Friday, June 11, 2010

Ritalin Nation, America's Addiction to Rapid-Fire Culture

In the book, Ritalin Nation: Rapid-Fire Culture and the Transformation of Human Consciousness, author and psychologist Dr. Richard DeGrandpre exposes America's addiction to high-paced life and the rapid rise of ADD and ADHD diagnosis in the United States. The author does not believe that there is some sort of ADD or ADHD "epidemic" simply caused by bad genes. He also argues that Ritalin is being used as a substitution therapy for these children who have been absolutely bombarded with sensory overload. He feels that Ritalin is not the answer to these hyperactive kids struggling to keep attention, for any of us would benefit and show improved overall performance while using a stimulant like Ritalin. DeGrandpre's message is that because of our high-paced way of life in America, we are and our children are becoming "sensory addicts" because of the hectic pace we just call "everyday life".

It is not just an attention deficiency and a sensory addiction that results from such a rapid-fire culture, DeGrandpre argue that our morals have been effected too, "This is a culture in which the demands and expectations of society have given rise to a dramatic overall increase in work and stress, a conflicted sense of life priorities, and a cynical view of what is possible for ourselves, our families, and our society as a whole" (DeGrandpre 44). Working more instead of being home with the family, cosidering work a "refuge" from stresses at home, ending personal relationships instead of fixing them, these are some of the examples he gives that have resulted from our full-steam ahead lifestyles in America. At the end of the book he gives a few rules for Americans to live by to try to slow down their pace and appreciate the important things in life, "Redefine the bottom line. Spend less time at work; parent more and parent better. Learn more effective life skills, and pass them on to your children. Do these things by being less worn out, stressed out and distracted by the perceived nesessity of material wealth" (DeGrandpre 228). He even included a JCPenney ad that he received in the mail that was "relating" to it's hard-working customers, "Traffic jams. Kids to school. Work. Meetings. Deadlines. Rush hour. Soccer practice. Groceries. Cooking. Dishes. Laundry. Homework. Bathtime. Pay bills. Call mom...squeeze in a little bit of time to go shopping!". Just reading that ad makes me feel anxious but sadly enough, most American families could probably relate to that exact schedule, and think it is completely normal!

Reading this book was really interesting and enjoyable, it was more like leisure reading than a reading a book for class. My favorite part of the book was when the author referred to America's sensory addiction and how our fast-paced lives have distracted us from the important things in life, because I could not agree more. Whether it was talking of the ADD / ADHD "epidemic", people calling work a refuge and desiring to spend more time in the office or when he talks about how people are more willing to end a relationship rather than fix it, every time I turned the page I was nodding my head in agreement. Through my work in an emergency room, I have been able to see two of the points given above day in and day out. It seems that every time I am working in pediatrics, there isn't one day I can get through without seeing multiple past medical histories of "ADD" or "ADHD" in kids that seem like fairly normal, spunky children. Unfortunately, you could sometimes tell when kids are being treated with Ritalin because they almost look "stoned" in a way, either in tune or out of tune with what is going on around them. I definitely disagree with immediately going to Ritalin when a child seems too hyper or not focused enough. Also, at my job I work with many people who most would consider "workaholics", working 48 hour days, holding down 2-3 jobs at a time and even traveling out of state to get more money in the bank. All this time, they are trying to help their significant other do the juggling act of maintaining the kids at home with a simple phone call of love and advice. Lastly, most people have seen friends or family members that had a relationship go sour over quick, little, unimportant setbacks that both parties decided was better to end the relationship over than to try and work out the kinks or settle the issue that arised. All in all, I really enjoyed how much I could relate to the points he was making to my everyday life.

Reading this book has certainly opened up my eyes to the unfortunate truth to America's rapid-fire culture society, how I am affected by it every day and it made me think that I too am probably a product of a sensory-overload upbringing. I have recommended this book to many people already because no matter who you are or what kind of household you lived in growing up, if you were born and raised in the United States, than you can read and really, truly relate to this book. Since finishing up the book, I have had a real desire to try to take Dr. DeGrandpre's advice to put the important things back into perspective in my life and try to reduce the stress I feel at work, school and home to better enjoy my life. To anyone who did not read this book, my advice is to slow down and really figure out what means to most to you and more importantly, what makes you happy. If we all try this, hopefully one day we will not live in a rapid-fire culture where big bank accounts, the newest material goods, impatience with loved ones and sensory addiction rule our country and get in the way of what is really important.

Sources: DeGrandpre, Richard J. Ritalin Nation: Rapid-Fire Culture and the Transformation of Human Consciousness. New York: W.W. Norton, 2000.

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