History - A Brave New World of Psychopharmacology

Some History

There's really too much history for a comprehensive treatise here. The following are examples of early experiments and approaches.

The early history of using what was then called "chemotherapy" in treatment of children goes back to 1942 or earlier. Bender, L., and Cottington, F.: The use of amphetamine sulphate (Benzedrine) In child psychiatry, Am. J. Psychiat. 03:116, 1942. The concept of maintenance with stimulents can be dated at at least to 1962:

"Thus, the following have been tried (4]: Metrazol (5], electric convulsions [6], subshock insulin, many psychopharmaceutical agents [7-1O], the milder antihistamines (Benadryl), amphetamines, anticonvulsants, muscle tone stimulants (Tolserol), meprobamates, phenothiazines, reserpines, antidepressants, tranquilizers, etc.

"The goal in these therapeutic efforts has been to modify the secondary symptomatology associated with retarded, regressed, and disturbed behavior of the children. ... It was thought that the treatment not infrequently did succeed in nudging the lagging maturation in all behavior areas, thus enabling the child to carry on with a more normal development."

Bender L, Goldschmidt L, Siva DV: Treatment of Autistic Schizophrenic Children with LSD-25 and UML-491; Recent Advances in Biological Psychiatry, 4:170-77 (1962)

These early tests were an attempt to develop a "chemotherapy" routine consisting of daily doses of various mind altering substances to address problems in "all behavior areas, thus enabling the child to carry on with a more normal development". The focus drifted from LSD-25 when Sandoz discontinued free distribution of the drug in 1965.

Much of the research at that time involved what were then termed, "schizophrenic children", the term used differently than "schizophrenic" is used today. The drug preferred by child psychiatrist Lauretta Bender was "LSD-25" but amphetamines were included and presumably given in maintenance dosages. One curious observation, this regarding her LSD-25 experiments:

"They became disturbed to the extent that they said we were experimenting on them. In two or three hours this passed off, and the next day we put them back into their group activity after repeating the dose; they had no trouble that day as long as they were in their own group and away from close observation of the psychiatrist.

"We continued these boys for some months on 150 g in two divided doses daily. One of them benefited very much, and was able to go home and return to school, although he has since returned as a disturbed adult schizophrenic."

Lauretta Bender: Children's Reactions to Psychotomimetic Drugs; Psychotomimetic Drugs, pp. 265-273 (1970).

The amazing thing about these early tests was the degree to which the experimenters were willing to use these drugs on a maintenance course of treatment (administering the drugs on a daily basis). Lauretta Bender is still respected for her work among child psychiatrists.

... Applied to Current Ritalin Prescribing Practice

Present practice of daily course administration is not only an outcome of these early tests; it almost precisely follows these early experiments. The comment of Lauretta Bender in 1970 suggests the subject was sent to school on a daily routine of the drugs (although in that particular case, on acid).

Taken into perspective, Timothy Leary's "Turn on, tune in trip out" mantra seems mild. It was a suggestion to use the drug intermittantly. (The radical part was his suggestion that drugs be used outside of a theraputic setting.)

Time of Use -- There are too many psyciatrists who are willing to prescribe drugs which happen to only be needed during school hours. If there is an attention problem with the school, that's called "an attention problem with the school".

Professional Philosophy

The general acceptance of what seems to ordinary people to be bizarre experiments underscores the difference between phyciatrists and psychologists. It is an inherent part of psychiatry to treat conditions with pharmochemotherapy. In contrast, it is an inherent part of psychology to address environmental and thought process issues in the science of mental phenomena, as exemplified by Freud.

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Stan Protigal
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site first posted 2000; this page 9-May-2005
rev 16-Dec-09 -- This page copyright 2005, Stan Protigal