A Little Poison Now and Then, That Makes Pleasant Dreams

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Writing at Slate, Will Saletan reports that clinical trials have shown the experimental drug nalmefene to be effective at curbing the urge to gamble. Basically, by interfering with components of the brain's pleasure systems, the drug takes the thrill out of winning and losing.

Obviously, if this helps people who've decided they have a problem gamble less, that's fantastic. But part of me wonders whether a drug that takes the fun out of risky behavior isn't going to sound like the best thing since Ritalin to a lot of parents.

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  1. Perhaps those parents should take it themselves before deciding to risk the long term consequences to their children.

  2. Advice to parents: if you don’t like your kids acting like kids, then instead of giving birth to an infant try adopting a 25-year-old college graduate instead. You’ll both be happier.

  3. But part of me wonders whether a drug that takes the fun out of risky behavior isn’t going to sound like the best thing since Ritalin to a lot of parents.

    What makes it right to legalize drugs for adults but wrong to have these same adults give these same drugs (assuming they incur no physiological damage) to their children?

  4. I can think of very many things that it’s morally fine (though possibly a bad idea) for an adult to do himself that it’s highly morally problematic (even if it shouldn’t be illegal) for that adult to do to his children. Can’t you?

  5. Jennifer, science has determined that children are, scientifically speaking, mad:

    Johnny: Hi, Hy.
    Dr. Hyman Munro: Hi.
    Johnny: Hy…
    Dr. Munro: Hi.
    Johnny: Hy – perhaps I should call you Dr Munro.

    Dr. Munro, holding up chart: This is – can everybody see this?
    Johnny, pointing to microphone: This is radio, Doctor.
    Dr. Munro, coming up to the microphone and pointing the chart at it: Well, what this chart shows is…

    Dr. Munro: My studies have established without a doubt that children are, by adult standards, insane!
    Johnny: And that’s bad?
    Dr Munro: Well, sure!
    Johnny: So what should we do about it?
    Dr. Munro: Round the little guttersnipes up!

  6. Libertarians never miss a chance to bash parents, I’m learning.

  7. Re: MP

    In the same way that ‘make available to’ is not the same thing as ‘coerce into using’.

    I don’t think there are any easy, or universal answers to the conflict between parent and child rights, but we need to think about it.

  8. Adriaan nails it. There are no easy answers here. From the perspective of libertarian theory it would be really simple if children were either fully autonomous or the property of their parents. Either situation would be really simple to address. Sadly, they fit in neither category, and so everything becomes complicated.

    Complication doesn’t mean we should surrender to statism or refrain from seeking answers, but it does mean that we shouldn’t be seduced by easy answers.

  9. If it jacks your brain’s reward center, I wonder how this pill would screw up your life by ruining one’s own natural incentives (dopamine) to do anything at all.

  10. Where can I get some?!?!?

    Last June, my son and his buddies found this really “sweet” place to jump their bicycles. Unfortunately, the landing zone was the intersection of two state highways.

    Well, they thought they had traffic spotted, but they didn’t. My boy ended up with a crused leg and a concussion. He spent his summer gaining in wisdom, and I still owe about 20-grand.

    His friends still think they were “being really careful.”

  11. I can think of very many things that it’s morally fine (though possibly a bad idea) for an adult to do himself that it’s highly morally problematic (even if it shouldn’t be illegal) for that adult to do to his children. Can’t you?

    It depends on the rationale. I agree in general with Ron Bailey that it is OK for a parent to genetically tweak their embryonic child. I also agree that it is OK for a parent to tweak their child via psychological drugs. As for which exact tweaks are morally right vs. wrong, the devil is in the details.

    Unless you are able to make a case for why it would be morally wrong for parents to give nalmefene to their children, I’ll default to not having an issue with it.

    I most certainly have an issue with the state prescribing it and forcing it on children without parental consent, but that is a completely different issue.

