The Futility of an Open Letter and the Quest for Social Media Justice

Social Media Logos

Again. I didn’t want to write about this blasted case any more. But I have issues, especially in the PR and media department. So, let’s get into that.

We are talking about Experts Support Amber Heard, an open letter signed by a whole lot of organizations that support women who suffer violence in their intimate relationships and even more „experts“ on the topic from the fields of law, psycology, personal experience, even finance. They mix up two aspects: Ms Heard’s personal experience, being a person of a certain amount of fame, with comments in social media on her allegations and her behaviour before, during and after trial on one hand. On the other, with the ability of all women to report intimate partner and sexual violence without having to fear harassment and intimidation. And believe me when I say that these are two completely different issues.

Follow the link, read the letter – in my opinion it is short, but revealing. There are plenty of people who got into the contents of this letter, so I won’t touch that in length. There is nothing new to talk about anyway, just what has been repeated over and over ever since Ms Heard’s statements in her op-ed went to trial: Ms Heard was harrassed by cohorts of Johnny Depp’s fans, there was „disinformation, misogyny, biphobia and a monetized social media environment where a woman’s allegations of domestic violence and sexual assault were mocked for entertainment.“ So much on this.

What I find astonishing – and really troublesome – is the mixing of general observations (women should be able to report violent behaviour of their spouses against themselves without fearing being threatend or mocked) with specifics of a libel lawsuit (a jury found that Amber Heard – not every women reporting the above mentioned – lied about what she implicated in her op-ed). No one in their right mind will contest the general statement. A lot of people will contest the statement about the specific outcome of the specific lawsuit. We know that, we went over that more than once.

So, what interest should these organizations have to just hammer on exactly this case? Why on earth should they stubbornly make Amber Heard out as a victim of a shameful injustice, not only in the famous court of public opinion, but also in reference to the outcome of the trial? What is the benefit, especially for organizations claiming they help women in the dire situation of breaking free from an abusive, violent intimate relationship? Well, that is a public relations topic that is not that easy to digest, I’m afraid.

Most of those organizations are bankrolled by donations (and perhaps by government funds dedicated to NGOs in that field). They have a vital interest in justifying their work – and, make no mistake, I think this work is more than necessary, because women in these situations often need support, they need people that believe them unconditionally and don’t brush their allegations aside. Amber Heard, through this op-ed was made out as a figurehead for women fighting for their right to speak up; she cooperated with the ACLU to pen this op-ed, so that she could become the organization’s spokesperson on the topic. For the ACLU, it was vital that she was a victim that heroically spoke up and went through the repercussions that came along with that. This is at the root of this letter and this is why Amber Heard must remain a victim, unfairly tried, unfairly judged by jury, court and social media.

For a certain kind of organization, women who suffer domestic violence and/or sexual assault need to be kept in fear, have to feel unsafe and must not trust the legal system so that the cause can be taken further. But if organizations need to keep the status quo to justify their existence and secure their finances, what good are they for those who they intend to help? That sounds harsh. And, honestly, I don’t think that things are that black and white. There may be fear of losing credibility if they admit that they just were led up the garden path. That is a problem our society has in general: mistakes. If you watched that trial – and it was broadcast in its entirety over the internet, with and without comments – and came out on the other end without at least strongly doubting Ms Heard’s allegations, I really doubt that you paid attention. It was bad, not for women who report domestic violence, but for  organizations that support them and these organisations‘ credibility, because they supported a person that is so obviously lying.

The best course of action would be to say „sorry, we believed the wrong person“. To just admit fallability and admit that there are, indeed, women who lie for their own gain and fame. To reassure that that does not affect the credibility of victims in general or women especially. That this was a special case. But no. All those warriors for the female cause are incapable of doing that (and, in doing so, they are stubbornly adopting a behaviour attributed mainly to men). That is not feminsm, ladies. That is just downright dumb, I am so sorry to say.

We all know that there are men who deliberately destroy the women they claim to love. The fact that there are quite a lot of them is well documented. We all know that the most dangerous time in the life of a woman is when she decides to leave the man she is living with in a toxic relationship. We know that women are demeaned, beaten, raped and murdered in intimate relationships with men and we know about the danger the children are in if their parents‘ relationship takes a violent turn. All of this is a fact, we can read about this daily. Murder of women by their male partners has become such a common event that there is a name for that: Femicide. I think we need to keep that in mind to understand the state of mind of the representatives of organizations dedicated to the protection of women from their violent male partners when I talk about an equally egregious type of human being: Women who use these facts for their own gain.

