Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a condition defined by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) as causing lack of attention, hyperactivity, or impulsivity control (NIMH, 2008). The condition is believed to effect between 5 to 10 percent of the population (Faupel, Horowitz, & Weaver, 2010). With a world population of about 7 billion, the number of people affected comes to 350 to 700 million. In the USA this number comes to nearly 16 to 31 million people. With such staggering numbers one has to wonder whether ADHD really is a disorder. Perhaps instead ADHD is more of a societal problem. If this is the case society must more closely examine the ethics of using Ritalin, or similar medication, to treat ADHD. Ritalin may better serve as the method of last resort than the method of choice.
Every year 11 million Ritalin prescriptions are written for children with ADHD (Faupel et al., 2010). It is actually a stimulant, which seems paradoxical since it is prescribed to treat hyperactivity (Faupel et al., 2010). In low doses, however, Ritalin can act to improve neuron connectivity in the prefrontal cortex without the stimulant effects. Higher doses of Ritalin, in addition to the stimulant effects, actually reduce the prefrontal cortex neurons’ ability to receive signals (Fisher, 2008). Additionally, although there were fears relating Ritalin’s potential addiction, these low doses have shown not to affect the brain centers responsible for addiction (Fisher, 2008). Ritalin, it seems, may be a fantastic treatment when dosed correctly.
If the entire story was that ADHD is a disorder that needs a fix, and Ritalin was a means to bring dysfunction into order, then there would be no question that Ritalin is a great solution. But there is more to the story. With up to 10 percent of the population experiencing ADHD, it seems more like ADHD is a biological norm, than an anomaly. In fact, genetics seems to corroborate this idea. Remember the neurons we spoke of before? There is a high correlation between people with ADHD and the gene variant responsible for encoding DRD4, which is a dopamine receptor (Lewis, 2012). This particular variant handles the neurotransmitter dopamine less efficiently than other variants thereby contributing to what society has labeled ADHD.
If ADHD is so widespread, and has genetic roots, why did evolution not eliminate the gene through natural selection? It turns out that populations native to the Americas offer a fantastic answer. At approximately 16,000 years ago the first natives migrated to Alaska through a now flooded land bride from Asia (INSTAAR, n.d.). They eventually migrated all the way down to South America, leaving populations of people along the way. It turns out there is a correlation between the ADHD variant DRD4 gene and the latitude at which each population settled. Native Canadians, for example, have only a 2% occurrence rate of the gene variant while those in Southern USA have as much as a 10% occurrence rate. As we go further south, Native Populations in South America have as high as a 50% ADHD gene variant rate (Lewis, 2012). What this indicates is that the ADHD DRD4 gene variant had a role in driving migration. It was, in other words, beneficial to the survival of the human species.
What all of this indicates is that society has changed to such a degree that it is intolerant of our basic biology. Society has evolved to such a degree that it has caused a rift between societal expectations and our biological reality. Additionally, ADHD is not the only so called “disorder” for which society has applied a label because of its own intolerance. There are numerous other examples of this rift between society and biology. This rift is masked by a society that denies its evolutionary roots in favor of a seven day creation. As a result, society fails to see problems as they are and would rather put a Band-Aid on it through the form of Ritalin than change itself.
The culmination of all this information leads me to question the widespread use of Ritalin. ADHD, after all, has very strong genetic factors. Additionally these genetic factors, once upon a time, served the human species very well. How can we say then, that ADHD is a disorder, when it has served the human species far longer than our society existed? Also, how can we say it is a disorder when up to 10% of the population experiences it? In a society where it seems everyone has a diagnosis, I think it must be the society itself that must change. Ritalin use, when seen from this evolutionary perspective, has new ethical meanings that may be seen in a new light; a form of population control.
Faupel, C. E., Horowitz, A. M., & Weaver, G. S. (2010). The Sociology of American Drug Use (2nd ed.). New York: Oxford University Press Inc.
