Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Academic Doping: Success at What Cost?

Albert Mohler comments on a disturbing MSNBC report that caught my eye as well. It addresses a growing trend called "academic doping." Some parents are pressuring their teens' physicians to prescribe powerful stimulants used in the treatment of ADD/ADHD in order to enhance their academic performance - even when there's no reason to diagnose the kids with the condition.

As Dr. Mohler notes, this phenomenon involves numerous interwoven issues:

Some parents may want to blame a child's lack of academic performance on a medical condition. Others see the academic race for scholarships and college entry to be adequate reason to seek a chemical enhancement for their own kids. Parents of high achievers must wonder, "If he's doing this well without Ritalin, what could he do with it?" In any event, the promise takes the form of a pill.
We might be tempted to hastily dismiss Old Testament accounts of parents sacrificing their offspring to idols as the misguided acts of backward and primitive people. But in light of stories like this, it's apparent that we just have more sophisticated, socially acceptable, and protracted ways of killing our children to satisfy our hearts' desires (even if the object of our desire is their success).

Dr. Mohler poses the following questions to Christian parents:
How do we define success and achievement? Just what are our expectations for our kids? Are we really ready to put them on powerful stimulants, just to raise their grades and test scores? What are we teaching our kids when we do this?
These are all crucial queries but there is a more foundational issue that we should at least be willing to consider. To what degree have we thought critically about the philosophical underpinnings of biological psychiatry's claims? Ironically, while we are on one hand vehemently opposed to the dehumanizing and anti-biblical naturalism of Darwinian evolution, we seem all too ready to eat from its tree when it takes the form of materialistic psychiatry.

Increasingly, members of its own ranks are saying that the emperor has no clothes. Peter Breggin, for example, a psychiatrist who has been very critical about the over-prescribing of psychiatric medication and the pharmaceutical companies' marketing of disease in order to market their products, has called modern biological psychiatry "a materialistic religion masquerading as a science." Like the public at large, we have been well catechized (by means of pharmaceutical commercials and word of mouth) in the dogmas of "mental health." We
know for example, that depression is due to imbalanced brain chemistry despite the fact that this is a knowledge claim that even the drug companies do not make in the absence of scientific validation. We readily accept the myriad of diagnostic pronouncements based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as the authoritative declarations of "science" despite the fact that no medical tests exist for any of the close to 400 labels therein described.

Just yesterday I received in the mail a book that I only recently learned of though it has been in publication since 1999 - Unholy Madness: The Church's Surrender to Psychiatry. Its author, Dr. Seth Farber, was a practicing psychotherapist for 16 years after which time he left his profession because of what he considered irresolvable conflicts between Christian theology and what he calls the religion of psychiatry. I've only been able to read the introduction and portions of the conclusion (I couldn't resist skipping ahead) and I find myself in hearty agreement with most of what I've read, especially the following excerpt from the intro (Readers familiar with Nancy Pearcey's
Total Truth and/or Francis Schaeffer's works will recognize the underlying two-tier view of truth):
The church's surrender to psychiatry has been facilitated by its tendency to subject human life to an artificial compartmentalization: private versus public, spiritual versus political, otherworldly versus worldly. For too long the church has claimed the private, the spiritual and the otherworldly as its proper domain while allowing secular authorities to dominate the public, the political and the worldly.

Since the rise of modern psychology/psychiatry there has been yet a new compartmentalization: the spiritual versus the psychological. But there are no "psychological" needs or capacities that are not spiritual. By accepting this spurious bifurcation of the spiritual into the (secular) psychological and the (nonsecular) spiritual, the church has severely compromised its authority and enabled the practitioners of the idolatrous religion of mental health to promulgate their faith system and thus to gain control over the hearts and minds (and pocketbooks) of millions of Americans. I have attempted throughout this book to demonstrate that the rationale for this usurpation of power by the mental health professions and for the abdication of responsibility by the church is specious: mental health professionals do not possess highly specialized "scientific expertise" enabling them to uniquely minister to individuals' "psychological" needs (12).
The question remains whether the constellation of symptoms called ADD/ADHD constitutes a medical disease for which any child should be given potent stimulants with potentially hazardous side effects.


Steve said...

gnosticism strikes again :-(

churchpundit said...

I am amazed at news reports such as these. I find, as a parent of teenagers, that the most difficult thing to do is to allow them to be uniquely who they are, and to not buckle under the enormous weight of our society's expectations and its badges of success. We educate our kids on peer pressure and its dangers, when parents can be the worst perpetrators of pressure to perform. thus spoke churchpundit!