Not every woman who claims she is being abused by her male partner is what she appears to be. And it seems as if it is not too uncommon that women who have to lose a lot (material goods, their children, social status, for example) resort to lies and accusations to get out of the separation or divorce from their male partners with what they think they are entitled to and would not get in another way.

There are even women who are violent themselves, treating their male partners in demeaning and violent ways. We all know the jokes about men who after a boys‘ night out are recieved by their wives or girlfriends with a frying pan or a rolling pin in their hands, ready to beat the crap out of the guy and the jokes about men being henpecked and afraid of their wives. Fact is: Those men exist as much as the abused and mistreated women exist. They usually do not come forward, because while battered and mistreated women can count on compassion and commiseration, men see themselves being exposed to mockery and derision – at least in their minds.

Greg Ellis, an English actor underwent quite an ordeal and put his experiences into a book, ‚The Respondent‘. And that brings us to a systematic approach mostly women take to get rid of their male partners: Destroying their reputation and their ability to work and thus earn a living.

Toxic relationships usually start out quite romantically, we should not forget that. They are either based on real romantic feelings or on a certain pretension by one or both partners in order to get something out of the relationship other than romance. That might be prestige, perhaps security, support, access to professional or personal opportunities one would otherwise not have – that kind of thing. If both partners know about that and consent to it, that might work. If not, there might come a day when disappointment and frustration come around. Perhaps, one partner would have the power of getting the other a job opportunity but does not help. Or one partner regards the other as their property which leads to attempts to gain a freedom the ‚owner‘ would not allow, such as meeting with friends, going out, talking to people of the ‚weaker‘ partner’s choice. Whatever that may be, and whatever the reason of disequilibrium of power in a relationship is, the ’stronger‘ partner will try to maintain their ‚power‘ over the other, the ‚weaker‘ partner will try to make things work until they cannot and do not want to do that anymore. In a whole lot of cases, that ‚weaker‘ partner is the woman, the ’stronger‘ is the man. But there are dynamics when this is not the case.

The resort to violence is not a privilege of men, nor is psycological abuse. Women, for usually being physically weaker than men, tend to resort to a certain kind of psychological warfare, demeaning their partners. They accuse their partners of not providing for the partnership or familiy in a sufficient way, of not helping, of being unfaithful, of not being able to be unfaithful for a lack of attractiveness, they demean achievements and exaggerate failures, that kind of thing. There are examples galore, in fiction as well as in actual cases. But women do not restrain themselves to that, there are those who resort to violence.

There is even an instruction manual to ‚Destroy A Man Now‘, that is mentioned in Greg Ellis‘ book. DAMN, a method to get back at the man. It talks about the use of allegations, media and authorities to ruin a man’s reputation and thus his life. Basically it goes like this: First, you allege inacceptable behaviour, then you get the media to report that and once the reporting gains traction, you accuse authorities of not doing enough to remedy the situation. The book can be obtained online, go and google it, I will not promote it here.

Going back to Amber Heard, I am afraid that she followed the instructions almost to the letter. I have been following the case ever since there was a short mention of Johnny Depp being accused of mistreating his wife on German TV – that must have been some time by the end of 2019 or early 2020. I just went and googled and found people who got themselves not only the reports out of the yellow press but also the court documents and the audio files. I read, I listened and I paid attention to the contextualization by lawyers. And I honestly searched for sources supporting Ms Heard’s claims with facts. For example, when you have two black eyes and a broken nose, there must be a medical record. And the day after someone broke your nose and hit you on both eyes so that you have two black eyes, there is swelling in your face. There is no way of cooling these injuries in a way that they won’t show under the heat of spotlights in a TV studio. None at all. So, there would have needed to be a medical record buried somewhere in the court documents, it had to be mentioned – it wasn’t. That was the starting point of my personal disbelief. I simply was unable to dig up hard proof of physical violence. The psychological abuse was mainly debunked by the audio files, so in the end, I was empty-handed on my quest for evidence in favour of Ms Heard. So, I just followed the case to see what developments there might be, what facts might come to light. And I’m sad to say, there were none.

