PTSD: Another Victim of the Drug War

EcstacyAn illegal drug may hold the key to a “fairy-tale” ending for patients suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, addiction or depression.  The drug is 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), or ecstasy, and it reduces anxiety and fear by suppressing the amygdala.  At the same time, MDMA promotes a sense of well-being and social bonding by increasing the amounts of dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin and prolactin found in the body.  The only trouble is, ecstasy has been banned by the FDA since 1985, and as a Schedule I drug, is very difficult to get permission to use in clinical trials, not to mention mainstream clinical practice.

One scientific research group, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies Continue reading “PTSD: Another Victim of the Drug War”

Focusing in on mental illness

459px-DepressionThe notion of a mental disorder, or illness, is an essentially normative notion. It is dependent on the availability of some metric of normalcy, or orderliness. Whether a given mental tendency is a disorder or not depends on whether or not, and in what ways, it deviates from what is considered normal, or orderly. But, what are the norms that determine this metric?

This question is highly controversial, and its importance transcends far beyond the walls of academia. Few such seemingly terminological issues have such a tremendous impact on the day to day lives of so many millions of individuals across the world. For example, until quite recently (1973!!), homosexuality was considered a mental disorder by the American Psychiatric Association. Its status as a disorder gave legitimacy to subject individuals ‘afflicted’ with this ‘disorder’ to psychiatric treatment, often leading to detrimental effects (not to mention the pervasive social and legal discrimination they faced). Characterizing a given tendency as a disorder has the potential to bring about terrible harms and injustices. However, there are also cases in which pursuing various corrective measures seems crucial. Certain tendencies, such as schizophrenia, can be so disruptive to an individual’s life that treatment seems necessary. Labeling such a tendency as a ‘disorder’ potentially brings with it various societal and legal commitments to provide support that can substantially alter the lives of suffering individuals for the better. It is clear, then, that much hangs on how we come to characterize a mental tendency as a disorder.

Continue reading “Focusing in on mental illness”