Advice to the Donald on How to Keep Track of Seized Kids

By Dr David Laing Dawson

Dear Donald,

It has come to my attention that you are having trouble reuniting the 2000 to 3000 apprehended children with their parents. It seems you may have to resort to DNA testing to determine who belongs with whom. (By the way, if you are worried that some might have been brought to the USA by sex traffickers you could simply ask them.)

Meanwhile, should you institute another roundup of children in the future might I recommend that you use a highly successful method of keeping track of them once used in an earlier roundup:

Simply tattoo a unique number on the arm of each child. Enter this number in a ledger along with the name and age of the child and the name of his or her parent. The forearm is a logical body part for such tattoos because it could accommodate a long number without resorting to an alphanumeric system. I will include a photo as a visual aid.

Please do not hesitate to call for further advice.

Sincerely,

numbers

Advertisements

Blue Dreams – the Story of Psychiatric Drugs

By Marvin Ross

I’ve just finished reading Blue Dreams The Science and the Story of the Drugs That Changed Our Minds and it is the most balanced accounting of psychiatric meds that I’ve ever read. Lauren Slater is a psychologist and someone who has taken psychotropic medication for bipolar depression for most of her life. She has been in and out of hospitals many times so she speaks from both experience and academic awareness.

She starts out with a very detailed account of how chlorpromazine, the first anti-psychotic, came to be and gradually made inroads against the psychoanalysis that was prevalent at the time. What surprised me was that there were psychoanalytic neurologists who considered Parkinson’s to be the result of psychology and not brain chemistry. She then moves on to give the history of the first anti-depressant, imipramine.

As a political aside, both of those drugs were first used in North America by Dr Heinz Lehmann in Quebec. He came to Canada as a refugee fleeing Hitler. His colleagues arranged a ski vacation for him to Quebec as a ruse so he left Germany with his skis and all his luggage. A lesson for the Donald on the value of refugees.

Her discussion of lithium is quite interesting as its use goes back many years for all manner of ailments but it was slow to be accepted by medicine for psychiatry because there cannot be a patent on a naturally occurring substance. No money can be made and so, to this day, no one has ever bothered to try to find out what it does to the brain or how it works. A sad condemnation of science and of the profit motive in drug development.

Ms Slater began suffering depression at quite a young age and was eventually sent to see a psychiatrist in her early teens. She saw the doctor three times per week. After about 6 years of no progress, her doctor put her on imipramine which had recently become available but it did not help and gave her terrible side effects. When Prozac became available, she was switched to that and she spent 17 years taking it.

This is what she had to say:

“Both before and while I was on imipramine, my emotions were wild and I was whipped between states of utter despair, whirling anxiety and unstable ecstacy that allowed me to pull all-nighters writing lengthy tomes that later, in the sober light of another day, lacked what I felt at the time of composition had been a poetic essence. I was also a revolving-door mental patient in and out of the hospital admitted and discharged five times between the ages of thirteen and twenty-four, with not much hope for a full future……”

“Prozac turned my life around and did it fast, one two.”

“On SSRIs, however, I have been able to stay out of mental hospitals, to write nine books, to bear two babies who are now adolescents with their own keen interests and proclivities to manage with their own interests, to manage a marriage and then a divorce, and, just as important, to nurture a circle of friends.”

Unfortunately, over the years she has had to increase the dose until Prozac became ineffective and she had to switch to other medications. And, the drugs had a severe impact on her health causing her to gain weight and to develop diabetes. But, she said, that was the price she had to pay for sanity.

While she has been helped by pharmaceuticals as have many people, she is very critical of psychiatry and its theories which are quite simplistic. I was surprised to learn that despite the dopamine theory of schizophrenia, it turns out that those with this disease can have a wide range of dopamine levels and the levels are not related to the presence of the disease or its severity. The same applies to serotonin in the case of those with depression. Prescribing is a guessing game and there are doctors who prefer certain drugs and that is what they prescribe based simply on their preferences and not the science of why a certain drug works. However, drugs that dampen or increase levels of these neurotansmitters do help with the symptoms but psychiatry still has no clue about etiology.