Fisher, M. (2008, June 24). Study uncovers how Ritalin works in brain to boost cognition, focus attention. Retrieved from University of Wisconsin-Madison: http://www.news.wisc.edu/15342
INSTAAR. (n.d.). Postglacial Flooding of the Bering Land Bridge. Retrieved January 27, 2013, from Colorado.edu: http://instaar.colorado.edu/QGISL/bering_land_bridge/
Lewis, M. (2012, May 21). Disease, Disorder, or Neurodiversity: The Case of ADHD. Retrieved from Psychology Today: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/addicted-brains/201205/disease-disorder-or-neurodiversity-the-case-adhd
NIMH. (2008). Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Retrieved January 28, 2013, from National Institute of Mental Health: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder/complete-index.shtml
Organized crime is prevalent in many parts of the world, including the USA. The crime differs from other types of crime in that it involves a large organization of people who actively adhere to a hierarchy, and a code of loyalty and secrecy (Thio, 2010). The activities they engage in are generally deviant methods to obtain wealth; many of which are blatantly disruptive to society. In the end, however, organized criminals are just human. They have human wants and needs. To understand how to combat organized crime, one must understand the sociological factors that foster turning humans toward deviance.
Jesus Vicente Zambada-Niebla is a man currently on trial for one of Chicago’s largest drug cases. He is accused of being the highest ranking member of the Sinaloa cartel’s drug division (Sweeney, 2012). The cartel has been accused of a variety of crimes including drug trafficking, corrupting officials, and kidnapping (Associated Press, 2009). A united effort by both the U.S. and Mexico to put an end to the drug trafficking, and related violence, resulted in various drug cartel’s, including the Sinaloa cartel’s, retaliation of killing approximately 800 police and soldiers, along with another 7200 people who may or may not have been associated with drug trafficking (Associated Press, 2009). The Sinaloa cartel, it seems, is a danger to society.
To understand how and why the Sinaloa cartel began and thrives, it is necessary to understand parts of their history. The Sinaloa cartel gets its name, Sinaloa, from the Mexican state of its origins; Sinaloa (Bradshaw, Chacko, Dymond, & White, 2011). Like most of Mexico, Sinaloa’s ethnicity is overwhelmingly (at least 60%) a mixture of indigenous Native Americans and of European descent (Bradshaw, Chacko, Dymond, & White, 2011). The land of Sinaloa is amazingly fertile and up to 75% of its land is devoted to agriculture (Bergman, n.d.). It is not surprising then, that when the Chinese introduced opium in the 19th century that it flourished (Bergman, n.d.).
When the USA became involved in World War II, the USA found that it needed a new source of opium since Japan gained control of Asian sources. The USA then turned to Sinaloa for opium sources which dramatically increased opium production, and possibly, Sinaloa reliance on the US economy (Bergman, n.d.). After the war, however, the USA no longer needed Sinaloa opium. The farmers, however, continued to produce it (Bergman, n.d.). It is likely at this point that Sinaloa turned to illegal methods to sell its crop in the form of heroine. The Sinaloa opium farmers turned to deviance.
From a socialistic perspective, it is easy to see how the Sinaloa cartel might have developed. Though Sinaloa was very fertile, most of Sinaloa’s peasants were poor. Opium and USA reliance on that opium during World War II gave the peasants hopes and ambitions of a better standard of living. When their hopes to achieve their ambitions in a legal fashion were destroyed they turned to illegal means to achieve their goals. This outcome is predicted by the Anomie-Strain theory; people in a society where ambition is much higher than what they can achieve turn to deviant methods to achieve their goals (Thio, 2010). From here their deviant behavior became more deviant through a process of differential identification and reinforcement; this is to say that exposure to deviant activities, and learning the rewards of those activities, introduced them to even more deviant methods (Thio, 2010).