  12. I remember when somebody published the idea that the rise in the stock market averages correlated fairly well against the increase in the use of Prozac. “The Stock Market on Prozac,” was the phrase back then, if memory serves.

    |
    +————————————————
    |________________________________________________

    “This is your stock market on nalmefene … any questions?”

  13. Dan T:

    Intense studies of libertarianus Americanus will show many such tendencies:

    Every argument pertaining to children at all is identical to ‘it’s for the children’ when used as justification for overreach, so all such arguments should be ridiculed.

    Everything the government can do, and I mean everything, is identical to the war on drugs and should be ridiculed on those grounds.

    Participants in a discussion about foreign policy will invoke the term ‘blowback’ no fewer than a billion times.

    I consider myself a libertarian, and this is not to say that there is no validity ever to these positions, but there is a lot of lazy thinking in the tribe.

  14. Unless you are able to make a case for why it would be morally wrong for parents to give nalmefene to their children, I’ll default to not having an issue with it.

    That’s basically the question of whether children should have their own personalities, or the personalities their parents want them to have. (Note that I specified personalities, not behaviors.) Should the parents of an outgoing, outspoken girl be allowed to drug her into being a quiet, old-fashioned girl who always defers to the men in her life? I’d say no. They can certainly demand that she be quiet when she’s still living with them, but I don’t think they should make chemical changes now that will last into adulthood.

    There’s also the fact that nobody has any idea what effects this might have on developing brains; in a way, this is akin to shooting a gun in the air when you have no idea where the bullet will land.

  15. Here’s another hypothetical question: if a parent resents the fact that his kid is smarter than he is (or worries that his kid’s intelligence might steer him away from the One True Religion of Snake-handling, for instance), should the parent have the right to give the growing child medications that will most likely result in the kid’s having a lower IQ than he otherwise would have? Again, I would say no.

  16. …children were either fully autonomous

    Sounds like someone hasn’t spent a lot of time with kids.

  17. That’s basically the question of whether children should have their own personalities, or the personalities their parents want them to have.

    Unless you are 100% in the nature camp in the nature vs. nurture argument, you must agree then that personalities are shaped to some extent by the actions of parents. Why is it wrong for a parent to use a drug vs. a shout or slap?

    There’s also the fact that nobody has any idea what effects this might have on developing brains

    I addressed this concern in my original post. Of course, the definition of “damage” is also up for debate.

  18. This sounds like the perfect drug to mandate all politicians take daily. If anything can slow them down and curb their never ending desire to fix whats not broken I am all for it.

    After all every idea they have is a gamble right. How many gambling addicts do you think even consider themselves problem gamblers when they only lose other people’s money? What me have a problem with gambling, nah not at all these are all well thought out plans of action (gambler speak for having a system) sure to pay off for the citizens of this fine country. If for some reason it doesn’t pan out thats ok to because the lottery winnings known as the Federal Budget will be available again soon enough and this time we will be sure to win big.. And if not oh well it wasn’t their money they lost.

    Ask your doctor if it’s right for your politician!

  19. Why does Jennifer hate The Children?

  20. Great, so they’ve invented a pill that causes depression.

    That’s awesome.

    This song seems appropriate:

    I FEEL FANTASTIC

    (Link goes to mp3 file at Popular Science.)

  21. After all every idea they have is a gamble right.

    No, because there is very little risk involved in typical politial shenanigans.

  22. Jennifer,
    Unfortunately, the scenarios you present already happen every day through natural behavior modification that parents inflict on children. If a parent, consciously or unconsciously wants to burden their children with pain, guilt, or stupidity, they will lay most of the groundwork within the childs’ first 6 years of life.

    That said, a drug that strips risky behavior from children seems “unnatural” in the way that it’s hard to learn lessons from pain (like, “damn, hot stoves are hot. Mom was right.”) if you’re on a morphine drip straight out of the maternity ward.

    Would these drugs also strip the desire to take intellectual risks? If that were the case, this is far too much like Miranda from Serenity. And yes, I will continue to make comparisons between our world and created science fiction worlds.

