Monday, May 19, 2008

Musings: Goddamn the Pusher Man

I awoke in the night to a sound I hadn’t heard for a long time, and fortunately it wasn't rats, but something welcome, though it took my sleep-dulled mind a moment to register: rain! Strong, steady, ground-saturating rain.

I’d been missing its presence, and most of all its effects on the earth, and its return last night was particularly welcome because it allowed me to plant taro this morning in soft, wet, receptive soil. It’s a full moon in Scorpio, too, so especially good for planting.

The soft, unformed brains of teenagers and adolescents are also fertile soil for planting all sorts of messages, a fact that isn’t lost on marketers, who make gazillions exploiting the fears, insecurities and peer pressure that plague most Americans — especially teens.

So why would anyone be surprised to discover that kids are using prescription drugs to get high, as is reported in a Garden Island story today on "pharming," or that alcohol continues to be the top drug of choice?

After all, from the time they’re tiny keiki they’ve been watching TV, with its plethora of prescription drug ads, abundance of beer commercials and myriad booze-sponsored sporting events. Why wouldn’t they think it’s the norm to self-medicate, when they see it happening constantly, both all around them and in that strange pseudo world of TV?

And then, of course, there’s the fact that kids today are medicated legally at a higher rate than we’ve ever before seen. Most of that comes in the form of drugs like Ritalin, which are based on the chemical methylphenidate and used to combat Attention Deficit Disorder.

As BBC news reports:

In 1994 there were just 4,000 prescriptions for methylphenidate, 10 years later that figure had gone up to 359,000 - a 90-fold increase.

Sometimes, they’re even given these drugs by the schools, or parents are told they have to medicate their kids or keep them home.

Is it any wonder, then, that they don’t think that drugs peddled by the multinational pharmaceutical companies — the new, legalized pushers — are any big deal?

I’ve also read a number of articles lately about how very young children — I’m talking under 8 — are being given heavy-duty psychotropic drugs after questionable diagnoses of manic-depressive disorder, schizophrenia and other mental illnesses typically not associated with children. These drugs have not been tested on kids and the long-term effects on developing brains and bodies aren't known.

As Kauai’s Dr. Gerald McKenna noted in the Garden Island article:

”The drugs keep changing, but the problem doesn’t change,” McKenna said. “The whole idea that we are an addictive society is the problem.”

That’s a big part of this ongoing issue, but it’s not the whole story. There’s also this desire to achieve some sort of “norm” in human behavior. Problem is, that “norm” is largely defined by the pharmaceutical companies, which promise that if only you take their drugs, you’ll be like everybody else supposedly is: happy, slim, sleeping through the night, focused, always ready for sex, young and perky— but not too much so.

It’s all a bunch of crock, but so many Americans are buying it and even foisting it on their kids. Why in the world would we think kids wouldn’t model this behavior, with often tragic results?

To change the subject entirely, I’ve begun blogging for Audubon Magazine, too, so if you’d like to read my posts, and the marvelous photos by Hob Osterlund, please check out their site.

And tomorrow night I’ll be one of several speakers discussing the Hawaii Superferry — my topic is its military links, which some people still doubt — at the 6 p.m. meeting of the Eco Roundtable at the Kauai War Memorial Convention Hall on Hardy Street in Lihue. Stop by if you want to hear the latest.


Katy Rose said...

What is this stuff about an "addictive society," anyway? What can we possibly do with that analysis? I believe this term was coined by Ann Wilson Shaef, the self-help guru who wrote a book some years ago called "when Society Becomes an Addict" or something like that.

Well, we live in a capitalist society where greed is rewarded and some would say an imperative to "success." We live in a society in which material "success" is elevated beyond reason, in which citizens are inundated with exhortations to buy things, use credit cards, "go shopping" to defeat terrorism (Bush.) This can help us understand the context for drug dealing - including the dealing done by Big Pharma and the liquor companies.

But I think we have to face the fact that there always has been, and always will be, a fairly stable percentage of the population that just likes getting high. And there will be a certain number of them who meet with unfortunate consequences. The same is true for riding a bike. People do it because it's fun, and some people get killed when they do it.

I don't mean to make light of tragedies like the one that recently befell the Matthews family. But we have to be very careful about the social consequences of artificially elevating the "threat."

Obviously negative consequences, like our high incarceration rates and the incursions on civil liberties flow from simplistic analyses.

We can't blame the pusher for drug use. And punishing the users doesn't seem to do any good, either. I think we would be better served by accepting drug use as a permanent part of society, and act accordingly.

I suppose as someone who hasn't used mind or mood altering drugs (including doctor-presribed ones or alcohol) for over twenty years, I see it as a health and safety question, and one not well served by puritanical and often hypocritical hysteria. I would much rather that my sons receive factual information about drug safety than a "just say no" message. More than that, I hope that my sons always feel that they can find happiness and excitement without chemicals, but I'm not going to pretend that they will never have to face a choice about using drugs at some point in their lives.

One more caveat: every time the media starts playing up stories about a "drug scare" a short-sighted public-policy proposal soon follows. Since it's hardly likely that pharmaceutical company profits will be threatened in any real way (see discussion of capitalism, above) it will most likely take the form of increasing surveillance on young people.

Anonymous said...

I like the "fact" that your articles are generally based on reason and that your deductions can be attributed to the reasons that you provide, but every once in a while you make me scratch my head, such as when you suggest that planting taro in the time of Scorpio is somehow especially favorable for taro growth--or is it simply that it's late spring?

Anonymous said...

You know I've smoked a lot of grass
O' Lord, I've popped a lot of pills
But I never touched nothin'
That my spirit could kill
You know, I've seen a lot of people walkin' 'round
With tombstones in their eyes
But the pusher don't care
Ah, if you live or if you die

God damn, The Pusher
God damn, I say The Pusher
I said God damn, God damn The Pusher man

You know the dealer, the dealer is a man
With the love grass in his hand
Oh but the pusher is a monster
Good God, he's not a natural man
The dealer for a nickel
Lord, will sell you lots of sweet dreams
Ah, but the pusher ruin your body
Lord, he'll leave your, he'll leave your mind to scream

God damn, The Pusher
God damn, God damn the Pusher
I said God damn, God, God damn The Pusher man

Well, now if I were the president of this land
You know, I'd declare total war on The Pusher man
I'd cut him if he stands, and I'd shoot him if he'd run
Yes I'd kill him with my Bible and my razor and my gun

God damn The Pusher
Gad damn The Pusher
I said God damn, God damn The Pusher man

Joan Conrow said...

Dear Anonymous, Glad to hear my posts usually sound reasonable! As for planting in Scorpio, it's a water sign, and I've found that full moons generally bring rain, so put them together, and you get the likelihood of some moisture to assist your planting efforts, whatever they be, not just taro. And sure enough, we got good rain last night.

Thanks for asking, and for reading.