This ideological adherence to certain drugs is one that I encountered a number of years ago. I pitched a story to a psychiatry/neurology newspaper on research done comparing the side effect profile of the older anti-psychotics with the new atypicals. The pitch was accepted and I submitted the story which showed that the newer drugs had just as many side effects as the older ones. The editor called and told me the research was preposterous and should never have been accepted as a presentation at a psychiatry conference. They refused to run the story but paid me anyway because they had accepted my pitch (in error I was told).

Of course, we all now know that the research was correct.

One interesting fact she mentions is that even with drugs like Prozac, the rates of depression are increasing. The reported incidences of depression have increased a thousandfold since the introduction of anti-depressants. She suggests that this might be the result of an American society that emphasizes individualism and has very few safety nets like universal health care. Sociological studies have shown that depression increases with isolative societies.

It would be interesting to compare rates of depression over time between the US and other western countries that are less individualistic like Canada and Western Europe.

I was pleased to see that while she references my old opponent, Robert Whitaker, she discounts his views. Yes, anti-depressants do cause changes in the brain as he points out but then, untreated depression (and schizophrenia) cause changes in the brain and the patient when untreated, is not able to manage.

Psychiatry and our knowledge of the brain is still in its infancy and we can only hope that greater progress is coming.

When is it Too Late? Or is it?

By Dr David Laing Dawson

When the steps are incremental and desensitizing, inuring, it is difficult to know when we have moved beyond the point of no return. Many of us thought the separation of children from their parents and the incarceration of over two thousand children in cages all over the country might be a step too far and too fast. But even this is being obscured and overwhelmed with rhetoric and confusion, with Orwellian language.

And speaking of Orwellian language I notice that Trump is not bothering to use a full phrase in his accusations, such as accusing any number of democrats of being “soft on crime” or wanting “weak immigration policies”. He has taken the next step in simplifying and labeling: The Democrats are “for crime”, they are “for gangs”, and they want “no borders.”

“Power corrupts” is not an empty phrase. It is an observation of all human behaviour. From studies of our history to the guard/prisoner experiments of the 1960’s. The gentlest person can find his or her inner tyrant when placed in the social context of supervising the weak and helpless. A few will wrestle with these unwanted impulses. Many will give into them.

I mention this because I detect a subtle shift in tone coming from the President of the United States. He is still prickly and defensive. He still manages to bring every issue back to himself and his greatness. He still denigrates Obama and all previous leaders to enhance his own reputation. (and to fuel the racism of his base)

But now his rallies and tweets have adopted a demagogic tone more directly and specifically. More and more his words place him above the law. More and more his words place him as the only important decision maker. More and more he ignores ethics and due process. More and more he aligns with tyrants and disparages the leaders of the democracies of this world with the worst derogatory word a mob boss can muster: “weak”.

His over-the-top rhetoric about the “Witch Hunt” is working. He is swaying public opinion. Most Republican politicians are falling in line. He may know little of history, compassion, governance, but he sure knows Goebbels (“If you tell a lie often enough…”) and the principles of modern marketing.

He once added qualifiers to his outrageous lies and hyperbole. “They are rapists and murderers – though some I suppose are good people.” He doesn’t bother now. Immigrants are “invaders” and “infections”.  One step away from vermin and cockroaches.

Increasingly he directly threatens individuals and corporations in his tweets.

If we are not at the tipping point, my American friends, we are close.

On Shoes and the United States Space Force

By Dr David Laing Dawson

He is so 14, our Donald. That is the 14 year old brain at work. He hears something, a story, and immediately propagates this as a truth that explains the world, or a part of it. Without judgement, context, history, accuracy, consideration.

Canadians have been smuggling shoes across the border. Clearly evidence of Canada’s unfair punishing tariffs.

