Jim Hightower

Playground Prozac

Sometimes I feel I’d be better off just whapping myself upside the head with the daily newspaper, rather than reading it. I sure felt that way when I read a New York Times story about Babies on Drugs. These are not the infamous “crack babies,” whose mothers took illegal crack cocaine while pregnant, passing the addiction to their children. Instead, these are mothers and fathers who even more deliberately drug their children, going to supposedly reputable doctors to get technically legal prescriptions for psychiatric drugs used for dosing their young ones. The Times reports that a new study has found that the use of antidepressants and stimulants such as Ritalin has increased dramatically in the past few years, not merely among hyperactive pre-teens and teens, but now among preschoolers. We’re talking about two-, three-, and four-year-olds. Babies! Prozac is also being prescribed to these tiny tykes!

What kind of “doctors” are doing this? What about the “do no harm” dictum of the Hippocratic Oath? At this age, children’s brains are undergoing critical development, and almost nothing is known about the consequences of pouring psychiatric drugs into them. By the way, these drugs have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for treating pre-schoolers. Indeed, the package insert for Ritalin specifically warns against prescribing the drug to children under six. Plus, most of these children are not even sick – as the head of psychiatry at Harvard University put it: “The normal behavior of many two-year-olds and three-year-olds looks a lot like hyperactivity disorder.” That’s right – normal children who are going through nothing more serious than the “terrible twos” are getting zonked with these powerhouse prescriptions.

Where’s the federal “Drug War” when we really need it? They’ll throw you in jail for smoking a joint, but you can get Ritalin for a two-year-old from a doctor. What a horrible joke!

FLYING HIGH

America’s drug war is so stupid that if you pay close attention to just how stupid it is – it’ll drive you to use drugs.

How stupid is it? Ask Jean Laprise, a Canadian farmer. He raises industrial hemp, which is a cousin of marijuana, though hemp can’t make you high because it contains so little THC, the psychoactive ingredient that gives marijuana its oomph. Instead, hemp is used to make an astonishing array of products – from paper to building materials, from food to biodegradable plastic, from beer to birdseed.

Birdseed is what got Laprise in trouble with America’s Drug Enforcement Agency, which gives new meaning to the term bird-brained. He shipped to a U.S. customer a twenty-ton load of birdseed that included hemp seed in the mix. The hemp seed is high in nothing but protein and is good for birds and people, but the D.E.A. got wind of Laprise’s shipment and had the whole load impounded, saying it contained a trace of the dreaded THC.

Let me give you three numbers. Marijuana must have at least 4 percent THC to get anyone high. Industrial hemp is only 1 percent THC, so you can’t get high on it. Laprise’s birdseed mix tested out with a THC content of 0.0014 – one fourteen-thousandth of a percent. Even a bird couldn’t get a buzz on that.

To compound this raw stupidity, the D.E.A. demanded that Laprise recall seventeen loads of hemp-based products he had earlier shipped to the U.S. The Associated Press reports that this recall included hemp seed used by Nutiva, a California company that makes granola bars. As a result, Nutiva had to suspend production, forcing a layoff at the company. Also, a wholesaler was about to pick up Nutiva’s bar for national distribution, but backed out of the deal after it learned that the D.E.A. was messing with the company.

What the hell is the D.E.A. smoking?

BEAM ME UP

Let’s travel together to the Far, Far, Far-Out Frontiers of Free Enterprise.

Today, Spaceship Hightower takes you deep into the world of consumerism, past the point where reason prevails, and into the dark sphere of privacy invasion. Edgar Rosen never meant to go this far, but before he knew it, there he was. As he told Consumer Reports magazine, all he wanted to do was buy a barbecue grill. But when he got his Sunbeam Grillmaster home, he found that he was the one getting grilled.

Enclosed was a warranty card for Rosen to fill out. Instead of a simple, name-address-and-date-of-purchase mailer, its card folded out to more than a foot long and demanded more information than an I.R.S. form. Sunbeam asked him to reveal his income, marital status, and the number, ages, and occupations of others in his household. Then it wanted to know what credit cards the Rosen household uses, whether anyone there smokes cigars, wears contact lenses, or is a veteran. There also was a long list of products on the card, and Rosen was to check off those he owned.

Category number twenty-six on Sunbeam’s inquisitive card probed the Rosen family’s health, asking if anyone in the household suffers from angina, back pain, migraines, thinning hair, or more than a dozen other health problems. Plus it wanted a list of the drugs the Rosens take to treat any of these ills. In case the family was disinclined to provide such an in-depth, personal profile, Sunbeam warned in bold: “FAILURE TO RETURN THIS CARD MAY AFFECT YOUR WARRANTY!” This is nonsense, of course. A simple store receipt qualifies you for a warranty, but the threat of losing the warranty induces many customers to surrender all their private data, which companies like Sunbeam can then sell to marketing firms. The first step in protecting your privacy is just to say no to nosy corporations.

Jim Hightower’s radio talk show broadcasts nationwide daily from Austin. His new book is If the Gods Had Meant Us to Vote, They Would Have Given Us Candidates. Find him at www.jimhightower.com, or write [email protected]

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