The Outquisition: Post-apocalypse without the militias

Cory Doctorow: “WorldChanging’s Alex Steffen and I sat down last week for a cup of coffee and got to talking about post-apocalyptic life. I noticed that while there’s a whole ton of stories — and people who emulate them — about heavily armed survivalists bravely holding off the twilight of civilization after the Big One, there are damned few stories about super-networked post-apocalyptic Peace Corps who respond to the Great Fall by figuring out how to put it all back together. I even came up with a name for it: the Outquisition; the opposite of the Inquisition — missionaries who come to your town to remind you of how awesome it can all be, leave behind a bunch of rad, life-improving systems and tools, and generally get on with the business of being happy, well-fed and peaceful.

Alex wrote up a great post about this and 24 hours later, some WorldChanging readers created I’m not sure what they’ll do there, but in my dreams, they’re off building a non-secret society of emergency-preparedness Nice People who think that the response to catastrophe isn’t lifeboat rules and militias, but humanitarian aid and kick-ass tools.” (Boing Boing)

Rethinking psychosis

The disadvantages of a dichotomous classification now outweigh the advantages. “Recent molecular genetic findings have demonstrated very clearly the inadequacies of the dichotomous view, and highlighted the importance of better classifying cases with both psychotic and affective symptoms.” (PubMed abstract)

As readers of FmH know, I have always been a psychiatric classificatory skeptic. In particular, the attempt to decide whether a patient presenting with psychotic symptoms has a schizophrenic disorder or an affective psychosis has always seemed flawed to me. Rarely have I seen a patient present as a pure, unmixed exemplar of one of those categories. The central distinction between ‘thought disorder’ and ‘affective disorder’ may be specious. (Should we, in fact, rethink our dichotomization of ‘thoughts’ and ‘feelings’?)

Prescription Narcotic Consumption

This interactive map from the Las Vegas Sun accompanies a feature article on Nevada’s no.-1 ranking in national rates of narcotic abuse. You can pick a narcotic medication and a year since 1997 and see the relative rates of consumption in the 50 states. (NB: although the map accompanies an article about drug abuse and the data on which the map is based came from the D.E.A., it details consumption and as far as I can tell does not distinguish licit from illicit use.) Some who pointed me to this map were intrigued by the regional differences in choice of particular narcotic drug. This is probably a function of regional prescribing differences among physicians, marketing and distribution decisions by drug manufacturers, and the shaping of consumer preferences largely by word of mouth. What is more interesting is the overall increase across the years listed. Is this a function of increasing abuse or dramatic increases in rates of legitimate prescribing? (All the medications listed are manufactured pharmaceuticals, not cooked up in backyard home labs.)

It would be more interesting to see this type of data for other classes of drugs of abuse as well — cocaine, amphetamines, benzodiazepines, barbiturates, hallucinogens, ‘club drugs’ etc., as well as heroin. In addition to reflecting differences in distribution patterns, such a comprehensive map might have something to say about regional lifestyle and temperamental differences. (Pet peeve of mine: many people use the term ‘narcotic’ broadly, and inaccurately, as a synonym for illicit drugs in general, or for drugs with addictive potential in general. The term means neither of these; it is synonymous with ‘opiates’.)

‘Don’t Get in Your Patient’s Boat’

I was pointed to this New York Times article on the pitfalls of psychotherapy with the superrich from kottke. As a psychiatrist myself (who never, alas, treats the superrich), I was interested by the number of notable psychiatrists who seem to be making it their niche. True, treating the superrich overlaps with the issues, long considered very challenging in psychotherapy, of treating the very narcissistic. But the article is, I think, too polite about what I assume are added ingredients of a mix of therapists’ voyeuristic and purely mercenary interests in taking on the extremely wealthy in particular. The patients and their struggles are not inherently more interesting; in fact, they are probably less so, on the whole, despite the pat statement quoted by a therapist of the rich that she “considered a rich person’s unhappiness or emotional anguish no less serious than anybody else’s”. As the writer correctly points out, most of these patients have less of an impetus to work things through than the rest of us, and even than the rich patients of days past, more and more insulated from a recognition of personal dissatisfaction in an ever more materialistic and spiritually vacuous society as they are. Thus, a therapist treated more often as just another member of the client’s personal entourage flirts with being readily disposed of if s/he too readily emphasizes unpleasant aspects of these clients’ lives, which is after all what therapy is all about. And if the therapist refrains. s/he of necessity becomes a sycophantic supporter of self-indulgence.

In fact, arguably, psychotherapeutic practice originated with the treatment of the affluent, and the psychoanalytic style of practice inherited by those in Freud’s lineage has remained expensive, largely unreimbursed by health insurance, and only affordable by the wealthy. (Perhaps that has shaped the compelling focus of this school of treatment on narcissism as a central issue?) Only relatively recently in the lifespan of psychotherapy has it migrated down to other strata of society, its techniques and the nature and extent of the problems upon which it focuses morphing in the process. This in large measure helps to explain the two divergent cultures of the modern practice of therapy and psychiatry — the rarefied, isolated and often interminable world of the psychoanalytic psychotherapy practice, and the urgent unsystematic intensity of community mental health aimed at the lower and middle classes. Only as psychotherapy transmuted to deal with the ‘real world’ problems of the rest of us has there been an impetus to incorporate consideration of social, economic and political factors urgently impacting on patients’ lives and welfare. Ironically, only the superrich can afford the possibility of change from lengthy depth analysis, and only they can afford not to change…

Related:  While we’re on the topic of unethical mercenary behavior among psychiatric luminaries, the name Alan Schatzberg will certainly mean something to any psychiatrist FmH readers.