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Drugs for Youth

Every day a new super food or fad diet is guaranteed to promote longevity; yet research shows that long term friendships and loving communities contribute more to longevity then any diet or fitness regimen. You have the oldest man in the world advocating for “drinking, smoking and loose women” as the key to a long and healthy life. Then the specter of George Burns and his legendary longevity, buoyed along by humor, and a perpetual cigar. Are we in America dupes? There are healthnuts frantically searching every organic grocery store in town for the newest seaweed supplement as they viciously cut people off and traffic and live in a state of complete anonymity in a neighborhood where no one knows each other. They will not be forging the lasting bonds that aid in longevity. Go trawling on the internet for the fountain of youth and find an endless supply of mind numbingly rigid diet plans, a decade’s long monotony of child portioned salad like foods stretching far into the distant horizon. Then there is the exercise; the strength training and yoga and Pilates, all to fine tune the body for a good long run. Never mind that of the ten longest living people in the world none of them exercised regularly, sure they moved, they were active but they weren’t stressing the daily cardio requirement. In fact they weren’t stressing much of anything. Granted once your past 100 you’ve probably learned that stressing out doesn’t really help anything and you probably wouldn’t have the energy for it anyway. But they were living pleasurable, easy going lives, no suffering pleasure deniers they. One Japanese man took up smoking at age 70. Half of them imbibed alcohol regularly. This is not the image of longevity we are sold and sold is the important word here. You can sell mangostein gummy vitamins, you cannot sell friendship. In America we are being sold all the time. But lately it seems we have lost all sense of any internal rationality. We have lost our own grasp on common sense. Instead of finding out from the oldest living people how to attain long life we listen to the “experts”. News is conjecture; our own sense of fact and fiction is simply a matter of which expert we believe. We no longer make our own judgment calls. We have surrendered judgment.

In the last two decades there has been a series of violent shootings on school grounds. Every time there is an outcry heard morning, noon, and night on the radio, the internet, the TV, and the primary reaction is this: why weren’t these kids psychologically evaluated? Why weren’t they treated? We immediately turn to psychiatry, instead of asking our children or ourselves for that matter, we surrender all judgment to the experts in our society. We assume that these violent acts in youth are so foreign, so unnatural that they are a symptom of a diseased mind, so we turn, for a solution, to doctors. The reality is that the majority of school shooting perpetrators have been treated by psychiatrists, and many of them were taking psychiatric medication at the time of the shooting. 18-year-old, Douglas Chanthabouly, was under the influence of anti-psychotic medication when he killed a fellow classmate, 17-year-old Samnang Kok, with a shot to the face. On April 20, 1999, at Columbine High School, 18-year-old Eric Harris was on the anti-depressant Luvox; through toxicology reports a coroner confirmed the anti-depressant was in Harris’ system at the time of the shootings. 15-year-old Kip Kinkel while on Prozac, killed his parents and then proceeded to school where he opened fire on classmates, killing two and wounding 22 others; 14-year-old Elizabeth Bush, on "antidepressants" when she wounded one student at Bishop Neumann High School in Williamsport, Pa.; and 18-year-old Jason Hoffman, on Effexor and Celexa when he wounded one teacher and three students at Granite Hills High School in El Cajon, California.

Three years ago I worked at a treatment facility for children, ages ranging from 10-14. These children were seen as being psychologically impaired by trauma in their birth homes and their adoptive parents were sending them away from home for a minimum 6 months of treatment. As I read through the patient charts I was overwhelmed by a sense of dismay. American society holds to the doctrine that psychiatry is a science, a precise and objective tool, like medical doctors they use science to cure disease. But every psychiatrist these children had seen had given them a different diagnosis, some children had up to 7 differing diagnoses but the average was around 4 or 5. One would think if this was a science there would be at least some scientific consensus, but the diagnoses were only similar in that they were common diagnoses for children and young adults. They were all on an average of 3-5 medications; some of which were hold overs from former diagnoses. In one case a little girl of 11 could not sleep at night, I found out later she was developing an ulcer and this being one of the side effects of her medication I consulted her psychiatrist. Even though the medication causing the most pain to her was a holdover from a previous diagnosis he was only willing to lower it a small amount, the growing ulcer in her belly he referred to as “unfortunate”. I will just state for the record that I am not an expert, but these kids appeared completely normal. I spent a minimum 12 hours a day with them, and they seemed about as sad, angry, and uncertain as any kid sent away from home for a half a year to be looked after by strangers. This whole experience caused me to question the infallible science of our psychiatric system. It seemed to me corrupted by its close alliance with pharmaceutical companies: did I mention the aforementioned psychiatrist was very busy at the time of our talk because he was preparing for a tropical vacation provided by the drug companies? But also it seemed an example of a larger problem in our modern American life; the surrender of our judgment to experts. When I was a kid my father was a big fan of common sense, politicians used to speak often of common sense as a way to cut through all ridiculousness and get back to cold hard facts. As Americans we were proud of our own ability to state things plainly and from the heart, with a self knowledge that came from reflection and awareness. As Eisenhower once said, "We should indoctrinate ourselves that there is such a thing as common sense."

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