30 Mar, 14 | by Iain Brassington
It’s funny how things come together sometimes. A few months ago, I mentioned a slightly strange JAMA paper that suggested that non-compliance with treatment regimes should be treated as a treatable condition in its own right. The subtext there was fairly clear: that there’s potential scope for what we might term “psychiatric mission-creep”, whereby behaviour gets seen as pathological just if it’s undesirable and can be changed with drugs. I was reminded of this by a couple of things I found last weekend.
I was avoiding work by pootling away on the internet, and stumbled across a couple of things. This – an article about American politics that notes the use of psychiatry as a means of social control – was one of them:
[In 1980] an increasingly authoritarian American Psychiatric Association added to their diagnostic bible (then the DSM-III) disruptive mental disorders for children and teenagers such as the increasingly popular “oppositional defiant disorder” (ODD). The official symptoms of ODD include “often actively defies or refuses to comply with adult requests or rules,” “often argues with adults,” and “often deliberately does things to annoy other people.”
Many of America’s greatest activists including Saul Alinsky […] would today certainly be diagnosed with ODD and other disruptive disorders. Recalling his childhood, Alinsky said, “I never thought of walking on the grass until I saw a sign saying ‘Keep off the grass.’ Then I would stomp all over it.” Heavily tranquilizing antipsychotic drugs (e.g. Zyprexa and Risperdal) are now the highest grossing class of medication in the United States ($16 billion in 2010); a major reason for this, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2010, is that many children receiving antipsychotic drugs have nonpsychotic diagnoses such as ODD or some other disruptive disorder (this especially true of Medicaid-covered pediatric patients).
For some reason, I had foxes on my mind as well, and so I entered the word “Fox” into google; and I should have known that it’d provide lots of hits for the US TV conglomerate. One story that came up on the search had to do with a twitter account called @LIPartyStories. This was apparently a feed that would repost pictures sent from its teenage followers of themselves in various states of intoxication and déshabillé. So far, so straightforward: the day that teenagers stop getting drunk and doing stupid things at parties is the day that the world will stop turning. Granted, when I was young, we didn’t post stuff online – but if the internet had been around, we probably would have. Kids do daft stuff; they sometimes regret it; then they grow up, and do daft stuff less.