May 1, 2013

Amphetamines on campus -- an initial pushback?

Here is an NYT article about a handful of colleges that have begun to tighten the rules for their health centers in dispensing Adderall and other amphetamines. Who knows if it'll catch on more broadly, but it sounds like we're near the point where, although amphetamine use will continue to increase, it'll be at a decelerating or plateau-ing rate.

Earlier I reviewed the history of mainstream drug use over the 20th century, which tracks the rising vs. falling-crime trend. Casual drug use was way worse during the mid-century because amphetamines, barbiturates, and minor tranquilizers were protected by a fig leaf of medical necessity -- to squeeze out the volatility of everyday life, to keep everybody's nerves within a narrow optimal range, neither too high-strung nor too sluggish. We've seen that return in the last 20 years with anti-depressants, the amphetamine revival, and sex-life drugs.

The harsher effects of opiates (the drug of choice during the Jazz Age) and crack / cocaine (during the New Wave Age) makes it harder to slap together a medical rationale for their use. Hence when the drug culture centers around out-there drugs, it becomes more of a fringe thing, not where every other housewife is hoovering a line here and a line there to make it through her daily housework. People become more wary of drug use. And rising-crime times see less cocooning and more social connectedness, reducing people's feeling that they need to take a pill in order to feel better. They already feel better from their sense of belonging and social support.

The transition between the mid-century attitude of "take whatever drugs get you through the day" to the New Wave Age attitude of "I don't know, that's some pretty serious shit you're fucking around with there" began in the late 1950s and early '60s. There was a growing awareness that casual drug use, no matter how medically rationalized, was messing up their ability to live a fully human and dynamic life. We're not quite there yet, since there's only a handful of colleges starting to push back, not a broader movement among the users themselves. But in the next 5-10 years, I see a repeat of that awakening circa 1960 against casual drug use.

The article doesn't draw a very rich portrait of the students, but the basic pattern is there to recognize if you've had much contact with college kids in the past 5-10 years. Fundamentally, Millennials are amoral bullshit artists who lie for boring, trivial reasons. It's not the mischievous prankster kind of truth-bending, or the kind that advances Machiavellian ambition. There's no larger scheme behind their lies, and hence no attempt to justify or rationalize lying per se as actually moral when you think about it, e.g. to protect someone else's feelings. They rationalize their individual actions, not the entire pattern of chronic lying.

They're only looking to minimize the volatility in their mundane daily lives, and whatever it takes, it takes. If you're feeling sluggish, lie to some quack who'll give you Adderall. If your cash flow takes a sudden dip, lie to some quack so you can re-sell your Adderall pills for $5-10 apiece. If you've been putting off your three-page paper, and face a sudden huge demand of your time and effort, well screw that, just BS your way through it. If you're caught doing anything that makes you look bad, just BS your way out of it. More than any other generation, the Millennials act according to the credo of "Just BS your way out of it."

8 comments:

  1. How are Millenials able to "settle" for BS-ing? I would think that most people's egos would prevent them from falling into that rut; for example, I could BS my way through a presentation at work but I'd much rather do something that was, if not life-changing, at least not a complete waste of people's time.

    Do they just have less pride and ambition or is it channeled into other activities?

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  2. Anonymous1:53 AM

    Re: this But in the next 5-10 years, I see a repeat of that awakening circa 1960 against casual drug use.

    The accounts I can find online (e.g. http://www.umsl.edu/~keelr/180/trends.html) that prescription drug continued to increase through the 1960s to mid 1970s and fell from around the mid 1970s to late 1980s (prior to the release of Prozac and a new wave of drugs), with methaqualone and valium filling a lot of the gap of reductions in barbituates and amphetamines which occured in the 1960s to 1970s period. That does kind of still map to falling-rising but doesn't seem so tight.

    The harsher effects of opiates (the drug of choice during the Jazz Age) and crack / cocaine (during the New Wave Age) makes it harder to slap together a medical rationale for their use.

    I thought opiates were the drug of choice in the Victorian Age (laudnum)?

    And rising-crime times see less cocooning and more social connectedness, reducing people's feeling that they need to take a pill in order to feel better. They already feel better from their sense of belonging and social support.

    The reports I can find, again online, about mood disorders and cohorts indicate that these rose in the Baby Boomer and Gen X cohort compared to ones which came before (and numbers of people "disabled by mental illness per 1,000" increases in the 1960s to 1980s period dramatically, at a faster rate of acceleration than 1990s to 2010s), BUT perhaps talk therapy makes more sense in a more socially extraverted era (and taking drugs which inhibit extreme emotional responses doesn't)?

    By the way, what do you think about the coincidence that Prohibition (of alcohol, and to a lesser extent other drugs) and the War on Drugs were both rising phenomenons?

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  3. Anonymous6:23 AM

    "Do they just have less pride and ambition or is it channeled into other activities?"

    They've had so little experience, that more often than not they have no idea what they're doing.

    -Curtis

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  4. Anonymous6:28 AM

    "By the way, what do you think about the coincidence that Prohibition (of alcohol, and to a lesser extent other drugs) and the War on Drugs were both rising phenomenons?"

    No, as governments are more repressive and brutal during rising-crime eras. Because the crime is higher, people are willing to grant more power to the authorities.

    But that doesn't stop the crime wave, because government action doesn't do that much. What does make the difference is if people are going outside their houses or not.

    Compare chicago police at the '68 Democratic convention, to the response to occupy Wall Street.

    -Curtis

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  5. Anonymous6:31 AM

    " (and numbers of people "disabled by mental illness per 1,000" increases in the 1960s to 1980s period dramatically, at a faster rate of acceleration than 1990s to 2010s), BUT perhaps talk therapy makes more sense in a more socially extraverted era (and taking drugs which inhibit extreme emotional responses doesn't)?"

    Gen Xers were more likely to experience serious pain, i.e. become "disabled" by mental problems. As opposed to the continual slow burn of the Millenials.

    I guess you're right that therapy is an outgoing activity.

    -Curtis

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  6. Anonymous6:40 AM

    The suicide rate also rises as the crime rate rises. So its no surprise that Baby Boomers were more likely to experience serious mental pain - they were more likely to be the victims of crime.

    -Curtis

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  7. Anonymous2:31 PM

    This may be of interest:

    "When it comes to food and nutrition, we often worry about low-income families who need assistance getting healthy food on the table, fighting childhood obesity, and just keeping hunger at bay. But it turns out that kids from wealthier families may have a surprising worry as well. According to a new study presented at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology meeting earlier this month, children from affluent families may be more likely to develop life-threatening peanut allergies, in part, because they’re not exposed to enough germs in early childhood.

    Those findings support the long-held “hygiene hypothesis,” which proposes that children who aren’t exposed to enough germs in early childhood are at greater risk for developing an allergy—an idea first introduced over 20 years ago."

    The article goes on to say that children of the wealthy are more likely to have food allergies.

    What do you think? The wealthy(or some of them) are just neurotic and more likely to have their kids diagnosed with allergies? Or the kids really have weaker developed immune systems?

    -Curtis

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  8. Anonymous12:54 PM

    Hell, I take adderall sometimes to get shit done.

    -Curtis

    ReplyDelete

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