15 minutes: ADHD, evolution, and me

Monday, January 26th, 2009

i’ve been thinking a fair bit about ADHD lately. a good friend of mine has a son who was recently diagnosed and has begun medication, and in my own quest to understand my own scattered behaviors and bouts with anxiety and depression, i have started to humor the idea that i could probably pretty thoroughly convince myself, and at least one health care professional, that i ‘suffer’ from the adult version that is currently making the rounds in the popular psychology press. this is a touchy subject and i have resisted writing about it in the past because i want to respect the people who sincerely believe that the recent trend towards medication in our culture has really helped them and/or the people they love. i will never, and i mean NEVER, deign to judge anyone for their personal decisions regarding self-medication, prescription or otherwise. there are a lot of weights to bear in this world, and very little that is known for certain about how to make them lighter. it is up to each of us to evaluate the evidence that we are given and make the best decisions that we can. that said, it is up to me to undertake that sort of evaluation for myself, and talking about what i see and feel seems like it could help others in their own quest for understanding, so i am trying to find the courage to be open and honest while still retaining a fundamental respect for others’ ability to do the same. so.
enough preface, eh?
what am i thinking?
as i see it, the rise in ADHD and other neurological diagnoses, both in our children and adults, can be explained in one of three ways:
1) we have always been crazy, but we didn’t have the tools to diagnose it until recently, so people either just died or found a way to deal, even though that often meant living with a great deal of pain;
2) we are being driven crazy by our society – too many lights, too many preservatives, too much reinforcement of predatory behavior in the media – and we need to change our lifestyles or drug ourselves in order to cope;
3) we are evolving – technology in our society is enabling us to think in new ways, work in new ways, relate to one another in new ways, and by and large this is a positive development, but there will be growing pains as our cultural structures evolve with us in ways that support our development rather than hold it back.

this last option is not one that has a great deal of support in the current medical literature, and less in the media that seeks to explain that literature to the rest of us.
but it is the option that resonates the most with me, and i am not alone, and i think it’s about time for me to start exploring the idea more publicly so that i can start figuring out what it means.

i wrote this post as part of a new experiment with my friend erik, and the experiment is: write about something you’re thinking about for 15 minutes and then post it. no looking back. so that’s all i have time for. here goes! :)


for erik, re: angles of approach, aka the bigger-than-burningman convo i wasn’t sure how to begin as we walked home across the UCSD campus with much in our arms and minds and hearts

Sunday, September 30th, 2007

because perhaps an online record should begin, no? considering we both aspire to full disclosure? ;)

other folks, please feel free to toss in any change your pockets care to share.

an excerpt from prometheus rising, by robert anton wilson, which i finally finished this morning after a multi-month hiatus:

Intelligence is the capacity to receive, decode, and transmit information efficiently. Stupidity is blockage of this process at any point. Bigotry, ideologies etc. block the ability to receive; robotic reality tunnels block the ability to decode or integrate new signals; censorship blocks transmission.
If intelligence could be increased, obviously solutions could be found more quickly to the various Doomsday scenarios threatening us.
If each scientist working on the energy-resources problem could double or triple his or her intelligence, work that would require 20 years might be done in six.
If human stupidity in general decreased, there would be less opposition to original thinking and new approaches to our old problems, less censorship and less bigotry.
If stupidity decreased, less money would be wasted on vast organized imbecilities such as the Arms Race, and more would be available for life enhancing projects.
There is nothing rationally desirable that cannot be achieved sooner if rationality itself increases. This is virtually a tautology, but we must consider the corollary:
Work to achieve Intelligence Intensification is work to achieve all our other sane and worthwhile goals.
Maurice Nicholl, physician, psychiatrist, student of Jung, Gurdjieff and Esoteric Christianity, wrote that “the only purpose in work on consciousness is to decrease the amount of violence in the world.” This is Public Health Problem Number One in the nuclear age, the age of overkill.
We are not talking about mere increase in linear IQ – third-circuit semantic cleverness. We are talking of also the kinds of right-brain intelligence that Nicholl acquired from Jungian neurogenetic research and Gurdjieff’s meta-programming techniques. We are talking of, say, Beethoven’s intelligence, which so disturbed Lenin, who could not bear to listen to the Appassionata (Sonata 23) because it made him “want to weep and pat people on the head, and we mustn’t pat them on the head, we must hit them on the head, hit them hard, and make them obey.” More of Beethoven’s intelligence is needed, desperately, to create a signal that the current Lenins cannot ignore, that will make them weep, and stop hitting heads.


