Poor Dick Nixon

Avoid all needle drugs, the only dope worth shooting is Richard Nixon.

- Abbie Hoffman

Nixon: Drug Addict, Criminal or Both?

by Saul Landau

Poor Dick Nixon, my friend Sanho Tree says.  He needed Betty Ford's treatment more than Gerald Ford's pardon.  Anthony Summers new book, The Arrogance of Power: The Secret World of Richard Nixon claims that Nixon took Dilantin, a mood-altering drug.  In 1968, Jack Dreyfus, founder of the Dreyfus Fund, gave Nixon his first thousand 100-milligram capsules, "when his mood wasn't too good."  Thank God Nixon didn't get it from the drug dealers who hung out near the White House!

Dreyfus saw a man who needed the drug to combat "fear, worry, guilt, panic, anger and related emotions, irritability, rage, mood, depression, violent behavior, hyperglycemia, alcohol, anorexia, bulimia and binge eating, cardiac arrhythmia, muscular disorders."  Dilantin sounds almost as versatile as marijuana.

Dreyfus recommended, however, that Nixon find a doctor to prescribe Dilantin, but Nixon said: "To heck with the doctor."  So, Dreyfus continued to supply Nixon with the drug that Dr Richard A Friedman, director psychopharmacology at Cornell medical school, said has "potentially very serious side effect risks, like change of mental status, "confusion, memory loss, irritability and altering cognitive function."

Was Tricky Dick bombed when he ordered the bombing of Cambodia?  Did his drug habit cause him to make weird faces and stiff gestures on TV?  Did Dilantin induce Nixon to use the dirty words that appeared on the secretly recorded Nixon tapes?

Summers also claims that Dick beat up his wife Pat in 1962 after he lost the gubernatorial race in California and that she threatened to leave him if he didn't stop.

Look, no one's perfect.  Nixon, like tens of millions of Americans, felt depressed after losing the 1962 race.  In 1960, you recall, he lost the presidential election to John Kennedy, whose father and the Mafia cooked the ballot boxes in Illinois.  Nixon, upset, may have blackened Pat's eyes.

But Summers has no evidence that Nixon ever fooled around with an intern.  In 1970, Nixon was depressed over the unfriendly public reaction to his bombing of Cambodia.  Nixon went to a shrink, who diagnosed him as neurotic, suffering from anxiety and sleeplessness.  Why shouldn't an anxious insomniac take drugs?

But Defense Secretary, James R Schlesinger thought Nixon was nuts and in 1974 ordered military units not to react to orders from "the White House" unless they were cleared with him or Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.

So, did drugs cause Nixon to bomb Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos?  Did Dilantin lead him to conduct the cover up of the Watergate burglary that led to scandal and Nixon's downfall?

Dick Nixon needed a rehab plan, but instead he advocated an early version of the drug war.  Imagine, a drug addict advocating a war against drug users!  But Richard Milhous Nixon was more than a neurotic drug addict.  He was also a criminal.

Source: Anderson Valley Advertiser 30 August 2000

I have sacrificed everything in my life that I consider precious in order to advance the political career of my husband.

- Pat Nixon

The Frivolity of Evil

by Theodore Dalrymple


There is something to be said here about the word "depression," which has almost entirely eliminated the word and even the concept of unhappiness from modern life.  Of the thousands of patients I have seen, only two or three have ever claimed to be unhappy: all the rest have said that they were depressed.  This semantic shift is deeply significant, for it implies that dissatisfaction with life is itself pathological, a medical condition, which it is the responsibility of the doctor to alleviate by medical means.  Everyone has a right to health; depression is unhealthy; therefore everyone has a right to be happy (the opposite of being depressed).  This idea in turn implies that one's state of mind, or one's mood, is or should be independent of the way that one lives one's life, a belief that must deprive human existence of all meaning, radically disconnecting reward from conduct.