That makes Amber Heard someone who did damage to women and, insofar the authors of that open letter are right, the verdict of this trial, damaging to women. But it is not because no one believed Amber Heard. It is because Amber Heard displayed how a woman is capable of destroying a man’s life with lies. How she used the media to do her bidding. How media use the words ‚alleged‘ and ‚allegation‘ to serve a very juicy story that people will eat up and respond emotionally to – so that ad sales keep the dollars rolling in. This is a very unhealty symbiosis between accuser and media and, in my opinion, media should really review their role in occurrences like this, asking themselves if it is really necessary to blurt each and every unfounded allegation into the world instead of doing their due diligence in research. But that is a side topic that needs to be discussed further in the future.

The emotional response of users on both sides was to be expected and it is part of the methodical package. We can see that not only in the case of a favourite celebrity being accused or accusing of horrendous deeds, but also in political discussions. Look at what lead to the events on January 6, 2021, look at the ‚discussions‘ around the midterm elections in the USA. Look at BREXIT. Look at everything COVID. Look at the energy crisis we are in the middle of at the moment. Good news is no news and mere facts are boring. So, add a bit of spice and let the mob loose. I would like to appeal to everybody reading this rather long text to keep control of their emotions and check facts. You need at least three sources, and you should get them from as broad a spectrum as possible. The louder the headline, the less trustworthy the source. Be careful, do not let media use you. Think critically. Please!

What I have to add, just to make that crystal clear, is the fact that the mocking and demeaning of Amber Heard might be deserved, but I find it disgusting nonetheless. There is a difference between commenting on legal proceedings and personal attacks. I can understand that it is difficult to stay with the matter when talking about this trial instead of giving in to emotion and going against the person. The blatant lying is infuriating, yes. But going against the person instead of going with the facts, giving in to the heat of the emotion instead of staying with the cool argument will put you in a position where you are simply wrong, even if you are right. So don’t do that, please.

So, to the organizations who support women: Do keep up the good and valuable work. But look at what you do and if you choose someone to speak for you, a bit of scrutiny can’t do harm. And if you are mistaken, just say sorry, admit your mistake and go on. Don’t go on just because you fear for your credibility when you are simply off the mark. Please.

To those who support people on social media: Please keep your eye on the matter, not the person. You don’t even know Amber Heard, you have no idea who she really is. What she is not: A replacement target for people you have a problem with, a punching bag for you to hit when you haven’t got one at hand, a joke for you to laugh about. I personally think that she has more problems than those that might be solved legally and I urge you to give her the space to find her balance.

In the end, we are talking about people, real living, breathing people. We might regard some as nicer and others as simply unbearable. But we should stay civilized, especially because everything you write into this internet will stay here forever.

On YouTube, I found a contribution to the broader scope of the issue of social media outrage that forms the basis to fan behaviour like the one we could observe in this case: „Cancelling“: A Culture of Retribution. I recommend watching it, especially if you seem to get caught up in a fight that is not yours.

Misogyny, Harassment and the Internet

Faust, die durch eine Glasscheibe schlägt

If you are reading this, I assume you participate in social media – otherwise, there are rarely people who stumble upon my blog. I don’t resent that, as there are readers here and there and in rare cases, a discussion comes up. Anyhow, as I caught a cold, I had the oportunity of watching Richard Hoeg’s Hang-outs & Headlines on YouTube today and I have a bit of time on my hands to write down what I think. My opinion, so to speak. Subject of today’s edition was a Washington Post article titled YouTube remains rife with misogyny and harassment, creators say.

So, here we go again, on the never stopping merry-go-round that is behavioural criticism on the internet. The article in question refers only to YouTube, but, honestly, it is the same just everywhere. When I joined the exclusive circle of what today is called content creators, there was no such thing as social media in the way we know it today. Back then, we had nothing, least of all bandwith. But we had newsgroups on the Usenet and, later on, forums and message boards. Text only, low bandwith, no memes – spaces where you had to put your thoughts in actual words and you needed to explain yourself. There was a guideline as to how to behave, so that discussions could be had within reasonable boundaries: The Netiquette.

Discussions were direct, matter-of-factly, sometimes heated, and there were the occasions when users crossed lines they better wouldn’t. And even then, without those beautiful technologies we have today, there was harassment, there was anger, there were threats, there was doxxing. It was a little more difficult to do, but if you knew how, there was not that much of a problem. So, what’s the huge difference between then and today?

1. Who threw the first toy?

There are those occasions when you look at your news stream (be it Twitter, facebook, YouTube, whatever) and you feel as if you were at a playground with four year olds who are throwing sand toys at each other. Yes, there were occasions on the Usenet when you could feel that, too – but those were far rarer. Perhaps, because it was less people and far more focused on topics. When people started to clown about or got off topic, their messages were just pushed into another group, along with a followup link.

