Mercury Rising 鳯女

Politics, life, and other things that matter

My peace I give unto you (–John 14:27)

Posted by Charles II on November 24, 2010

An interesting interview on DemocracyNow with Canadian physician Gabor Mate on ADD/ADHD.

The basic thesis (for those readers who have ADD/ADHD or just too much to do) is that many childhood behavioral disorders are a consequence of how society is structured, with–by inference from monkey studies–children receiving insufficient parental interaction to develop a proper level of brain dopamine (this critical insight is missing from the transcript):


DR. GABOR MATÈ : Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. There are about half a million kids in this country receiving heavy duty anti-psychotic medications. Medications such as those are usually given to adult schizophrenics to regulate their hallucinations. But in this case, children are getting it to control their behavior. So what we have is a massive social experiment of the chemical control of kids’ behavior with no idea of the long-term consequences of these heavy duty anti-psychotics on kids.

I know that Canadians statistics just last week showed that within last five years, 43% increase in the rate of dispensing stimulant prescriptions for ADD or ADHD, and most are going to boys. In other words, what we are seeing is an unprecedented burgeoning of the diagnosis…. nearly half of American adolescents now meet some criteria for mental-health disorders. …

AMY GOODMAN: Explain exactly what attention deficit disorder is, and what attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is.

DR. GABOR MATÈ: Specifically ADD [identical to ADHD] is a compound of three categories called, um, a set of symptoms. One has to do with poor impulse control. So, these children have difficulty controlling their impulses. When their brains tells them to do something, from the lower brain centers, there is nothing up here in the cortex- which is where the executive functions are, which is where the functions are that are supposed to tell us what to do and what not to do. Those circuits just don’t work. So there is poor impulse control- they act out, they behave aggressively, they speak out of turn, they say the wrong thing. Adults with ADD with shop compulsively- or impulsively, I should say. And again, behave in an impulsive fashion. So: poor impulse control.

But again, please notice that the impulse control problem is general amongst kids these days…. The second criteria for ADD is physical hyperactivity….And then finally, the third criteria is poor attention skills. Tuning out, not paying attention, mind being somewhere else, absent mindedness, and not being able to focus. …

AMY GOODMAN: … I want to go to the point you just raised about the destruction of American childhood. What do you mean by that?

[Continues below the fold]

DR. GABOR MATÈ: The conditions in which children develop have been so corrupted and troubled over the last several decades that the template for normal brain development is no longer present for many, many kids. … the development of conditions for healthy childhood- psychological and brain development- are less and less available. So that the issue of ADD is only small part of the general issue: children are no longer having the support for the way they need to develop….

Just as the general conditions for childhood development are lacking, so are the conditions for empathy and insight. See, there are parts of the brain- in the pre-frontal cortex, right here in the front of the brain- whose job it is to regulate our social behaviors. They give us empathy, they give us insight, they give us attuned communication with other people. They give us a moral sense. Those are the very conditions that, according to this Notre Dame study, are now lacking. So a lot of kids are now growing up without empathy, without insight into others, without a sense of social responsibility. Bullying is just an example of that….

DR. GABOR MATÈ: Autism is a whole spectrum of disorders, but the essential quality of it is emotional disconnect. These children are living in a mind of their own. They don’t respond appropriately to emotional ques. They withdraw, they act out in aggressive, and sometimes just unpredictable fashion. They don’t know how to, um, there’s no sense of emotional connection and just peace inside them….

The normal basis for child development has always been the clan, the tribe, the community, the neighborhood, the extended family. Essentially, post-industrial capitalism has completely destroyed those conditions. People no longer live in the communities which are still connected to one another. People don’t work where they live, they don’t shop where they live. The kids don’t go to school, necessarily, where they live. The parents are away most of the day. For the first time in history, children are not spending most of their time around the nurturing adults in their lives. They’re spending their lives away from the nurturing adults, which is what they need for healthy brain development.

This understanding of the interaction between experience and biochemistry is critically important. A reasonable hypothesis is that the development of behavioral disorders is an adaptive response that non longer serves in the modern environment. Perhaps, at one time, ADHD was what induced the children of parents who had been killed, injured, or were suffering illness to go out to forage and perhaps survive. Now it just leads to cranky parents and overloaded teachers. But whatever the original cause of the evolutionary development, drug therapy only helps kids function. It does not help them develop a normal brain chemistry.

That makes these children more vulnerable to shocks down the road than if parents were to take the harder steps of reorienting their lives to provide the children with the necessary interaction… and the much, much harder step of telling our amok corporate world that American workers are working too many hours and under too much stress–especially from fear of layoffs and losing medical coverage (not to mention pollution, noise, crime, FOX News– but I repeat myself).

One Response to “My peace I give unto you (–John 14:27)”

  1. Excellent read thankyou for the info

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