  23. Reliance on drugs to take the place of self-control is extremely disturbing to me.

    Rather than teaching kids to behave and pay attention we decide that they must have a disorder and we dole out Ritalin (unforseen, long-term consequences be damned)

    Rather than stressing diet and excersize we have a nation of people on Lipitor or insulin and perhaps riding around in scooters (The New Walking according to Newsweek)

    Now rather than teaching right from wrong and personal responsibility we should drug ourselves and remove free will? Why am I not surprised that it has come to this?

    Within ten years everyone will be taking pills to not want to drink alcohol, pills to not want drugs, pills to not want to smoke, pills to make sweets taste sour and fats to taste bitter, pills to make pornography less compelling, pills to force us all to a certain sameness: pills to compell us to all behave.

    When pleasure is finally defeated and an orgasm has all the joy of taking a piss we will all be just right.

    Fuck that.

  24. Unfortunately, the scenarios you present already happen every day through natural behavior modification that parents inflict on children. If a parent, consciously or unconsciously wants to burden their children with pain, guilt, or stupidity, they will lay most of the groundwork within the childs’ first 6 years of life.

    True, but it’s still diffent from drugs. In computer terms, behavior modification changes the software of the child’s brain, whereas drugs change the hardware. And it’s possible to overcome bad programming in childhood (not to toot my own horn, but I’ve done that myself), but you can’t overcome actual physical changes to the brain.

  25. And yes, I will continue to make comparisons between our world and created science fiction worlds.

    Good. I don’t feel so bad now about my “Zod” comment in the other post…

  26. In computer terms, behavior modification changes the software of the child’s brain, whereas drugs change the hardware.

    That statement is not supported by the evidence. Behaviour modification can change the hardware.

  27. It’s been argued that the psychological conditions from childhood (early conditioning etc.) not only change the brain hardware, but the musculo-skeletal system as well. It’s a pretty epic thing to come out from the huge shadow of our parents’ realities and experience our own, and it’s damn hard. Congrats on doing it, Jennifer.

  28. it’s possible to overcome bad programming in childhood . . . but you can’t overcome actual physical changes to the brain.

    Now that I think about it, that’s what this boils down to: how much control does a parent have over his child’s physical existence? I doubt anybody here would say that if a parent has too many boy children and wants a girl he can force a male child to undergo a sex-change operation; why should parents be allowed to make permanent physical changes to the child’s brain?

  29. Please pass the soma.

  30. Here’s another hypothetical question: if a parent resents the fact that his kid is smarter than he is (or worries that his kid’s intelligence might steer him away from the One True Religion of Snake-handling, for instance), should the parent have the right to give the growing child medications that will most likely result in the kid’s having a lower IQ than he otherwise would have? Again, I would say no.

    I always find it interesting that someone like Jennifer, who is normally quite suspicious of the Government trying to force the same standards of behavior on everyone, suddenly becomes a big fan of Government parenting someone’s kids whenever there is the possibility that said kids will be exposed to religion.

    Truth is, Jennifer, if you give the Government the authority to arbitrarily take kids away from Snake-Handlers “for their own good”, then that same Government will eventually use it to take kids away from parents who smoke, drink too much, or oppose the War in Iraq.

  31. I doubt anybody here would say that if a parent has too many boy children and wants a girl he can force a male child to undergo a sex-change operation;

    Are the parents in these situations not allowed choose the sex of the child? I don’t have an answer, but I know it isn’t as cut and dry as you present it.

  32. I always find it interesting that someone like Jennifer, who is normally quite suspicious of the Government trying to force the same standards of behavior on everyone, suddenly becomes a big fan of Government parenting someone’s kids whenever there is the possibility that said kids will be exposed to religion.

    Almost as interesting as your focusing on the “religious” aspect of my example and ignoring everything else I said, Holly.

  33. MP, I’m not talking about kids who are born as hermaphrodites; I’m talking about turning an out-and-out boy into a surgical girl. Do you think parents should be allowed to do so? I’d say not.

  34. I’m talking about turning an out-and-out boy into a surgical girl. Do you think parents should be allowed to do so? I’d say not.