Today, before getting into factual discussions, we need to discuss how to discuss – and the loudest user(s) get to make the rules, in general. Not those with the facts, no. Those who can make the most noise. And it is them who define which behaviour is named how, thus not only ruling over the discussion, but also how the content is to be understood – and judged. Someone says ‚I like bacon‘ and when the time and place is right, a mob of users will attack the disgusting animal abuser. That person, in return will opine on people’s comments in – ahem – quite a harsh way and within under a minute you can watch the sandbox wars unfold in all their glory. Darth Bacon and Princess Sunflower will fight until there are no winners.

This is, of course, completely inane, but, alas, I know no one (not even myself!) who is immune to pitching in. It’s a free world allowing free speech, isn’t it? No one said that this speech needs to be sensible. And, if we’re honest, it is not about bacon or tofu. It’s about unloading, even dumping the day’s stress. Boss was mean? Well, Princess Sunflower is a very good avatar, may she sit at home and cry her eyes out! And that’s the problem: In this case, she is an avatar, nothing else. That leads us to things that have existed from the beginning of time up until today, because we are humans and humans are not at all perfect.

2. Misogyny

So let’s talk about how those sandbox wars are fought. How do you get to rule over a discussion? Well, the first step is to shape facts to your needs. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines misogyny as hatred of, aversion to, or prejudice against women. Nota bene: women, plural. So, if you want to own a discussion where a woman (singular) is affected, you just define your needed term anew, even if this is linguistically just wrong.

Here’s what I’m talking about:

The sentence ‚Elena Example is dumb.‘ is unflattering, but not at all misogynistic. If you say ‚Elena Example is a woman, that’s why she is dumb.‘, it is definitely misogynistic. The trick to be the ruler of the discussion is to expand the meaning of the latter to the meaning of the former. This can be done with each and every buzzword that is currently in use (e. g. sexism, racism). As soon as you have established your definition of those words, you can accuse anyone of anything and, as a consequence, make social media providers change their regulations according to your needs. Quite neat, huh?

3. Harassment

Harassment is a different and far more difficult matter as it has so many facets. Let me just say this: If you call somebody out for lies they tell and you do so repeatedly, it can feel to them like harassment, but it needn’t be that. If you go after people with lies you tell about them and you do so continually, it is harassment and might even be punishable by law (at least in Germany, but I don’t think that it is very different elsewhere). As a matter of fact, this is a very common method of people too dumb to make a point (mostly because of not having one) to shut others up. Doesn’t work, but is widely used, unfortunately.

4. News

Now, here is a sensitive topic. Let’s start with commercial outlets, the so-called mainstream media. Once upon a time, when I was young, a newspaper (as well as a radio or TV programme) was there to report news and sold advertisements to support this goal. In the meantime, the market changed a lot. Not only are there more newspapers etc., but we have the internet. To maintain the earnings from advertising, you need to be faster than all the others; an internet platform will earn next to nothing from the news themselves (in form of subscriptions), so you need to be aggressive about advertising. That’s where the much critizised clickbait comes from. In a nutshell: today, the sale of advertisements is supported by news. That has quite some effect on the quality of the news we are presented with, especially in the entertainment sector.

It is of absolutely no interest if a bit of news is true, half true or just a rumour that later turns out to have no truth to it at all – if it is there and it is in the slightest way justifiable to put it out there, it will be put out there. The more scandalous, the better. The more lurid, the more valuable. That is where the money lies. Celebrities are the ones who suffer the most from this behaviour. Be it a youthful prince in a scandalous situation, be it a movie star accusing her boyfriend of violence against her. Drunk driving, consuming drugs, partying too hard, kissing someone other than the spouse, being naked on a private beach while on holiday, no matter what, it is news, especially if there are photos. Careful, accurate reporting is not at all a thing. There is no time nor money for investigation. And this is the gateway for ‚journalists‘ who want to shape the world to their ideas of right or wrong. This kind of journalist need not investigate; they regard their view as the gold standard and they use publications – and reputable ones – for their own ends. And they are not alone; there is always a political agenda behind that: being socially influencial, having the upper hand in social discourses.

