Letters to the editor

Pediatric psychiatric drugs aren't a panacea Plus: Camille Paglia responds to criticism; are Krispy Kreme donuts literally addictive?

Published March 14, 2000 5:00PM (EST)

Kids on drugs

I agree with much of what Dr. Diller describes in his article concerning the overuse of psychiatric medication in children and thank him for his kind reference to me. Too many children are receiving medication with too limited an evaluation, minimal follow-up and too narrow a focus. Too often one or more medications are being used before a careful understanding of school- and family-related issues. And we do not know the long-term consequences of these medications, especially on young children.

Where I have some trouble with Dr. Diller's approach is both his implied criticism of Dr. Biederman and relatively little focus on the current health care reimbursement system. Dr. Biederman is a leading researcher using state of the art diagnostic methods and thorough evaluation. He works with very disturbed children, many of whom would be hospitalized if those beds had not been subject to budget cuts. He and each staff child psychiatrist in his group are dedicated to and follow these patients for years and provide 24-hour coverage and availability.

However what happens nationally is not the same as in a leading research group. Because for-profit managed care has separated mental health services from the rest of medical care, many children with psychiatric needs are being seen by pediatricians, pediatric neurologists and others, all of whom, like child psychiatrists, are inadequately reimbursed. The only financially viable model of practice is a too-heavy reliance on psychopharmacology or asking families to pay out of pocket. The chief beneficiaries of the current system are the for-profit mental health companies and the pharmaceutical industry.

-- Michael Jellinek, M.D.

The rush to drugs is really an abandonment of responsibility for the welfare of our children. Many of these problems are related to divorce and poor family dynamics. Hyperactive and acting-out behaviors are normal responses to some kinds of social situations; the potentials may be genetically encoded, but they're brought out by social contexts.

The desire to resolve apparently aberrant or disruptive behavioral patterns with drugs reveals not only a scientific/biological commitment to emotions and behavior in our society, but also its individualist underpinnings. Drugs are the individual solution; unfortunately, individual solutions to social problems won't work.

-- John A. Guidry

In this day and age blaming a person's genes is simply one more way of saying "I haven't a clue what the cause of the problem is." Psychiatrists drug our kids because it's a lot easier than handling incompetent parents, teachers or schools. It's a whole lot easier than complex testing to see what kind of diet change might help or working with your kid to help him understand the subject he's having trouble with at school.

I have no doubt that the pharmaceutical industry will generate lots of studies that show that these drugs work for kids. After all, if there's profit to be made, do it.

When are we ever going to learn that raising kids isn't easy, and that a pill is not a substitute for loving care and guidance?

-- Robert C. Johnson

While I agree that far too many children are being medicated to make them more compliant, we finally took a hard look at whether Adderall would be appropriate for our 11-year-old. With the help of an experienced counselor and a pediatrician specializing in ADD, it finally made sense to us. The medication has helped a lot, but I think what gets overlooked is how important it is to have much, much more than meds. As a society, we need to take a hard look at our priorities. Unfortunately, too many adults like the quick-and-easy solution of a little pill. That's not what kids need. They need a community of sober adults.

-- Deborah Fisher

The North American intellectual tradition

I usually admire Paglia's intellectual scope but her essay omits the founder of American Pragmatism and Semiotics, C. S. Peirce. James, Dewey and that Merry Prankster Derrida took quit a bit from Peirce, including the concept of "stream of consciousness," which is a lousy description of Perch's Semiotics.

It's about time a leftist American intellectual canned the shoddy Marxist varieties of post-structuralism which have been swallowed whole by the American academic left as well as the Democratic Party. Paglia deserves credit for at least that.

-- Spiros Papleacos

European philosophy may be hidebound, moribund, inward-looking and most of all unreadable. The counter argument, asserted by Paglia, that North American philosophy offers a bill of fare that will lead to some eschatolon, perhaps a cosmic orgasm, is even more unsustainable.

