Society Suffers From 'Sensory Addiction'
Sat, 19 Mar 2005 © Winnipeg Free Press (CN MB)
ANECDOTAL evidence suggests the use of hard stimulants has this decade gone from rare to commonplace amongst Winnipeg's teenagers and young adults. As one Kelvin High student related to me, on the condition of anonymity, "At school, coke is easier to get than weed."
Thriftier thrill-seekers, however, are opting for the longer-lasting effects of methamphetamine. These potent neurotoxins, unequivocally stigmatized throughout the '90s, have emerged from the ghetto and into middle-class life. While greater supply via organized crime expansion has brought more widespread distribution, the real culprit is greater demand. In our technology-saturated, hyperactive culture, stimulants serve to bring excitement to the mundane.
For young people diagnosed with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder ( ADHD ), this is nothing new. It's been decades since educators and physicians discovered that a slight methylphenidate ( Ritalin ) buzz keeps classroom-cooped kids quiet and still.
Indeed, in the last decade, Ritalin prescriptions in the United States have risen 500 per cent, and, according to a Mayo Clinic report from 2003, up to 16 per cent of high school students are diagnosed with ADHD. ( Ritalin, incidentally, is a pharmacological sibling to amphetamines that, like cocaine, raises dopamine levels in the brain. )
Amongst social butterflies and the nightclub-lounge scene, cocaine prevails. As Scott, 26, a Corydon Avenue regular, describes it, "coke is the new weed." But for socially unambitious, scholarly types -- prim people who have never abused alcohol or street drugs -- Ritalin's pharmacy label lends it a legitimacy that invites excess. Amid the pressures of academic exams and deadlines, Ritalin -- sometimes crushed and snorted -- is key to all-night study sessions.
Conservative Stephen Bertman, a classics professor at Lawrence Technological University in Michigan, in his book Hyperculture: The Human Cost of Speed ( Praeger, 1998 ) fingers the accelerated pace of our increasingly technological lifestyle as the culprit for postmodern moral decay. And on the left, psycho-pharmacologist Richard DeGrandpre in Ritalin Nation: Rapid-fire Culture and the Transformation of Human Consciousness ( Norton, 1999 ) dismisses arguments of a biological origin for ADHD.
In DeGrandpre's view, our society suffers from "sensory addiction": multi-tasking computers, feature-filled mobile phones, dazzling video game systems, endless TV channel lists, quick-cutting music videos and other everyday technologies transform our consciousness toward greater expectations of stimulation; thus the real world -- of classrooms and libraries, kitchens and gardens -- seems decelerated and dull by comparison.
DeGrandpre's belief in behavioural origins for ADHD symptoms leads him to point at parenting and lifestyle as causes. Doctors in France or Japan, he points out, seldom diagnose ADHD. Ritalin prescriptions are unheard of. Where a single schoolteacher will lead a class of calm Japanese children through a museum, three American teachers will struggle in vain to control the same number of American students.
Narcissism and instant gratification are so deeply embedded in American culture that impulsive, inattentive kids get put on hard drugs by impulsive, inattentive parents and educators seeking a quick fix from their impulsive, inattentive physicians. Sensory addiction is so ubiquitous as to be invisible. What proportion of people have a habit, through every waking hour, of blasting a TV? How many of us are uneasy with silence? How often do we fidget with our mobile phones, even when we're not making or taking a call? How likely is it that our children's calmest moments are in front of a TV or computer screen?
Stimulants, whether from the pharmacy or the street, address symptoms, not causes. While they might succeed for a moment in settling a nuisance child, keeping one awake to study, or offering escape from dullness, they only further feed a problem that in turn requires more of the "solution." And long-term use of Ritalin, cocaine, and other stimulants has been shown to cause brain decay and increase the likelihood of later depression.
The only effective approach to sensory addiction -- whether from Ritalin or cocaine, mobile phones or television -- is proper parenting and the embrace of meaningful activities in the real world. This may or may not include cooking and baking, gardening, carpentry, painting, writing, swimming, playing a musical instrument, communing with nature, meditating.
Activities such as yoga or martial arts evoke a disciplinary focus as well as a reverence for the instructor that can only carry over into the academic classroom. But stimulant drugs, whether from a pharmacy or a street thug, are bad for growing brains.
HempPharm.com comment; "Doctors in white coats and big pharma have legalized supplying hard drugs in the form of Ritalin to our kids, while police and fire fighters are working overtime to quell the rise of Crystal Meth Labs and Meth use all over the country. And apparently there is a vivid market in Ritalin among kids, what better educational ground than that can we provide to become a full scale black market drug dealer?"
*Industrial-Hemp has no psychoactive properties following definition of the European Economic Community (EEC); THC content is less than 0.3%. In general, low THC-seed varieties without psychoactive properties are those that have a THC content of less than 1%. (See also No-THC Hemp-seed.) THC= Delta-9 TetraHydroCannabinol.
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