This is the level of reasoning I see clinically between age 12 and 14. After 14, usually, some questions, context, history, some sense of scale creep in.

Next we have the “Space Force” (cue the theme music; design the Star Trek costumes). “Warp speed ahead, Mr. Spock”. The last time this made sense to anyone would be age 14. It is in late childhood and early teen years that we can emerge from a Sci Fi film and imagine what we have seen being a mere 10 years away.

I don’t mean the computers, the communication devices, some of the clever prognostications sci-fi writers slip into their stories – I mean the whole thing – zipping around the universe in million ton craft and little dune buggies at warp speed in sexy uniforms. That’s where the Donald’s head is. And he would be, of course, Supreme Commander of, cue the music, The United States of America Space Force.

And all the lying and exaggerations. That is age 14. I very seldom, in clinical practice, see a teen alone. I always include the parent(s).  I explain that, (exaggerating but a whit) without the parents in the room, it can take me a full hour to determine if the child in question is actually attending school. At 14 and 15 from the teen talk of “basically” and “pretty much” and “yeah, sure” to out-right avoidance and lying, I might, by the end of an hour, have his attendance nailed down to: 2 or 3 days per week does actually get to school by 8:30, vapes at the smoking pit, goes in the school but avoids classes, then leaves at noon.

We need responsible adults in the room. Both in my office and in the Oval office.

What We Need to do to Survive

By Dr David Laing Dawson

The DNA imperatives that propelled our species this far are someday going to kill us all. We seek patterns, linkages, cause and effect. Our brains organize our multiple visual and auditory experiences. Our brains are, as others have said, organizing machines.

Most other creatures have built in templates seeking a match: the pathway to food, to shelter, to procreation, to touch and comfort. Our dominance has been upheld by our brains’ ability to organize information into new patterns, unique patterns, new cause and effect linkages, new explanations of cause and effect.

Galileo muttered, “And yet it moves” as he left the inquisition. Elon Musk says we need to colonize Mars. The Flat Earth Society is meeting in Saskatchewan (which is a good choice it occurs to me). Each brain is responding to the same imperative. The first has organized new information to arrive at a conclusion the church is not ready to accept. The second imagines a future from his own larger-than-life experiences and resources. The third clings to an old explanation by ignoring a wealth of other information.

A friend says, “They are both Leos; that explains it.” He smiles, letting me know he is not wholly committed to that (demonstrably silly) template of understanding.

The delusional man tells me a song on the radio is about him, for him, a message only to him, written for him, played for him. His penetrating gaze tells me this is how he organizes information. He is a believer. He is psychotic.

Today my Google list of top news topics includes Xi Jinping, Doug Ford, Donald Trump, and Steve Bannon.

I know why Xi Jinping and Doug Ford are there. I will resist using the juxtaposition of those four names to draw any organizational conclusions about the world and it’s future.

But Steve Bannon? Why is Steve Bannon back on the list?

And it turns out he is busy. Busy in Europe, especially Italy, meeting with numerous Populist Leaders, Far Right politicians, giving speeches, promoting…. I’m not sure what he’s promoting actually. “History is with us,” he says. He seems to be promoting the kinds of xenophobic, racist, exclusive, fascist, isolated enclaves that brought us both the First and the Second World War. He gathers information through his own filters and sees an apocalypse in our near future, a Fourth turning, a war of civilizations. The elitists can’t win this war for us, he says. He promotes a populist movement fueled by Social Media, by reinventions of Briebart News. He seems to relish an age of warring tribes, this time with modern weaponry.

But where does he picture himself in this? Surely not as a robed and besieged emperor. Not as a Mussolini. Perhaps as the Consigliere who can escape to Argentina after the conflagration?

Bannon’s grandiosity would not be important if he didn’t have an audience. And that is the puzzle. Why are these people including Steve Bannon as a source of information to help them formulate their understanding of the world? Though I suppose they are simply selecting those who come with ideas that support the self-serving conclusions they already share.

