Technology and Human Responsibility

Issue #156                                                  April 20, 2004
                 A Publication of The Nature Institute
           Editor:  Stephen L. Talbott (

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Quotes and Provocations
   Tales of Wholeness: Television, Antidepressants, and Junk Food
   Medicine and the Environment
   Re-engineering the Personal Resume
   More on the Columbia Monkeys
   Desperate Choices


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                         QUOTES AND PROVOCATIONS

Tales of Wholeness

Three news items bearing in different ways on the use of psychotropic
drugs in treating children:

** For children at ages 1 and 3, every hour per day spent watching
television increases the risk of attention deficit problems (as measured
at age 7) by about 10 percent.  That's the conclusion of new research
reported in the April issue of Pediatrics.  Noting that previous studies
have documented the "deleterious consequences of excessive television
viewing, including violent behavior and obesity", the researchers now
suggest that we should add another concern:  "young children's exposure to
television as a medium during formative years of brain development" may
increase their "subsequent risk of developing ADHD" (Attention Deficit /
Hyperactivity Disorder].

This report is being widely hailed as significant.  The odd thing, it
seems to me, is that the research took so long to happen, given the level
of social concern about ADHD and given the intuitive obviousness of a link
between television and the disorder.  (The study did not require several
years to conduct; it was based on an already-existing data set known as
the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth.)  An editorial in Pediatrics
called the study "important and long overdue".

** A study reported in the April 10 issue of the British Medical Journal
strongly discourages the prescription of antidepressants (Prozac, Zoloft,
Paxil) for patients under eighteen.  The researchers concluded that the
marginal benefits of the drugs are not worth the risks posed by the side
effects.  As the editors of the journal summarized the matter:

   When used in children, antidepressants carry a high risk of side
   effects and limited benefits, and their use cannot be recommended.
   [The res