Crank: Americana’s Vicious Slice of Apple Pie
By Lou Ford
There is a growing problem in our society today, and it’s not a topic that we talk about much. It’s an issue that is as American as milk and apple pie. It is a large slice of Americana.
It’s Americana because it has been a trendy component of the development of our culture that has morphed into a vicious wave of crippling dependency. The acceptance of it has resulted in its unspoken balefulness.
Because it’s a problem that has only come to plague university campuses or Wall Street. That is the overprescribing of prescription stimulants. In a three-part series, I’m going to look at the problem to try to understand how this transformed into an issue that has affected nearly just as many as the opioid epidemic but hasn’t been talked about nearly enough because there are no dead bodies.
The overt overdiagnosis of ADD and ADHD has been a controversial topic for quite a while. It was a diagnosis that many could say was real but was also an easy cop-out for dealing with children who were deemed troublemakers, or hyperactive and, probably, doomed to fail. It is a diagnosis that is factual, and to those who really do have it, can be extremely debilitating -- affecting every facet of their lives. That said there is a very troubling aspect of this overt diagnosis: the over-prescribing of amphetamine-like drugs. These drugs like Adderall or Ritalin have extremely effective is many cases of alleviating the symptoms of those two disorders. They can help with focus, and organization, and be a lifesaver to those who have the attention span of Golden Retrievers. But that is not the case now. Now it is a performance enhancer considered by many to be a must-have in those societies where the competitive edge is the name of the game. This has developed into this pervasive, destructive outbreak of dependency which is quietly ripping apart a society. All the while doctors, psychiatrists, and drug companies are making money hand-over-fist due to this ever-evolving market. What triggered this horrible yet silent outbreak that had begun with a drug that was supposed to help people? There are many reasons why.
One explanation, among many, is that the current value of the ADHD medication market is worth about 13 billion dollars. In simple terms, it’s a big money maker for pharmaceutical companies. Just like OxyContin had been, these amphetamine medications, like Adderall and Ritalin, were also pushed. The big difference is that unlike the more simplistic medical premise of pain, ADHD is a disorder that is much more difficult to diagnose. There are or were strict guidelines for what was an indication of the disorder. However, in reality, that doesn’t matter anymore because most psychiatrists do not have the adequate time to effectively evaluate each patient. At times they only have 15 minutes to hear and observe, and then just as quickly they hand off a prescription. The result of that is that those who might not have ADHD or those who want the drugs can get easily diagnosed with the disorder. The end result is a whirlwind epidemic that somehow isn’t that bad because it’s college kids, and “The Wolf of Wall Street” stockbrokers who are engulfed in this issue. And the pharmaceutical companies make out like bandits.
This problem has been a quiet dilemma since the advent of the drug amphetamine. A substance that was first synthesized by the chemist Lazăr Edeleanu in 1887, amphetamines were seen as being basically beneficial to all of mankind. It was first sold as Benzedrine, which was used as a decongestant, as well as a treatment for things like fatigue, low blood pressure, and low libido. In fact, the first recorded incident of a college student using an amphetamine to study was in 1936 and that drug was Benzedrine. This is nothing new. It’s Americana. A 2016 article in the New York Times titled Generation Adderall stated, “Adderall has now become ubiquitous on college campuses, widely taken by students both with and without a prescription. Black markets have sprung up at many, if not most, schools. In fact, according to a review published in 2012 in the journal Brain and Behavior, the off-label use of prescription stimulants had come to represent the second-most-common form of illicit drug use in college by 2004. Only marijuana was more popular.”
Still, even after doctors and scientists had begun to realize the injury that was being inflicted by the over-prescribing of those substances, they still continue to do it. The same thing as OxyContin, but just a different reason. A new competitive culture, that doesn’t just accept it but welcomes its aid, is the catalyst for this epidemic.
There is still that question of why? That question is not necessarily an easy one to solve. That said one thing is true, the culture of "me" is a major proponent. Amphetamines are the chicken feed for the culture of "mine".
In the next, the second article I’ll be looking at how medications like Adderall and Ritalin we're developed, and how the public’s perspective of them became an essential element in American life.
Copyright © Andrew Bruce 2018