Wednesday, August 15th, 2007

i know i make a lot of references to stuff i want to post about but don’t, and you may or may not know that i think and scribble about many things that i don’t even manage to refer to obliquely in what survives the grueling gauntlet of distraction to make it into post form, but, fwiw, if you want a fun introduction to one of the concepts (arguably The concept) that drives the distribution of my interests across the worlds of design, the internet, cognitive science, developmental psychology, consciousness, mysticism, drugs, public health, and politics, have a listen to this radiolab episode on emergence.

it’s an hour long, but do what i do: listen while you wash the dishes. or eat. or put together a jigsaw puzzle of warholesque popart lips. ok maybe that last one’s not on your list, but tif and i had fun at the toy store the other day, so the gauntlet lengthens. :)

and sign up for their podcast while you’re at it, eh? folks do a damn fine bit of radio programming. even if the ideas aren’t new to you, i bet it’ll make you smile, and think a bit, and maybe ask me a question. and thus the march of progress continues. ;)

why doesn’t this exist?

Thursday, August 9th, 2007

so i do a lot of thinking about sleep and the arising therefrom, and this morning after i got myself up and was sipping some tea i started on the track of “all i really need is to start my metabolism going, but the problem is that i’m so cozy and groggy that it is difficult to get myself to move my arms from underneath the blanket to ingest anything, even water that is sitting right beside my bed.”

this family of thought trains has brought us such ideas as: start breathing deeply as soon as i capture enough consciousness to remember to do so, because air, at least, can be consumed in any position, and is the foundation of the rest. this does a lot, but then i still need to keep stepping up the intake ladder, and so today i started musing on how it would be helpful if i could just have someone drop one of those gross jellified energy paks into my mouth, or maybe if i strapped a camelbak full of coffee to the ceiling and then just had to slide underneath the straw. thinking of silly ideas like that made me happy, but then i was like, wait… why don’t they make time-release caffeine pills that you take before bed and then kick in after 8 hours? that’s like setting the coffee machine to make the world smell good in the morning but without the step of actually having to go get the coffee. that would be brilliant!!

i asked google and found some interesting stuff. they DO make time-release caffeine pills but not in the don’t-release-anything-for-a-while style, rather in the release-this-slowly-so-i-can-code-all-night-without-buying-more-mountain-dew style, which is useful in it’s own right, but quite different.

i also learned that green tea acts as time-release caffeine because the tea is encased in tannins, which is part of why the high from green tea is mellower. that’s nice. i’ve been enjoying toasted green tea quite a bit lately. it’s good. i like to do this walkup to caffeine thing where i drink green tea early, black tea late, and coffee after lunch. but that’s not this post, i guess.

perhaps most enlightening, however, was the discovery that one can purchase time-release caffeinated tights. snake oil man sez they get rid of cellulite. methinks they get rid of pesky extra dollars.

someone else did already have my idea, but he just mentioned it in this mefi thread two years ago and everyone else ignored him.

their loss, yo. srsly.

my first thought was that it must be hard to make something time-release after multiple hours. but we make birth control that releases itself for months at a stretch. so what gives? i’m half sarcastic and half serious. do people feel more like addicts when they pop pills instead of drinking their drugs with cream and sugar? is getting up on our own a source of emotional victory such that getting help from a pill would make people depressed? does time-release feel too sci-fi for daily use? would it be possible but expensive? did i just not look far enough into my google results to find the winner? it seems like the idea crosses some sort of line, and i’m curious about what it is.