For content creators who do that on their own dime and in their spare time, the rules are different. They do not depend that much upon the sales of advertisements. Sure, they, too, need money to keep the channel (blog, account) going. There are some who live off their content, of course. But they are not under that much strain, so they say what they want to say how they want to say it; there’s no need to be fast. They can take their time to get information. And they can afford to choose their topic and stay on it. Compared to journalists with deadlines and assignments, this is a very luxurious position. I don’t say that their content is more accurate – but often it is. I don’t say that they are right – but they can voice their opinion and leave it to the consumer to fill the gaps with further information. All in all, they need not do the following (although some surely do):

5. Divide and Conquer

To be of relevance, you need the above mentioned upper hand. You could, of course, investigate and report facts. But that doesn’t stir emotions. Reporting without emotions feels cold. That won’t earn rapport from users and this is what you need. So, what do you do? You divide people in groups. Pro-this, against-that. The more controversial, the better. That way, a lot of people will not only read your articles, listen to your podcasts, watch your videos, no, they will comment and they will do that very emotionally. The best thing that can happen are threats, having people going after each other. You get loads of page impressions and even more comments – which sell, you guessed it, advertisements. Win-win. Except for society. We lose our ability of compassion and of tolerance. Everyone is a possible enemy and what was an emotional outlet on a bad day suddenly becomes an all-consuming war, where we fight for our lives, perhaps our livelihood.

I can’t see how laws and regulations will do anything to contain this kind of behaviour. They never have, not even for the pub talk before the internet. What we need is to learn how to cool down, to refrain from reacting to provocations. Be levelheaded. That’s not easy and it doesn’t work every time. We are humans, not saints. But before you let other people manage and use your emotions, try and take a step back. If someone calls you transphobic, look at what they refer to. Think about how important it is to correct the wrong statement of another person. Is your reputation really at stake? Are you letting a complete stranger hurt your feelings? If so, why? Try and separate other people’s problems from yours. You’ll see that most problems are not even yours. Most aggressions are not even really directed at you. Keep talking to people who know how to behave. Accept other people’s opinions, even if you do not agree. Agree to disagree. And don’t let others drive you into radical behaviour that at the end of the day robs you of your social abilities like friendliness, understanding and compassion.

As always: These are my views. It is not a report of facts, but of what I see unfold in those parts of the internet I spend my time in.

Marital Wars and Legal Battles

You guessed it: this is yet again about the Johnny Depp vs. Amber Heard trial. Whenever I get some distance from the topic, something comes along that makes me think. In this case, it was German TV. Before a very brief report, the presenter said something along the lines of this marital war (the literal translation of the German term is „war of roses“, which I personally find too poetic aside from the fact that the term means something completely different in English) being harmful to the protagonists and it being so unnecessary for them to wash their dirty laundry in public.

Now, is it really unnecessary? I honestly doubt that and that’s because of the damage that has been done already. What is true is that you have two people who had a highly volatile relationship. What is true is that there is one person who values privacy very much and another one who needs public attention, recognition – love; who also needs the constant attention and presence of the other partner in this relationship. What is true is that these concepts do not go well with each other and that they inevitably will blow up a relationship.

Now, there are tons of reasons why this kind of blowup will happen, in fact as many as there are people who have this problem. Johnny Depp and Amber Heard are famous, that is why we see so much of their drama – but this is a drama that happens all the time, every day, and sometimes even worse. But because of the fame, there is an interest in their drama especially. Famous people are the princesses and princes of our time, and when there is no real prince or princess available, a movie star will do just fine. It soothes the soul of the masses to see that even when people have fame, all the money in the world and beautiful homes, fate can strike them down just like everybody else. That is the stuff that sells gossip rags, celebritiy magazines, TV shows and their websites. In a nutshell: This is what sells better than sex. People are predators when it comes to the calamity of others. It makes them feel better.

Am I feeding on that, too, by writing my thoughts down? Am I part of that despicable crowd when I watch as much of the trial as I can (and it is a lot, thanks to the time difference between the east coast of the United States and Germany)? Am I a predator because of my interest in the legal proceedings that are so very different from ours? I don’t know. Maybe. I hope not.

What really gets to me is the legal side of coming to terms with a very public emotional turmoil and that is where we are back with our German TV presenter: Is it necessary to dry out your dirty laundry that publicly? Taking into account the infamous court of public opinion, the fear of movie companies such as Warner Brothers and Disney of said court, I think that it has come to the point where it is necessary. With what is being reported, for example by 60 Minutes Australia (Stevie J. Raw made a review of that), it is important that both sides are listened to, as much as it might bother the respective other side. This trial seems to be the only possibility of getting that out to the public that is otherwise informed by so-called magazines who already have taken the side that promises the bigger advertising revenue. I sound bitter and maybe I am as bitter as disillusioned, I know. Please bear in mind that this is my opinion, nothing else.