McLuhan, aside from being wrong (for God's sake he thought that TV demanded full sensory participation from the viewer), was steeped in an ancient European tradition; he was a disciple of Aquinas. On top of this he was a Luddite, a perceptive one, but to damn the printing press is not entirely sane.

The World Wide Web has not brought forward a tribalism, where "magic" connects us all, it has laid the foundations for the new robber barons to fleece the poor, while we (Salon's readers and writers) twitter on, our vanity salved by the mirror of our online community. There is no worldwide community of interest, no melting pot of humanity finally edible through the intercession of Chef Internet. Like the villagers of the Balkans, and of Rwanda, or like Rush Limbaugh's savaging of a fellow conservative, John McCain, the media is not the message, the club is.

-- Dominic Lane

Camille Paglia grossly misrepresents the views of John Dewey on democracy. Dewey advocated a face-to-face democracy based upon associations of individuals that might, but had not yet in his opinion, come together to form a public. While Dewey certainly was not opposed to capitalism or individualism per se, he saw unreflective individualism and unfettered industrial capitalism as impediments to the sort of open dialogue that constitutes democracy. A cursory look at "The Public and Its Problems" will show that Dewey, on economics, was far closer to Marx than he was to McLuhan.

-- Joel Lindsey

Camille Paglia responds:

Several independent Web sites, in linking to my Salon article on "The North
American Intellectual Tradition," omitted crucial background information.
The piece was a reprint of a Feb. 26 article in Toronto's Globe and Mail
that was excerpted in turn from a much longer lecture delivered on Feb. 17 as
the Second Annual Marshall McLuhan Lecture at Fordham University.

I thank Spiros Papleacos for his stimulating remarks and hasten to assure him
that Charles Peirce was indeed credited in my Fordham lecture as the first
philosopher to use the term "pragmatism," although it was William James who
developed the concept.

I'm afraid I simply disagree with Dominic Lane's dismissive remarks about
McLuhan as well as about the World Wide Web, the new frontier that still awes
me after my years of work with Salon and its vast international readership.
Decade by decade, McLuhan's intuitions are becoming reality. It is today's
young people who will reap that harvest in the future.

Finally, Joel Lindsey has evidently misread my references to John Dewey,
which centered not on economics but on his revolutionary theories of
education as a prefiguration of McLuhan's cultural criticism. The collapsing
of all cultural questions into Marxist economics is precisely what I most
deplore about the last 30 years of academic thought.

Krazy kravings


Over the past summer, I took a train from my home in New Jersey to New York City. There was a Krispy Kreme shop in between my train and the exit. The first few days, it was early, I was hungry, I needed some sugar to get me going, so I bought a couple. Honestly, they just weren't that good. They were fine, but nothing special.

However, on subsequent days around 6:30 a.m. I'd start to get cravings: a funny taste in my mouth, a buzzing in my head. I needed Krispy Kremes. I started eating 2-3 every morning and 2-3 every night. It interfered with my work. I couldn't work late because by 4 o'clock, I'd be jonesing for another fix of that sweet sugary goodness. When I knew I had to stay late, I'd buy a dozen and eat them all day. A girl in my office ate six in one go and realized she had a problem. She's taking it day by day, but I think she's been clean for about six months now.

They work like cigarettes: no real initial pleasure, but a deep and lasting physical addiction ensues rapidly. They're so cheap and seem like they should be good (look at all that glaze) that we buy them without really questioning it. But last summer, the joy I got from Krispy Kremes wasn't in the glaze or melt-in-the-mouth dough, it was an endorphin release from feeding my addiction. Ah, endorphins ...

-- Jeb Boniakowski

How wonderful for the people of Los Angeles that you now have Krispy Kreme, which we in the Southeast have taken for granted for years as the best. Now, if you can only convince White Castle to come out there, you'll be set.

In return, would you maybe send a couple of In-N-Out burger stores this way?

-- Bryan Eldridge Hurst

By Salon Staff

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