Tuesday, January 25, 2011

My results chapter is bigger than Jupiter

... but you know what they say about a guy with a big results chapter?  ... Probably that he'll never graduate, seriously, I don't know.  What do they say?  Well, mine is clocking in at around 100 pages so far (single spaced), and according to my outilne, I'm like half done with it.  A lot of that is thanks to the participant briefs that I've been posting on this blog (41 of them!).

But I haven't posted any actual results snippets, or my own analyses ... until now.  Out of the 102 pages to-date, these are probably the 3 best.  Enjoy:

Access to nootropics as an issue of social equality and fairness

Several participants felt that prescription stimulant use was more frequent among certain ethnic student groups on campus.  Many even had theories on why that was the case, speculating that socioeconomic class standing also had something to do with observed prevalence disparities, which included both illicit and licit use.

Kyleen felt that her parents were out of the ADHD-loop because they held a different cultural regard for psychology and pharmacotherapy (she identified as Vietnamese): “I don’t think Asian people really accept that [ADHD] is a disease sometimes, because they’re not really aware of the more social diseases, I guessI think it’s just coming from a country that’s less developed.

Alexis, a student of Middle-Eastern descent who was diagnosed with ADHD, thought that both licit and illicit ADHD medication use was less common among her Asian peers (she was in engineering, which, as she said, is largely Asian), and more common among white students:

Alexis:             I would say more white kids are doing drugs than the Asian kids.  There’s a lot of Asian kids in my department.  It’s a little different.

Interviewer:            Why do you think white kids, is that just an observation?  Or are there reasons that you think that might be the case?

Alexis:            Yes, for economic reasons.  We can afford it.  We’re kind of bored.  It’s a little cultural.  You’re not going to see many drugs in the Asian cultures.  You’re just not going to see it.  They don’t really use it.  They don’t go crazy.  I don’t even see them drink that much coffee because they have that discipline.  My family really frowns on medication.  Well, not medication but drinking and stuff like that.  So that’s why I am the way I am.  But some of the families that I have seen that have taken medication for ADHD haven’t sought any alternative.  The ones that I’ve seen have all been white.

            So in addition to ethnic and cultural factors, Alexis saw a correlation between economics and ADHD-medication prevalence.  But—not to be overlooked—it’s also boredom.  It may seem like a trivial, or perhaps-cynical thing to say, but boredom actually was a recurrent data theme in terms of why participants felt that certain types of students are more likely to use prescription drugs[1].  Said Alexis:

I particularly avoided going to a white school really, for high school.  Just because the amount of drugs was way higher for some reason.  I didn’t understand why, maybe it was money, or cause they were bored, that’s what it seemed like most of the time.  And then I went to an intellectual high school and they were doing drugs for more creative purposes.

It is interesting to note for later discussion that Alexis felt that the “intellectual” atmosphere in her high school was more prone to creativity-oriented drug use, but for the sake of explaining the convergence of with class, boredom, and drugs[2], Kelly agrees:

I grew up in a town where everyone’s rich and all the kids don’t have anything to do.  All their families are rich so they don’t have any motivation to do anything special with themselves.  I didn’t like my town, so I had motivation to get out and do something for myself, but there were those few times …  That’s basically where all my drug experimentation comes from, it’s like, “Well, I’m bored.  Let’s fuck around.”  So we had just gotten piercings, and my friend was like, “I have some Adderall and I’m kinda tired; do you want to try it?”  And I’m like, “Okay.”  So we really just tried it for fun the first time, just to see what it was like, and it was just a little perk.[3]

Ryan, who identified as mixed Latino and Irish descent, had a long, rich dialogue with the researcher about the socoeconomic parameters that he felt influenced this specific type of academically-oriented prescription stimulant-seeking behavior in college.  It is a long excerpt, and Ryan speaks with an urban inflection—both the length and vernacular were minimally edited in order to contextualize the authenticity of the subject.  Here Ryan starts by describing how the “urban community” regards ADHD symptomology:

Interviewee:            Basically how I like to put it, in society it's like, in the urban community, when you had energy and you think a lot and all this process, your parents say to go outside and play, go kick rocks, go play with your friends, whatever's clever for the parent to utilize that … because there's not really any money for funds for healthcare for anything like that—for Adderall—for a doctor to diagnose you and take care of that. 