To survive the ant must organize a pattern, a trail, that will lead him from the nest and back in search of food. And then the ant will stick with it. If I plant my shoe in that track the ant will ignore the bodies and simply go over that shoe.

To survive now we humans must, somehow, quell the need for simple, absolute patterns, the need that opens the door to the veneration of Imams and Popes and Kings and Presidents-for-life, and the Trumps, Bannons, and Fords of this world. And we need to overcome that genetic impulse calling us back to small, exclusive, warring tribes.

We humans have the gift of imagining new patterns; though, like the ant, we cling to the old. To survive, contrary to the impulses of Trump, Bannon, Miller, and many others, we need to imagine our tribes as more and more inclusive, less and less competitive, more and more cooperative.

More to Justin Trudeau – MAGA vs. the Planet and all its peoples

By Dr David laing Dawson

And further more, Justin:

There are two impulses within each of us. The “I” and the “We”. Sometimes compatible, often in conflict, these impulses are played out in the bedrooms, the boardrooms, the courtrooms, and the Government assemblies of our nations. Between WWII and a few years ago the world saw a remarkable surge of “we-ness”, of cooperation, of global alliances, of consideration for the other, of peace keeping, of disaster response. Each year saw fewer people die of starvation and preventable illness. Each year saw fewer people die from murder, genocide, and war. (Despite each of these now being visible in our living rooms, and thus occupying more of our mental real estate)

Apart from international and world concerns “We-ness” also produces good public education for all, health care for all, opportunity for all, and a solid social safety net.

It was the short sighted “I-ness” of many nations that inexorably drifted into WWI (with a special boost from Kaiser Wilhelm who was the Donald Trump of an earlier time), and then, with the unresolved grievances of WWI, into WWII.

But American culture has always promoted the “I” over the “We” and at its best this can produce the Edisons, Fords, and Jobs of this world, and economic, scientific, entrepreneurial progress, and enough money to help the other while sacrificing little.

It is the existence within ourselves of these two often conflicting impulses that has taken us to the top of the food chain, the dominance of our planet, our overpopulation, and our ability to destroy it all.

But we have reached a tipping point. In America a cartoon of “I-ness” was elected president. Briefly we watched “We-ness” as embodied in Bernie Sanders go up against the “I-ness” of Trump and we had hope for America.

Whatever the nuances of MAGA it does not bode well for this world as a whole. The America that led much of the “We-ness” between WWII and a few years ago is dormant or deceased.

Now here is the rub. The “I-ness” of current America will provoke an “I-ness” in the rest of us. And thus we could slip back into the inexorable dialogue of Wilhelm, Nicolas, Clemenceau, Lloyd George, Wilson and Franz Josef.

So, Justin, it is imperative that leaders like yourself fill the vacuum of “We-ness” on the world stage. Time to be Mike Pearson. Speak at the UN. Form alliances, free trade pacts, promote disaster relief, peace keeping, the end of land mines, the denuclearization of all, peaceful solutions to conflicts, a two state solution for Palestine, open arms for refugees, women’s health and education, birth control and abortion……… as well as my earlier proposal for carbon capture.

Open Letter to Justin Trudeau, New Oil Pipeline Owner.

By Dr David Laing Dawson

Dear Justin,

Donald Trump took the USA out of the Paris Accord, you are now an Oil magnate, Elizabeth May linked arms with the anti pipeline crowd and was convicted of contempt of court, Europe depends on Russian gas and oil, oil keeps the Sultans of the Mid East in power, the hurricane season is about to start before the damage from last year is repaired, BC is already burning, reports from Greenland, the Arctic, and the Antarctic are all a bit spooky.

It is time we accepted the fact that we humans will not give up our reliance on coal, oil, gas, or our taste for meat, in time to save the planet.

But there is an opportunity here and you are just the leader to seize it.