A ridiculous pas de deux between doctor and patient ensues: the patient pretends to be ill, and the doctor pretends to cure him.  In the process, the patient is willfully blinded to the conduct that inevitably causes his misery in the first place.  I have therefore come to see that one of the most important tasks of the doctor today is the disavowal of his own power and responsibility.  The patient's notion that he is ill stands in the way of his understanding of the situation, without which moral change cannot take place.  The doctor who pretends to treat is an obstacle to this change, blinding rather than enlightening.


The Perfect Aphrodisiac

PT-141 (see article in New York Magazine for more about this drug) is a nasal spray that is apparently an incredible aphrodisiac.  Use it, and you are ready to shuck your clothes and get down to business in 15 minutes.

Is this cause for rejoicing?  Apparently yes to those people - 50% of men and most women - for whom Viagra didn't work.

I confess this puzzles me.  I feel sex is a connection between two people.  It can be based on mutual attraction, or (and this applies even between marrieds) it can be a transaction.  For example, the man wants sex because it relaxes him and he wants to get to sleep quickly.  The woman is exhausted and will have no trouble falling asleep within minutes.  Sex could not be further from her mind.  However, she knows if she complies, her husband is far more likely to attend the Snows' dinner party with her on the upcoming Saturday night.  So they have sex.  This is sex-as-transaction and is valid as long as both parties are willing participants.  Or maybe it's the wife who feels ageing, fat, unloved and wants to be cuddled and caressed.  Perhaps it is her husband who is totally whipped.  But he knows he will get the silent treatment for days if he shows his disinterest.  He hides it well and is soon caught up in their mutually pleasurable activities.

Now, enter PT-141.  Autonomy is reduced.  Who needs to develop a deep relationship?  Skip the work of sorting out what we like and don't like in a relationship.  Would marriages subsequently be saved?  Perhaps the marriages that were based solely on technique + ready availability.  It doesn't seem much different than taking Prozac so you can docilely accept a boring job, annoying kids and whining spouse.  Prozac + PT-141 = Perfect Marriage!  Busy people can have sex in 5 minutes or less!

Then why is a partner even required?  Or must the partner be human?  Why not just get an inflatable doll - the Japanese have perfected their design and manufacture - or a dildo.

Or a pig.

More than 40% of Americans Use Prescription Drugs


by Randolph E Schmid

Washington - More than 40% percent of Americans take at least one prescription drug and 1 in 6 takes at least three, the government reported Thursday.  "Americans are taking medicines that lower cholesterol and reduce the threat of heart disease, that help lift people out of debilitating depressions, and that keep diabetes in check," Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G Thompson said in a statement.  The annual report on Americans' health found that just over 44% of all Americans take at least one prescription drug, and 16.5% take at least three.  Those rates were up from 39% and 12% between 1988 and 1994, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.

The report, "Health, United States 2004," presents the latest data collected by CBC, the National Center for Health Statistics and dozens of other Federal health agencies, academic and professional health associations, and international health organisations. Americans' life expectancy increased to 77.3 years in 2002, a record.  And deaths from heart disease, cancer and stroke - the nation's three leading killers - are all down 1 - 3%, the analysis said.

The study also found that spending on health climbed 9.3% in 2002 to $1.6 trillion. Prescription drugs, which make up about 1/10 of the total medical bill, were the fastest growing expenditure.  The price of drugs rose 5%, but wider use of medicines pushed total expenditures up 15.3% in 2002.  Drug expenditures have risen at least 15% every year since 1998.  The report said prescription drug use was increasing among people of all ages, and use increases with age.

Nearly half of all women were taking prescription drugs - 49% - compared to 39% of men.  Usage peaked at 84% for people aged 65 and over, with the top rate at 89% for black women over 65.  Even for people under age 18, however, nearly 1/4 - 24.1% - were taking at least one prescription medication.  The rate rose to 34.7% between age 18 and 44; for those ages 45 to 64, it was 62.1%.

