved in his early sixties.

I have suffered from problems with attention as an adult. I briefly tried Ritalin after I convinced my psychiatrist to diagnose me with ADD, and found that the drug did improve my focus when studying difficult scientific subjects in school. I didn’t like the emotional-numbing and social withdrawal effects, however, and stopped taking this drug. Later I found alternative ways to improve focus, including meditation / guided imagery exercises, and behavioral changes based on my human magnetoreception hypothesis. Although what I’m doing may not work for everyone, I think doctors and scientists need to be open to alternative ways to control attention deficit / hyperactive symptoms. Mass-prescribing amphetamines and other stimulants is an old idea that is getting new traction due to the adult ADHD diagnosis fad.