Convene a meeting of international scientists to discuss carbon capture. Make it a goal of this convention to settle on the most promising technologies and theories. Then meet with the leaders of China, Japan, California, and Western Europe to develop a spectacularly well funded international consortium tasked with making carbon capture a reality. Invite American scientists to participate. Do this before 2020. The clock is ticking.

Reading about these technologies I was discouraged by the problems of sequestration, the energy required to take carbon from the air and convert it into usable graphene, and the problem of scale. But then it occurred to me that in only a few short years we have erected sufficient towers to ensure my cell phone works almost anywhere in the world.

It is not within our nature to give up our reliance on oil soon enough. But it is in our nature to build a pipeline through the Rocky Mountains, lay cable across the Atlantic Ocean, have highways crisscrossing our lands and build sufficient communication towers for me to be writing this almost anywhere in the world.

So do this now Justin. Play to our human strength of innovation and industry. Let Canada take the lead. We are major polluters yet late on the list of nations that will be rendered uninhabitable by climate change.

Predictions for the Singapore Summit

By Dr David Laing Dawson

Donald Trump’s post G7 speech was vintage Trump: sprinkled with nonsense, silliness, hyperbole, lies, non-sequiturs, semi-literate unfinished phrases, teen-speak, and unbridled narcissism.

Now he is off to Singapore.

I am writing this to see if I can guess what will happen, or put another way, how Trump will be able to declare the meeting a triumph of his doing, or a failure caused by Kim.

No doubt Kim is smarter than Donald. And Kim would be strategically foolish to actually give up nuclear weapons.

So I think Donald must praise himself and Kim throughout the meeting and for a few weeks afterwards, claiming success. (This does not in Trump’s world have to do with anything that really happens).

Later, at any time, he can claim that Kim did not live up to his agreement at the meeting, and can go back to calling him little Rocket Man.

But this might make him seemed duped by Kim.

On the other hand he has already prepared the ground for that by saying he might have to walk away.

Kim wins by simply having the photo op and getting the US to foot the bill.

Kim can promise anything in general terms and come off well. And Trump can keep saying he got farther than all the other presidents before him, especially Obama.

So that is probably what will happen: A photo op. Both sides promising grand things, Trump using his teenage language of general hyperbole. Nothing need actually happen. Trump can keep saying he accomplished what no other president ever managed.

Quietly North and South Korea can continue to talk. Because Trump can say this has been a success he can avoid applying further sanctions on his allies China and Russia, and get back to his trade war with his other allies, Canada, Mexico and Europe.

Meanwhile Putin in his frequent phone calls can reassure Trump that he will not release the Golden shower video, nor call the loans to Trump International.

Iran can enrich more and more Uranium and rebuild its nuclear facilities. Israel can settle more and more of the occupied territories. More populist far right leaders will erect walls in and around Europe.

And Justin, you now have an opportunity to paraphrase your father: “I have been called worse things by much, much better people.”

Oh, and one other thing, Kim will permit Ivana to trademark her brand in North Korea.

Anthony Bourdain and Suicide

By Dr David Laing Dawson

We are Borgs, if you will pardon the Sci Fi reference.

At our best we carry in our heads a sense of the thoughts and feelings and wellness of others as well as our own. I am not talking about empathy here but rather that a piece of our consciousness is devoted to the existence of others; that an awareness of others, even when they are not present, is an important part of consciousness.

This ability allows us to experience empathy but it is wider than that. When conscious, at our best, we are aware of not just what we see and hear and of ourselves, but of the people in our lives and our connections to them. And that circle of people can include a few family members or stretch to the refugees of South Sudan.

At our best.

In a psychotic illness that awareness can become strangely distorted, with one or many of these relationships over interpreted, imbued with magical power or ominous threat. This is easy to observe, from a stated conclusion that the people on television talk to me or the police are watching me and putting drugs in my orange juice.