Source: Associated Press 2 December 2004

Drugs to Build up That Mental Muscle

by Karen Kaplan and Denise Gellene

Academics, musicians, even poker champs use pills to sharpen their minds, legally.  Labs race to develop even more.  Forget sports doping.  The next frontier is brain doping.  As Major League Baseball struggles to rid itself of performance-enhancing drugs, people in a range of other fields are reaching for a variety of prescription pills to enhance what counts most in modern life.  Despite the potential side effects, academics, classical musicians, corporate executives, students and even professional poker players have embraced the drugs to clarify their minds, improve their concentration or control their emotions.

"There isn't any question about it - they made me a much better player," said Paul Phillips, 35, who credited the attention deficit drug Adderall and the narcolepsy pill Provigil with helping him earn more than $2.3 million as a poker player.  The medicine cabinet of so-called cognitive enhancers also includes Ritalin, commonly given to schoolchildren for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and beta blockers, such as the heart drug Inderal.  Researchers have been investigating the drug Aricept, which is normally used to slow the decline of Alzheimer's patients.  The drugs haven't been tested extensively in healthy people, but their physiological effects in the brain are well understood.  They are all just precursors to the blockbuster drug that labs are racing to develop.  "Whatever company comes out with the first memory pill is going to put Viagra to shame," said University of Pennsylvania bioethicist Paul Root Wolpe.

Unlike the anabolic steroids, human growth hormone and blood-oxygen boosters that plague athletic competitions, the brain drugs haven't provoked similar outrage.  People who take them say the drugs aren't giving them an unfair advantage but merely allow them to make the most of their hard-earned skills.  In the real world, there are no rules to prevent overachievers from using legally prescribed drugs to operate at peak mental performance.  What patient wouldn't want their surgeon to be completely focused during a life-or-death procedure?

"If there were drugs for investment bankers, journalists, teachers and scientists that made them more successful, they would use them too," said Charles E Yesalis, a doping researcher and emeritus professor at Pennsylvania State University.  "Why does anyone think this would be limited to an athlete?"  The growth of the brain drugs bears a striking resemblance to the post-World War I evolution of plastic surgery - developed to rehabilitate badly disfigured soldiers but later embraced by healthy people who wanted larger breasts and fewer wrinkles.

The use of cognitive-enhancing drugs has been well documented among high school and college students.  A 2005 survey of more than 10,000 college students found 4% to 7% of them tried ADHD drugs at least once to remain focused on exams or pull all-nighters.  At some colleges, more than ¼ of students surveyed said they had sampled the pills.  The ubiquitous mental stimulant is coffee, and a morning jolt is sufficient for many.  But as scientists were developing drugs to treat serious brain disorders, they found more potent substances.

Sharon Morein-Zamir, a psychologist at Cambridge University who writes about the ethics of brain enhancement, said her interest in the medications was largely academic.  But when someone she knew who had been taking Provigil for a neurological condition offered her some pills, Morein-Zamir's curiosity was piqued.  "I knew the literature and wondered what it felt like," she said.  The drug helped her focus as she worked at her computer for hours straight.  But she wondered if it was a placebo effect.  "Maybe I would have gotten it done anyway," said Morein-Zamir, who launched an Internet poll Wednesday to ask scientists about their use of brain-enhancing drugs.

Philips, the poker player, started using Adderall after he was diagnosed with ADHD five years ago and later got a prescription for Provigil to further improve his focus.  ADHD drugs work by increasing the level of the brain chemical dopamine, which is thought to improve attention.  Provigil's mechanism of action is not well understood, but boosting the effect of dopamine is thought to be part of it.  The drugs improved his concentration during high-stakes tournaments, he said, allowing him to better track all the action at his table.  "Poker is the sort of game that a lot of people can play well sporadically, but tournaments are mostly won by people who can play close to their best at all times," he said.  "It requires significant mental effort to play in top form for 12 hours a day, 5 days in a row."