    No, I don’t either. But that particular instance does not help much for building a solid philosophical case against tweaks in general.

  35. I have taught him religion though, so I guess I have been a bad parent after all.

    Holly, stop playing the martyr game. My earlier statement in no way said “religious parents are bad,” and if that is how you interpreted it then that says a hell of a lot more about you than it does about me.

  36. I mentioned this a moment ago, I’m mentioning it again – wouldn’t this drug make the world turn into a stagnant backwater with no new information? Especially in terms of academic or research pursuits?

    “Well, I had this idea about this thing ‘relativity,’ but I never really fleshed it out. Everyone would make fun of me, it’s too risky.”

    Almost anything worth doing is risky, unless you’re a cow or sheep.

  37. Somebody should let Huey Lewis know his new drug is here, finally.

  38. Other risky behaviors: moving to a new place where you don’t know a soul in order to pursue a given career; joining the military; quitting your job to start a business of your own.

  39. And it’s possible to overcome bad programming in childhood . . . but you can’t overcome actual physical changes to the brain.

    Um, this statement is grossly, grossly untrue. Oliver Sacks has made something of a career out of demonstrating it.

  40. I have always hated gambling for money. Not the idea of it, but the feeling in my head when I do it. I am glad that my brain is this way, but I still hope that I enjoy orgasms and nicotine and cane sugar as much as everyone else. I wonder how path dependent this outlook is?

  41. “Please pass the soma.”

    Actually, this drug seems more consistent with THX 1138, as the denizens of Brave New World were encouraged to feel pleasure. (IIRC, soma’s effects were moderate euphoria and shortened attention span, making the user excited and easily distracted.)

  42. Well, Phil, let’s say them that overcoming physical changes to the brain is much more difficult then. And I have a low opinion of any parent who, either willingly or unwillingly, will saddle his child with a bunch of baggage to deal with in adulthood.

  43. I fully support gambling. Casions are the most efficient mechanism ever devised for ensuring that the fool and his money are parted as quickly as possible. There’s no telling what a fool might do if he had lots of money in his pocket.

    Another way to view gambling is as a tax on people who never studied statistics.

  44. Just one more tool by the pharmacueticals and big business to make us all slaves to our corporate masters. You have to love the future the corporate state and its political allies are bringing us.

  45. thoreau, that’s a nice trope disguided as wisdom, but it’s entirely possible — even likely — for people to understand the statistics and still enjoy the games. Heck, I know a blogger who is an engineer by trade, and thus almost certainly knows his math, but used to make a living as a professional poker player.

    Jennifer, all parents give their children baggage, some more, some less, some heavier, some lighter. Some people have truly tragic and horrific childhoods, others imagine that their relatively easy childhoods were tragedies. There’s no perfect life. In any case, that’s all tangential to what I actually said, which is that it’s not impossible to overcome physical changes to the brain.

  46. I was going to make a *Serenity* reference, but Randolph Carter beat me to it. Oh, well, now that I’ve inhaled this pacifying gas, such things no longer matter to me.

    Wait . . . I’ve changed my mind — now I hate the entire universe and want to destroy it, bwahahahaha!

  47. Please pass the soma.

    Right now I think a soma comparison is optimistic. The way we’re going now we can look forward to all of the control and none of the pleasure.

  48. Jennifer, all parents give their children baggage, some more, some less, some heavier, some lighter. Some people have truly tragic and horrific childhoods, others imagine that their relatively easy childhoods were tragedies. There’s no perfect life. In any case, that’s all tangential to what I actually said, which is that it’s not impossible to overcome physical changes to the brain.

    Yes, Phil, but this is all tangenital to my original point, which is that I don’t think parents should have the right to make any physical changes they wish to a child’s brain or body.

  49. OK, Jennifer.

  50. Parent/teacger/psychologist: “Take yer ritalin dude.”

    Kid: “But it doesn’t do anything anymore.”

    Meth dealer: “Try this!”