Interviewer:            Is it about the money?  Or is it about kind of like the knowledge to get that going?
Interviewee:            It's both.  It's both, because the parent also doesn't understand 'cause she never grew up.  Nine times out of ten, the parent that grows up in the community stays in the community, because she has that "the world is flat" type of idea.  And so the only way they know how to survive is to follow the parents' tracks.  And it's sad, but that's the reality.  Now if they grew up never knowing, and when they were all hyper and everything, they're going to do the same thing to their children.  The apple doesn't fall far from the tree, exactly.  So when it comes down to it, it's the parent that doesn’t' know.  Then when they [the kids] get to college, or for whatever reason, they get somewhere to a different area, you learn just like I learned, this is like cheating.  You take Adderall – you take this medication for all my thoughts, and you control it, and you have this outburst come out, and I'm like constantly just thinking about it.  I'm like, this is great.  It's unheard of.  And then when you come up to the, I want to say, suburbs, or well-off people—as we say in [my neighborhood], "the people on the hill"—basically they have the knowledge.  Their parents are educated.  They know what it takes 'cause they've already been through the whole history – through the cycle to know what their child needs to continue to grow and learn.  So I tell people, this whole Adderall thing is the white version of cheating.  You want to get good grades, you want to do everything – you want to know why you has a 4.3 GPA, or whatever, and he does all of that?  There's a reason.

Interviewer:            So you think these things are a real advantage?

Interviewee:            Yes. 

Interviewer:            And you think that urban families are sort of missing out? 

Interviewee:            Yeah.  It's like, you know, they say George Bush took a few days to get to New Orleans after the hurricane [Katrina] … if they find out about it, okay, we'll meet their needs, but until then, they're still dumped on and they do not know it. 

Interviewer:            Interesting.  And this is based on your experiences throughout like, lower school?  High school?  When did you start to notice or become aware of this?  I mean, was this after you found out about Adderall yourself?

Interviewee:            Well, I've been through foster homes as a child.  I've been through juvenile hall.  I've been through different associations with family members, and growing up in different communities all throughout California.  So it's like I've been in all these different settings and I've seen these different kids and how they react, and then when I get to college, I get put into this rich environment of Santa Barbara, and it's like the drug alcohol-friendly area.  And then my mind is just –

Interviewer:            You mean Isla Vista? 

Interviewee:            Oh, yeah, Isla Vista, and – yes.  I spent many, many days in Isla Vista.  [Laughter].

Interviewer:            Okay. 

Interviewee:            Yeah, being drunk as hell.  But, yeah, and they introduced me to Adderall, and the next thing I know I'm writing a ten-page paper, and never knew I could write ten pages.  … I call that the white version of cheating.  That's like, quote-unquote. 

Interviewer:            But that's interesting.  Then why do you think it's cheating – specifically?  Or the white version of cheating? 

Interviewee:            'Cause like – well, I've definitely grown up in many urban societies, like poverty-stricken to the fullest extent, and there's definitely no people of my skin color in that area.  And my skin color is light and it's like, okay.  And then I go into Santa Barbara where it's 65 percent white, and then it trickles down.  It's like 2.8 percent black people, and 3 percent Asian, and like 10 percent Mexicans.  It's pretty crazy.

Interviewer:            Sure, sure.

Interviewee:            So basically I go there and I learn about the drug.  And off the top I learned it from a couple people who I – really, I never grew up with too many white friends, and then I go to Santa Barbara and I have all these white friends.  It's pretty amazing.  Like, I didn't know you guys act like this.

Interviewer:            Right, right.

Interviewee:            And I learned the drug, and it's was like, okay, that's the white version of cheating. 

Interviewer:            Do you think that it’s cheating if they have attention deficit disorder?

Interviewee:            It's cheating 'cause they got the help – well, no, I can't call it – that's something I definitely cannot do.  I can't get mad at the next person for what they had the benefits of.  Like, that's envious, and I'm definitely not envious of what's been.

Interviewer:            And these are, again, the students who have been diagnosed with something – 
Interviewee:            Yeah, right.

Interviewer:              and they're given it for that?

Interviewee:            Yeah, I definitely don't think that – like I don't envy 'em at all. 

Interviewer:            Okay, even though these are the kids who are also selling it to you and other people?

Interviewee:            Yeah, I mean, if you find $100 on the ground, it's up to you if you're going to share it with the next person, or you're just going to spend it all on yourself. 

[1] Availability is also an obvious precondition.
[2] Pop-cultural footnote: it seems like the teenage drama “Skins” is built entirely around the formula that boredom + youth = drug use (especially prescription drug use).  This show became popular in America and Britain as a BBC series.  The jury is still out on the even-more-recent American adaptation produced by MTV, but my current high school students say the Brits did it better (like so many other shows).
[3] Subjectively, Kelly’s anecdote completely sounds like an episode of “Skins

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Smokin' on mistletoe: the holiday post

Were Santa and his reindeer just a drug-addled hallucination?  Conventional wisdom holds that the red and white Santa Claus as we predominantly know him was a Coca-Cola concoction from Madison Avenue, but a recent NPR report seems to think: maybe shrooms had something to do with it.

Keep in mind that Harvard has a famous history with formalized, ostensibly empirical shrooms research.  Remember the Harvard Psilocybin and Harvard Psychedelic Research Projects (both under the guise of Timothy Leary)?  It looks like fair Harvard has kept with this tradition, especially for the holidays: