Posts Tagged ‘Drugs’

Blue Genes

May 10, 2010

Yes one can have a genetic predisposition to depression, but what might it mean that those genes developed long before our modern conceptualization of depression?

I know that I seem to have a bit of that lugubrious shaman blood, that tendency toward black Russian despair and a taste for Kafka and Munch as rather funny gentlemen.  I know that my paternal grandfather was prone to brooding silence and violent outbursts, a supposedly remote, even cold, man who I never knew but nevertheless suspect would have been up for some good chats and dark laughs—that we would have somehow “gotten” each other.

That grandfather, I know, also had electro-shock therapy—one of the first to get it in Chicago in the 30s.  Whatever that grandfather “had,” I know that my father feared getting it (and perhaps that’s why there is so much he never “got,” at least not yet).  He had years of psychotherapy, and once anti-depressants came on the scene he was on those; I’m told they helped, but I’m not sure I see the evidence.

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Mergers and Acquisitions

April 21, 2010

Twenty-one years ago, Bret Easton Ellis hit a collective chord (at least for my generation) with his novel, Less Than Zero.  It begins:  “People are afraid to merge on freeways in Los Angeles.”  A follow-up check-in on the state of intimacy amongst twenty-somethings twenty years hence might be that people are now simply terrified to merge.

A book about alienation and emptiness in the context of glitzy LA, Less Than Zero was the west coast bookend to Bright Lights Big City—Jay McInerney’s look at the coke-infused emptiness of the New York scene in the 80’s.  I lived in New York, and partied at the same clubs as the scene set in Bright Lights, and when it came out in ’84 all my friends read it, and we all wished we had written it because all we’d have had to do was take notes on our lives.

I moved to LA in ’88 and Less than Zero came out in ’89, but the scene in LA was so bizarre and elusive, almost unreal, that I never felt the insider, although I recall underground clubs and dancing to Art of Noise and Jesus and Mary Chain and never really knowing where I was, or how all these cool kids got to be so cool—it took a while longer to realize just how miserable most of them actually were.

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April 20, 2010

Nearly fifty years after Timothy Leary, who evangelized hallucinogenic experience as part of the hippy generation (which was, arguably, a failed social movement that ended up more as a bacchanal than a New Age) there is renewed interest in psychedelics for emotional, psychological and spiritual purposes.

A recent article in the New York Times, “Hallucinogens Have Doctors Tuning In Again,” was intriguing on a number of levels.  In safely controlled and comfortable laboratory settings, patients with conditions such as intractable depression were given psychedelic mushrooms, and came back from their “trips” changed beings.

Dr. Clark Martin, a retired psychologist ailing with depression in the context of kidney cancer reported, “All of a sudden, everything familiar started evaporating.  Imagine you fall off a boat out in the open ocean, and you turn around, and the boat is gone. And then the water’s gone. And then you’re gone.”

More than a year after his single six-hour experience, Martin credits it with “helping him overcome his depression and profoundly transforming his relationships with his daughter and friends. He ranks it among the most meaningful events of his life, which makes him a fairly typical member of a growing club of experimental subjects.”

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Hurt People Hurt People

April 9, 2010

Andy and Will went on a road trip up the coast with some friends recently, leaving Nate, Agnes and I to fend for ourselves for a few days at home.  Nate is not really a huge movie fan so, in contrast to our watching the men’s and the women’s college basketball finals together, he was being a good sport to go out with me to see Greenberg.

As I sat there watching a film at once unpleasant and compelling, I feared that Nate must be hating every frame of it—slow moving, weird, preoccupied with themes of mid-life and modern alienation—yet as the lights came up we sat there and started to talk about it.  We talked in the car, we talked over lunch and on through a walk with Agnes, the themes of the film sparking a wide-ranging conversation about everything from social relationships across the lifecycle to psychological speculation about what might be wrong with Greenberg.  Thus a film that wasn’t fun or pleasurable, turned out to be good in a way you sort of have to talk about; ironically, a film about an isolated guy trying to do nothing had a way of provoking Nate and me to be closer by figuring out what we thought about it.

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Always look on the bright side of… depression

March 5, 2010

Following in the footsteps of the sagacious Monty Python, a recent New York Times Magazine article by Jonah Lehrer, “Depression’s Upside,” offers some nice insights to encourage us to not just run away, nor hunt down and kill, our dark and gloomy emotions.  Lehrer frames the discussion well.  However, the debate itself is fraught with assumptions about depression, creativity and the brain that I think are open to debate.

My overarching bone of contention comes with the assumption that depression is a “malfunction” of the mind.  The two poles of current psychiatric thinking are outlined as either depression must be medicated and eradicated, or that perhaps it has an upside—as trumpeted in the article in the form of enhanced cognitive acumen for problem solving.  The real counter-argument, not much made by psychiatry, is that depression might be a normal reaction to an abnormal world.

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Import/Export—Depression’s now big in Japan

January 25, 2010

I caught an interview recently on “Marketplace” where Kai Ryssdal talks with Ethan Watters about his book, Crazy Like Us: The Globalization of the American Psyche.

Watters’ thesis is that mental illness is culturally determined, and that big drug companies have systematically worked to change the way other cultures view melancholy, for example, in order to sell them anti-depressant medications.  He cites Japan as a place where melancholy was successfully reframed as depression, with one anti-depressant climbing to a billion in annual sales once the new paradigm of depression was successfully imported.

Watters claims to not be patently anti-drug companies, mentioning that his wife is a psychiatrist and acknowledging that these medications can, and should, be used to alleviate suffering; mostly he suggests that a diverse perspective on so-called mental illness would be unfortunate to lose in the wake of homogenizing globalization.

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Problems with Pot

January 11, 2010

A reader inquires about helping a thirteen-year-old boy who has “stopped participating in organized sports, grades are not great anymore, he’s lying about his activities, and only wants to hang out with his friends (playing video games, riding bikes).  His mom recently found weed in his room.  She is just at her wits end on how to help him (and her) get through the next few years…

Any good advice on how to make sure this mom can stay connected to her child, honor his need to individuate, but keep him safe too?”


Whether the weed is the problem, or merely a symptom of the problem, my sense is that this is where our initial focus is best directed.

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Joy to the World… and one more thing about the Drugs

May 25, 2009

popsicle kidsHappy Memorial Day! 

Let’s take a breath and set our intentions to have a happy summer and really enjoy and appreciate our kids, all our kids, this very summer. 

Although in this blog we may talk about “problems,” there is a big problem in our parenting zeitgeist at the moment where kids have too often become labels and the sacred essence of their beauty gets lost in a shuffle of ADD-OCD-LD-OT jargon. 

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What, and When, to tell Kids about our Pasts

May 24, 2009

ducklingA reader wrote that her ten-year-old has already asked if she’d ever done drugs; she said that she’d managed to “dodge the bullet,” but didn’t want to lie either, wanting him to be mature enough to hear that particular part of her life story.  She asks, “What do do?”


This made me think of a morning five years ago when my kids were eight and ten.  While we didn’t get into my own past in that particular conversation on the way up to school, we ended up talking all about drugs and alcohol and why they could be dangerous.  My older son wanted to know which drugs were the worst and most addictive, and we worked our way up to the scary idea that some people inject drugs into their bodies with needles and that these drugs could be very addictive.  When asked what that drug was called, I found myself using the word “heroin” with my little elementary schoolers and wondering if I’d just gone too far and given too much information for their question, when my younger son said, “Heroin is the most addictive?  I thought it was Miller Light.”

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