  51. PS You said “tangenital,” which given the context is funny.

  52. Considering the earlier sex-change example, Phil, you’re absolutely right.

  53. I know this is a political board and all, but I feel I ought to remind folk that there are a wide range of reactions intermediate between “hunky dory” and “the government should take your kids away if you try to do this.” Like: “I guess that’s your right as a parent, but it’s a crappy and damaging way to raise a child.” Making the kid who loves baseball or drawing devote his pre-adolescence to piano because Dad never got to play at Carnegie–or vice versa.

  54. Another way to view gambling is as a tax on people who never studied statistics.

    If it’s a lottery administered by the government. Otherwise, it’s just going to pay the casino’s power bills. And subsidize those super-cheap all-you-can-eat steak buffets.

  55. I was mostly being hyperbolic in my insults against gamblers. And yes, I’m well aware that the word “tax” only applies to money charged by the government, yadda yadda.

    Geez, can’t even have a little fun! ๐Ÿ™‚

  56. “please pass the soma”

    Err.. is it just me or is it more than a little weird that the company that makes nalmefene is “somaxon”?

    http://www.somaxon.com/

  57. “tangenital”

    Hehey. Well maybe anal bleaching would help?

    http://www.dazereader.com/analbleaching.htm

  58. Getting back to an earlier point, I think those who would argue that “parents should have no right to do this” should be careful what they wish for.

    A Government that can prohibit parents from giving their kids Ritalin or nalmefene can also prohibit parents from smoking, drinking, or even cussing around their kids.

    Or, as has been anecdotally reported, such a Government can force parents to give those drugs to their kids if those kids are “out of control” and “being disruptive” in school.

    IMHO, there’s far more danger of kids being forcibly medicated by public school administrators than by overambitious parents.

  59. “In computer terms, behavior modification changes the software of the child’s brain, whereas drugs change the hardware.”
    That statement is not supported by the evidence. Behaviour modification can change the hardware.

    Hardware’s all there is to change unless you go the ‘Ghost in the Machine’ route.

  60. I will be very surprised if this has any long-term benefits. Eliminating the possibility of a reward doesn’t eliminate the psychological need for rewards. They will find a replacement, and it will probably disrupt their life about as much as gambling did, if only because they need it so damn bad.

  61. Geez, can’t even have a little fun! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Sorry. Didn’t mean to be pedantic.

  62. Randolph,

    Although there’s risk involved in creation, typically creation is positive expected value(+EV), whereas most gambling is negative expected value(-EV). There are a variety of ways to hedge +EV activity, fewer for -EV (especially if you discard unethical ones). As such, someone who is involved in something that is +EV but with wide variance may seek and find a hedge rather than turning to medication.

    The difference between +EV activity and -EV activity has significant consequences. Zero-sum games have to be either EV neutral or -EV for someone, but much of what is done in life is not zero-sum, because there’s a creation component (either directly or indirectly through investment). If you’re moving to someplace where you know nobody to work in a career that you’re apt to be successful at, that’s probably +EV and is an investment.

  63. I know this is a political board and all, but I feel I ought to remind folk that there are a wide range of reactions intermediate between “hunky dory” and “the government should take your kids away if you try to do this.”

    Feel free to address specific comments. Otherwise, this statement comes off rather snotty.

  64. anon2,
    That’s an interesting way to look at it. I think you’re right to a certain extent as well – especially in the example of a scientist presenting a brilliant but controversial theory, or someone with a MFA coming up with a bold new interpretation of Hamlet.

    However, if this drug was used (and this is wildly speculative) as a sort of ritalin+, without the confidence built by years of work, won’t students tend towards intellectual incuriousity? It’s far more “risky” to challenge a teacher’s interpretation of a play or a historical event than to defer to authority.

  65. Hardware’s all there is to change unless you go the ‘Ghost in the Machine’ route.

    Changing the content of a RAM chip does not change how it operates, even though techically there were physical changes done to the RAM chip to change what was stored.

