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Unread October 29th, 2005, 05:27 PM
James Brody James Brody is offline
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Default Evo Devo & Your Psychiatric Drugs: Helping You Without Crippling You

There is a fundamental contradiction when we look for a medicine that (1) does something useful but (2) makes no one sick! That is, you expect to find uniformity without variation. (Galton, Darwin, & Wallace understood this cannot be done.) It is true that there are similarities between us that provide stability, there are also differences that admit each of us to a different future. Any food or medicine, thus, will poison some of us but help others. And in no one feature will all of us be exactly the same except perhaps our reaction to gravity.*
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Ross Baldesarinni, MD, (author, as of 1997, of over 800 papers on psychotropic medication and schizophrenia and one of the most supportive, brightest teachers I have ever met) remarked that our antidepressants were once all based on histamine. It was simpler to attempt small changes to sedating histamine and produce chlorpromazine, thioridazine, and other antipsychotics and also from histamine, the antidepressants: imipramine, desipramine, nortriptylene, and another six or eight, all of which can make you sleepy and constipated, blur your vision and make it difficult for you to stand up quickly without falling over. Raff's evo-devo sequence applies here as well as to other exploratory systems: duplicate, vary, compartmentalize, and keep whatever improves on an established record of success but erases some of the aggravations.

The pharmaceuticals next found a different anchor, a somewhat different family of chemicals that block reuptake at serotonin receptors and often make you indifferent to your guilt, embarrassments, and gaffs. You become more impulsive and selfish but less socially concerned, a modern lotus-eater, something of a psychopath, perhaps bored by ordinary things, perhaps more willing to share your wife or to borrow another one from a friend.

There are sensory changes consistent with elevated serotonin: that is, put it in and you become less reactive to external stimuli, take it out and you will be more so (Brody, 1970). Anxiety and depression move in synchrony with these changes in your focus from within to without and back again. Serotonin helped to make your very remote ancestor's first gut where 90% of your supply remains today. Mankind's second head ganglion was his bowel! Serotonin operates the machinery that mashes the food that you swallowed and turns it from red and green to yellow and brown: you read Camus without thinking about what is going on inside your gut. A full belly means that you sleep better, like yourself better, and become less vigilant and irritable.

Pharmaceutic research uses group data which means that the selective environment for medication is a genome first, then the genes of an individual. Individual side effects are real as is tolerance for them: so are therapeutic effects. Perhaps inevitably, due to network phenomena, there is an interaction between therapeutic relevance and generality: a medicine that bothers no one usually does nothing for anyone. (Even dodge ball will cripple some kids, the trick is predicting which ones.) That is, the effects of contingent events vary with the nature of their participants. True in physics, true in biology, true in pharmacology and therapeutics.

There are other examples of GxE interactions that involve alcohol, asbestos, cigarettes, cannabis, or thalidomide. Marijuana makes a predisposed mind schizophrenic and even acetominophen will disrupt bone healing in some individuals! That is, environments fit some people but kill others: we eventually will make an ID bracelet that says "Don't serve Tabasco or peanuts to me." We may use a snip of hair or nail to predict both your response to particular medications and the ages at which you will likely need them. (The same, however, has always been true for religions, creeds, and popular music...all matched to different individuals not by chemical analysis but by swaps managed by self-selection and gossip within clusters of similar minds.)

Meanwhile, consult a psychiatrist today and become a beta-tester tomorrow! I'm also glad that my ancestors discovered capsiacin before there was an FDA! With minor changes in history, we would need a prescription for Tabasco and that sweetest, most exotic endorphin trigger (one that hurts so good!), Scorned Woman, would be in a plain wrapper in a safe alongside cocaine instead of sold at the market in a black flannel bag with a golden string...

Brody, J. (1970) Behavioral effects of serotonin depletion and of p-chlorophenylalanine (a serotonin depletor) in rats. Psychopharmacologia, 17, 14-33.
And the usual ones:
Kauffman, S. (2000) Investigations. NY: Oxford.
Gerhart, John & Kirschner, Marc (1997) Cells, Embryos, and Evolution. Malden, MA: Blackwell.
Kirschner, M. & Gerhart, J. (1998) Perspective: Evolvability. Proceedings National Academy of Science. 95(15), 8420-8427.
Raff, Rudolf (1996) The Shape of Life. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Copyright 2005, James Brody, all rights reserved.
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