What is not so easy to observe is the effect of clinical depression. But depression, the illness depression, diminishes and eventually eliminates that social form of consciousness; the awareness of others, our connections to them, the presence they maintain in our minds, is lost in depression. Consciousness, in depression, is reduced to simply the self, and the self in depression is a malfunctioning body of limited worth and a sense of dread. Others are gone from our shrinking cloud of consciousness.

Anthony Bourdain killed himself in a hotel room in Paris and I watched CNN last night. He left grieving friends, colleagues, fans, and an eleven year-old daughter. Oddly, with what I have written above, Anthony made a career out of connecting with, engaging with others and sharing their lives and cuisines.

Apart from remembering, paying tribute to Anthony Bourdain last night, much of the focus was on suicide. The number of a suicide hot line was displayed throughout. But we have had these help lines available for 30 years and, as CNN reported, the suicide rate continues to climb. And as I recounted in a previous blog, the numbers of people brought to emergency rooms for assessment of “suicide ideation” has been growing by 14 percent year after year. Yet actual numbers of completed suicides persist and grow.

The focus on suicide itself is wrong. This focus, this de-stigmatization and “talk about it” approach obviously has not helped and may even be a contributing factor.

Suicide is the product of despair, dread, pain, anxiety coupled with the cognitive impairment of depression I have described above. It is this cognitive impairment that allows the severely depressed person to not realize the damage his death by suicide will do to his daughter or son, sister, brother.

We are often bewildered by seemingly successful people with loving partners and family who kill themselves. But depression, the illness depression, renders success hollow, and gradually eliminates loved ones from consciousness. In depression one’s sphere of consciousness has deflated to the agony of self. And at that point we seldom call a hot line or seek out help.

For prevention of suicide we need to focus on depression. The recognition of depression and the cognitive deficit that develops with depression, and the treatment of depression.

The Erosion of American Democracy.

By Dr David Laing Dawson

From 1934 until the end of WWII the Nazi party passed over 40 incremental laws restricting Jewish presence and participation, leading inexorably to “the final solution”. This is a desensitization process; each seemingly benign step leading to the next slightly less benign step.

In a previous blog, somewhat flippantly, I wrote out a do-it-yourself manual for the erosion and destruction of an established democracy. To a surprising degree much has already come about in the USA under Trump and the Republican Party in a mere 18 months.

Several recent events have pushed this timeline dramatically along.

Trump has quite unnecessarily pardoned Dinesh D’Souza as a message to Comey, Mueller and Rosenstein, and undoubtedly to Flynn and Cohen, demonstrating his power to the men who prosecuted D’Souza in the first place, and his support to those currently charged.

Then in a tweet he threw Manafort under the bus in a clear statement to the others that there are conditions attached to his promise of support and future pardon.

In the midst of this his lawyers sent a letter to Mueller suggesting or stating that The President cannot be charged and indicted for anything because ultimately this same man can decide what is illegal and what is not.

(I gather the idea that the President is not above the law is not that clearly spelled out in the constitution).

This notion should be shocking, but instead I hear it discussed, argued over, with talk of precedence and norms rather than disbelief, horror and immediate action.

Each of these steps are akin to the  Nazi rulings. Desensitization is occurring.

I suggested a war with Iran or Korea would be necessary for Trump to enact some emergency measures in his waddle to dictatorship, but his instincts may be more clever than mine. For he seems to be ignoring Iran now, and cozying up to North Korea, while starting a trade war with his allies. His use of “national security” as a pretext for the imposition of tariffs is telling. Maybe he does not need a real war. Perhaps he only needs a trade war with Europe, Canada and Mexico, with each of these allies retaliating in a way that hurts his base. In such a trade war  the American people will feel more and more surrounded by enemies, a fortress besieged, alone in this fight with the world.

And that is when people are willing to turn to a charismatic leader who promises them everything – safety, security, prosperity, greatness – in return for a little blindness.

The clock is ticking my American friends.