  66. Last June, my son and his buddies found this really “sweet” place to jump their bicycles. Unfortunately, the landing zone was the intersection of two state highways…His friends still think they were “being really careful.”

    Oy. Perhaps try explaining the mechanism of “natural selection” and/or introduce him to the Darwin Awards?

  67. Last June, my son and his buddies found this really “sweet” place to jump their bicycles. Unfortunately, the landing zone was the intersection of two state highways…His friends still think they were “being really careful.”

    I don’t think that’s a risk aversion problem. I think its an intelligence problem (no offense).

  68. “Another way to view gambling is as a tax on people who never studied statistics.”

    I took several math classes in college.

    Hated every single one of them.

    I dislike gambling, because I’m aware enough to realize that the odds are against me, and I’m not smart enough to skew them through some method such as card-counting.

  69. RC,

    If the drug is overused, you may indeed be right. However, I was pointing out a reason why I think there may by much less of a demand for this than Ritalin.

    An additional reason is that the study involved included therapy and the results may not be very impressive on closer examination.

    One third of the people with therapy and placebo improved whereas two thirds with therapy and the drug improved. However, “About a third of the original participants dropped out due to nausea and other side effects.” It’s quite possible that only 4/9ths of the group using the drug improved (whereas 3/9ths improved without). It depends on what “About a third” means and how many of the drop-outs were from the placebo group (yes, sometimes people have to stop taking the placebo due to “side-effects”). I don’t think there has been time to follow up on the people who used the meds either. It’s possible that over time the adverse reactions will increase and/or that the benefit will decrease.

    To me that doesn’t sound like a drug that people are going to hand out anywhere near as often as Ritalin. Ritalin is a stimulant. Stimulants can help people without ADD get an extra edge. “A Mathematician is a machine for turning coffee into theorems”-Erdos. Different stimulant in the quote, but Erdos also took amphetamines.

    None of the above should be taken to mean that I don’t see the ethical questions associated with drugging one’s children in general, only that in this particular case I don’t think it’s likely to happen enough to significantly diminish creativity or +EV activity in general. Of course, I’ve been wrong before.

  70. “Actually, this drug seems more consistent with THX 1138, as the denizens of Brave New World were encouraged to feel pleasure. (IIRC, soma’s effects were moderate euphoria and shortened attention span, making the user excited and easily distracted.)”

    Comment by: SR at February 1, 2006 12:48 PM

    Actually, I thought it was really cool when THX 1138 flushed his drugs down the commode and was going to get busted for drug abuse before he broke out of that world using a stolen police car.

  71. it’s amazing how much cooler a mundane sentence becomes when you append “using a stolen police car” to it.

    I have to pick up the kids at soccer… using a stolen police car!

  72. The argument that it’s fine for parents to drug their children because they’re already allowed to abuse in other ways is not convincing.

    Saying that parents do not have the right to drug their children is _not_ the same as calling for government action. Instead, it’s relevant to any trial that might occur after the victim kills the parent who was abusing him or her in self-defense.

  73. The argument that it’s fine for parents to drug their children because they’re already allowed to abuse in other ways is not convincing.

    There’s an implicit assumption in this statement that drugging one’s children = abuse. I dispute that assumption.

  74. In case anyone feels like reading some things that may have some angles on this, try out Vonnegut?s ?Welcome to the Monkey House?? A number of the stories explore the consequences of people trying to look to artificial means to providing ?normalcy?. The title story, the Euphio Question, and Harrison Bergeron are all really interesting spins on the same basic issue.

    And, thinking about the monkey house scenario, I wonder what the US public reaction would be if someone created a version of Ritalin that also repressed kids sex drive? I mean, wouldn?t it be a blockbuster for parents who don?t want to have to explain the birds and bees? Makes me wonder. I would bet that this kind of thing isn?t too far away.

    JG

  75. “I thought it was really cool when THX 1138 flushed his drugs down the commode and was going to get busted for drug abuse”

    Or more accurately, drug non-abuse. (For those who haven’t seen the film, THX 1138 was charged with “felony drug evasion” for discontinuing his meds.)