Thwarted ambitions and differential identification alone cannot explain the rise of organized crime. To thrive, organized crime also needs the help of law enforcement, judges, and politicians (Kass, 2012). This could help explain why Al Capone and the Italian Mafia were so successful early on because Chicago, where they first got their start, has been shown to be the most corrupt area in the United States (Dardick, 2012). Since 1976 there have been 1531 corruption convictions in the area (Dardick, 2012). This corruption, combined with the opportunity that Prohibition provided in the 1920’s, made the Italian mafia the dominant crime organization in the USA for a time span of a few decades just short of a century (Thio, 2010). Of course, Anomie-Strain influences can also be found in the Italian Mafia as Al Capone himself was the son of Italian immigrant parents (FBI, n.d.). As the son of Immigrants, Capone may not have felt he could achieve his ambitions legally, and therefore, resorted to crime.
The Italian mafia and the Sinaloa cartel both have a few commonalities that lead to the formation of their respective organizations. First there was opportunity. The American public, in both cases craved illegal substances that they could provide. Secondly there was the ambition to achieve. In the case of Sinaloa, the poor farmers briefly tasted achievement before the USA no longer needed their opium. Thirdly both members of the Italian mafia, and of the Sinaloa cartel, likely had no legal means to achieve. Finally, having given in to illegal methods to obtain their goals they, through a process of differential identification and reinforcement, learned, and became comfortable with, even more deviant methods to achieve. All of these things indicate that relative inequality causes turmoil within a society. To combat organized crime then, beyond punitive measures, involves providing legal opportunities for success as well as providing education to find those opportunities so that individuals do not need to turn to deviance to achieve their goals.
Associated Press. (2009, March 19). Mexico Captures High-Level Cartel member. Retrieved from http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/29773111/ns/world_news-americas/#.T5IcvtUcs4d
Bergman, J. (n.d.). The Place Mexico's Drug Kingpins Call Home. Retrieved from Frontline: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/drugs/business/place.html
Bradshaw, M., Chacko, E., Dymond, J. P., & White, G. W. (2011). Essentials of World Regional Geography. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Dardick, H. (2012, Fabruary 15). Chicago Area Has Most Corruption Convictions in Nation, UIC Study Says. Retrieved from http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/politics/clout/chi-chicago-area-has-most-corruption-convictions-in-nation-uic-study-says-20120215,0,1024358.story
FBI. (n.d.). Famous Cases & Criminals. Retrieved from FBI.gov: http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/history/famous-cases/al-capone
Kass, J. (2012, February 22). Vegas Mob Museum Puts Best Face on Connections to Chicago, Politicians. Retrieved from http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/columnists/ct-met-kass-0222-20120222,0,1924595.column
Sweeney, A. (2012, January 25). Trial Delayed for Man Accused of Running Drug Cartel. Retrieved from http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/chi-trial-delayed-for-man-accused-of-running-drug-cartel-20120125,0,2934254.story
Thio, A. (2010). Deviant Behavior (10th ed.). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearsons: Allyn & Bacon.
The world, and particularly the west, would be a vastly different place if it were not for its three main religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Often times in history, and even still today, these religions have found themselves at war with each other while shaping the course of history. Easy to forget, with all the friction between them, is that they share common books they consider holy.
In the United States, heroin is a schedule I semisynthetic narcotic analgesic prodrug derived from morphine, which is itself derived from the poppy plant (Faupel, Horowitz, & Weaver, 2010). Because, in part, of heroin's addictive nature, it has been demonized and banned in the United States from all medical applications. This, however, has not stopped nearly(as of 2008) Americans from illegally acquiring it; some of which, through a process of differential identification, learn criminal means to fund their heroin habit (Fernandez & Libby, 2011).
Michael Specter talks about the dangers of science denial. He touches on subjects such as refusal to vaccinate children and genetically modified crops. His talk could easily extend to other issues such as global warming. Because we distrust big government, and big corporations, Specter suggest, we are beginning to distrust all the necessary things they offer.
Quite often concerning the evolution vs. creationism debate I have heard the statement that "evolution is just a theory." The point of such a statement is generally to reduce evolution, in a derogatory manner, to merely a system of belief on the same level as a religion. Such statements also usually intend on pointing out that evolution, being just a theory, is not on the same level as a hard fact. These misconceptions hint at a common misunderstanding of the word "theory" as it is used in science and ambiguity of the word between various subcultures.