In the world of classical music, beta blockers such as Inderal have become nearly as commonplace as metronomes.  The drugs block adrenaline receptors in the heart and blood vessels, helping to control arrhythmias and high blood pressure.  They also block adrenaline receptors in the brain.  "You still have adrenaline flowing in your body, but you don't feel that adrenaline rush so you're not distracted by your own nervousness," said Dr. Bernd F Remler, a neurologist at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee.  That's why Sarah Tuck, a veteran flutist with the San Diego Symphony, takes them to stave off the jitters that musicians refer to as rubber fingers.  "When your heart is racing and your hands are shaking and you have difficulty breathing, it is difficult to perform," said Tuck, 41, who discovered them when she began performing professionally 15 years ago.  A survey she conducted a decade ago revealed ¼ of flutists used the pills before some or all of their performances or in high-pressure situations like auditions.  She believes use is now more widespread and estimates that ¾ of musicians she knows use the drugs at least occasionally.  Prescriptions for Inderal and other beta blockers can be readily obtained from physicians.  Tuck said some doctors had told her they used the drugs themselves to calm their own nerves before making presentations at medical meetings.  Musicians say their drug use is all aboveboard.  "It's not like we're sending our clubhouse attendants to BALCO to get us our Inderal," said double bassist Bruce Ridge, 44, referring to the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative that allegedly provided slugger Barry Bonds and other athletes with performance-enhancing drugs.

But cosmetic neurology, as some call it, has risks.  Ritalin, Adderall and other ADHD drugs can cause headaches, insomnia and loss of appetite.  Provigil can make users nervous or anxious and bring on headaches, while beta blockers can cause drowsiness, fatigue and wheezing.  One Stanford University study found that low doses of Aricept improved the performance of healthy pilots as they tried to master new skills in a flight stimulator, but the side effects - dizziness and vomiting - were less than desirable in a pilot.

No one has conducted thorough studies about how brain-boosting drugs would affect healthy people after weeks or months of use, said Dr Anjan Chatterjee, a neuroscientist at the University of Pennsylvania.  Negative consequences may not be limited to people who popped the pills.  Martha J Farah, a bioethicist who teaches undergraduates at the University of Pennsylvania, said she was beginning to detect resentment toward students who used the drugs from classmates who did not.  She has wondered whether improving productivity through artificial means also might undermine the value of hard work.

In an article in the journal Nature, Morein-Zamir and University of Cambridge neuroscientist Barbara J Sahakian say that clear guidelines are needed to decide what's fair.  It may be reasonable to ban the drugs in competitive situations, such as taking the SAT.  But in other cases, they wrote, people such as airport screeners, air-traffic controllers or combat soldiers might be encouraged to take them.  With a slew of memory enhancers in development, the issues are not academic.  Memory Pharmaceuticals of Montvale, New Jersey, for example, is eyeing drugs to combat those pesky "senior moments" that are considered a normal part of aging.

"If there were drugs that actually made you smarter, good Lord, I have no doubt that their use would become epidemic," Yesalis said.  "Just think what it would do to anybody's career in about any area.  There are not too many occupations where it's really good to be dumb."

Karen Kaplan ( and Denise Gellene ( are LA Times staff writers

Source: 10 December 2007

A question for pistol shooters: Should the shooter who can hit the target most accurately be rewarded, or the one who can hit it most accurately under pressure in public?  Given that big-time sports are now a spectator activity, the correct choice is the second one — the athlete who performs best in front of a crowd is the one who's rewarded (this undoubtedly holds for politicians as well).  But that doesn’t necessarily mean that that athlete is really the best.  Nor does it mean that using beta blockers is necessarily a disgrace in other situations.  If Barack Obama decided to take a beta blocker before his big stadium speech at the Democratic Convention, few of his audience would have felt cheated.  If a neurosurgeon uses beta blockers before performing a delicate spine operation, who objects?

Source: paraphrasing Carl Elliott in "In Defense of the Beta Blocker", The Atlantic, 20 August 2008

The Drugs Song

A take-off of Tom Lehrer


This section on enhancing human experience covers bodybuilding, marijuana, caffeine, amphetamines, ecstasy, PMA, alcohol, Ritalin, kava, nicotine, cooked food and more.  Clicking "Up" below will take you to the Index page for this section on Drugs.

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