  76. Changing the content of a RAM chip does not change how it operates, even though techically there were physical changes done to the RAM chip to change what was stored.

    I am fairly certain that there are nontrivial differences between human brains (or any other brains, for that matter) and RAM chips that make this analogy irrelevant.

  77. So the water supplies of the middle east are pretty limited, could we pump a few tons of this stuff into their water and mellow everybody out?

    Better than invading them, right? And it fuses the department of defense with the pharmaceutical industry.

  78. “Obviously, if this helps people who’ve decided they have a problem gamble less, that’s fantastic.”

    I think Bill Bennet should have an infusion pump of this stuff installed on him. So he can be more morally correct and stuff.

  79. MP,

    Legally, medical neglect is a type of abuse. Should a parent pressure a doctor into prescribing a drug for a child, when both parent and doctor recognize that there is no medical need for the drug, and when at the same time the effects of the drug may cause harm to the child, that could quite plausibly qualify as medical neglect and therefore abuse. Withholding necessary medication is legal neglect; this could be as well. The drug may be a convenience for the parents and make their job easier, but hogtying my two-year-old RIGHT THIS VERY MOMENT and leaving her in a closet until morning would make my job easier and that would be abuse, for what I think are fairly obvious reasons.

    (Returns after taking breakable object from child for 11,203d time since dinner)

    Also, regarding Bob’s comment. The drug, I assume, would reduce the *desire* for risky behavior, and so reduce only behavior that the medicated individual knew was risky. There are plenty of things that kids do that are just stupid, and there ain’t never gonna be no drug for that.

  80. >A Government that can prohibit parents from giving their kids Ritalin or nalmefene can also prohibit parents from smoking, drinking, or even cussing around their kids.

    Don’t you think that in our lifetimes there will be a move towards some kind of legal sanctions against parents who smoke? I sure do.

    >IMHO, there’s far more danger of kids being forcibly medicated by public school administrators than by overambitious parents.

    Agreed.

  81. Should a parent pressure a doctor into prescribing a drug for a child, when both parent and doctor recognize that there is no medical need for the drug, and when at the same time the effects of the drug may cause harm to the child, that could quite plausibly qualify as medical neglect and therefore abuse.

    A) I do not support our prescription regime.

    B) “may cause harm to the child”…that’s a big MAY. If a drug has passed clinical trials, and has no theoretical risk, then you are simply practicing the precautionary principle.

  82. Phil,

    “I am fairly certain that there are nontrivial differences between human brains (or any other brains, for that matter) and RAM chips that make this analogy irrelevant.”

    I have to agree.

    ‘Twould be enlightening to get a developmental psychologist or someone with a solid background in neurology or human physiology in on this thread.

  83. >So the water supplies of the middle east are pretty limited, could we pump a few tons of this stuff into their water and mellow everybody out?

    Maybe we should try infusing their water supplies with MDMA and start dropping cases of pacifiers and baby rattles on ’em.

  84. MP, note I said “legally.” Legally quite a lot of things might constitute neglect that would surprise you. And whether we require prescriptions is irrelevant. Giving a child nonprescription drugs in an irresponsible manner and thereby causing harm would certainly qualify as neglect/abuse.

    As for clinical trials: clinical trials assume that a drug is being used as intended, for its intended purpose. A drug may be intended for short-term use in a particular situation when long-term side effects are preferable to the alternative of not taking the drug. When the drug is not used for its intended purpose, the results of the clinical trials are irrelevant. Specifically, the fact that a drug has been found suitable for use by adult gambling addicts has no bearing on its effect on children if taken over a long period of time. You can say that I’m invoking the precautionary principle, but I say if you assume that any given drug has no negative effects you’re a Polyanna at best.

    And “v,” don’t give me this “a government that can…” crap. A government that can put you in jail for murder can do a lot of shit, too. Governments used to do a lot of nasty crap to a lot of innocent people back in the days when all they had to do was frame them for murder. Look: unless you want to argue that children have no legal standing whatever and are the chattel of their parents, some behavior of parents toward children must be classified as abuse. The question then is, what behavior? Where do you draw the line? It has to be drawn, and I see no way to determine from principle where it ought to be. It’s like determining what’s cruel and unusual punishment — if a majority thinks it’s abuse, it is. I agree wholeheartedly that the bar should be set pretty high, but it has to be set.

    Finally, we were not originally talking about Ritalin; we were talking about the prospect of parents giving ordinary children a drug that was not in any way intended to curb the behavior of ordinary children. That was the specific instance I said might — emphasis on might — constitute legal neglect/abuse. There’s no slippery slope here. Nobody is telling you you can’t give your kids a freakin’ Tylenol when they have a fever.

  85. Serenity meets “The Gambler”

    A Song by Bonar Law

    (With apologies to Kenny Rogers and to Joss Whedon)

    Somewhere in the universe, on a spaceship bound for nowhere,
    I met an old ex-gambler; he was way too tired to weep.
    He just sat there a starin?, wouldn’t touch his food or nothin’,
    He looked really unhealthy, he was growin’ mighty weak.

    He said, ?I used to be a gambler, I went to every planet
    And won two billion Spacebucks with my skill at playing cards.
    Now I just sit here listless, I don’t eat or drink or nothin’
    I just sit here a-dyin’ while I’m lookin’ at the stars.

    ?They made me take a special drug to cure me of my gambling,
    It killed off all the parts of me that fought and hoped and dreamed
    It robbed my brain of all of my impulses to keep living
    If I still had my emotions I’d be feelin’ pretty steamed.

    ?They told me they were sorry, didn’t mean for this to happen
    They just wanted to improve my mental health, is what they said.
    It never crossed their minds their drug would stop lots more than gambling,
    But it shut down every thought that cared if I lived or was dead.

    ?Now ev?ry gambler knows that you got to care for something
    You need a mental spur to keep you active and alert.
    To stay in the struggle, you need an inner voice that tells you
    That you gotta battle fiercely while you’re still above the dirt.?

    When he?d finished speakin?, he sighed and closed his eyelids
    His breath departed from him as I turned away my gaze.
    And for the social engineers who killed his mind and spirit
    I felt a strong emotion that can only be called rage.

  86. Of course, I should have said “lost two billion spacebucks at ten thousand games of cards,” not “won two billion spacebucks with my skill at playing cards.” I mean, even mad scientists wouldn’t be mad enough to try to “cure” a *successful* gambler!

  87. Giving a child nonprescription drugs in an irresponsible manner and thereby causing harm would certainly qualify as neglect/abuse.

    You are still making the assumption that the usage of nalmefene would be irresponsible, but you are not providing any argument to back this up. As I stated originally, I was basing my argument on the assumption that it was already found to be safe.

    Nobody is telling you you can’t give your kids a freakin’ Tylenol when they have a fever.

    I doubt that there were ever clinical trials that tested Tylenol on children. By your logic, you are telling me that I shouldn’t use Tylenol for my kids.

  88. Not David,

    >And “v,” don’t give me this “a government that can…” crap. A government that can put you in jail for murder can do a lot of shit, too.

    Actually, I wasn’t giving you anything. I quoted Cap’n Holly (without an attribution, which I guess I need to work on) and elaborated that I expect there to be government sanctions against parent smokers in the lifetimes of the readers of this thread. I don’t disagree that governments can do a lot of shit, in fact I think it’s implicit in my comment that they can.

    >Look: unless you want to argue that children have no legal standing whatever and are the chattel of their parents, some behavior of parents toward children must be classified as abuse.

    I don’t disagree with that either. I just think the tone of the posts here was getting a bit hysterical. If you wish to heap scorn on me for it, that’s fine.

  89. I know this thread is dead. But as a simple address to the possibility that nalmefene might prove harmful but such is not known, I hope you all know that simple aspirin is dangerous for children — and such wasn’t known for some time.

    http://www.reyessyndrome.org/

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