So, yes, it is necessary from my point of view, and I want to be informed in entirety rather than having to believe one thing or another. And then there is this other aspect:

Our society is in a state of flux. Many of our beliefs, our social foundations are being questioned. There have been a variety of movements over the years helping women who are in a relationship with a violent man who is beating and berating them. We have reconsidered our perception of violence, as we now know that words can do as much damage (if not more, occasionally) as blows. The bruises to the soul heal far slowlier than those to the body. We know that. And we made the mistake of accusing men and men only. Our whole social perception is biased in the sense that women are good, gentle, physically weak human beings who would not be capable of violence in any way. That is the fairytale we all have been told from childhood on. In fairytales, you do have evil women – but those are witches. That’s not a real woman. Is it?

So, the concept that men can fall victim to the same violence, can be hurt, bruised, beaten, berated – exposed to violent behaviour of a woman is socially not accepted. You can see that clearly when you read through the articles on the marriage of Amber Heard and Johnny Depp, especially in the times when the story came out. Of course everybody believed the very beautiful woman. Of course this was a bombshell story! Johnny Depp, who kept his personal life to himself, who shielded his children from becoming public property and wanted his kids to see him as dad, not „as a novelty“! And now something so abhorrent! Of course journalists were more than ready to report that. That is gold in advertising revenue! (Sorry, getting bitter again.)

There are men who are affected by domestic violence. And they are not a rarity. If you want numbers, use the search engine you prefer. Research is the main purpose of the internet. I assure you, you will be really surprised of what you find. And this may be finally the cause for a change in paradigms. Perhaps society will begin – with your help – to understand that violence is not at all a privilege of men. Perhaps this is a step towards understanding that men and women can be equally violent. I do hope that this helps to reform familiy law and it leads to men having refuges where they can get away from the women who are violent towards them.

If this airing out of dirty laundry, as many English-language outlets put it, leads to a deeper understandig of the bad turns relationships can take and the acceptance that men who do not defend themselves physically against violence carried out by a woman are not wussies, but people in as serious trouble as it is when it is the other way around, then, I think, our society has taken one step further towards fairness and social justice. Should that happen, it will have been worth it for all of us.

If not, it will just be Johnny Depp who should get at least his career back. And I honestly hope he does.

Substance Abuse and AD(H)D

Eine Kokslinie und jemand, der einen zusammengerollten Geldschein hält

I am watching the trial of Johnny Depp vs Amber Heard via Legal Bytes on youtube right at the moment, and during lunchbreak there is a bit of a discussion about how things are going in this trial at the moment. One topic that is being discussed a lot is Johnny Depp’s substance abuse and how that might affect (or not) his credibility and subsequently the outcome of the trial. It seems to be the strategy of Amber Heard’s team to paint him as a highly aggressive person because of  his substance abuse, mainly alcohol and cocaine. So, I’ll write down my two cents here, in case anybody is interested. Here goes:

As far as I am informed, Johnny Depp suffers from ADHD. Back in the day (I’m about two years younger than him), this disorder did not exist. Kids with ADD or ADHD were just a pain in the neck, got scolded a lot and were always told to behave. The hyperactive ones would be told to sit still, to be silent, to look where they were going. The non-hyperactive ones would hear things about paying attention, stop dreaming all the time, do their homework, do their chores, and PLEASE keep up and stop to dawdle.  There was no disorder. There was no medication. And the kids grew up thinking there was something wrong with them, because they were told so. This is the perfect breeding ground for substance abuse – especially for stimulants. Why that?

AD(H)D is sort of a malfunction of the brain metabolism, especially two substances get scarce: dopamine and noradreanaline. The usual medication to treat that is a so-called uptake inibitor, mostly methylphenidate; most people know that by the trade name Ritalin. What this substance does is to prevent dopamine and noradrenaline from being transported too fast out of the brain, so that an even level is preserved. That is what we do nowadays.

Of course, when you have such a disorder and it is undiagnosed you will be tempted to try things to see if they help. Cocaine does, as it has basically the same effect on dopamine and noradrenaline[1]. So, imagine someone who really does suffer from AD(H)D trying cocaine and realizing that this helps – with concentration, with social interaction etc. etc. The problem is that cocaine is highly addictive and has various other effects, whereas methylphenidate is not addictive in the doses that are given to patients with AD(H)D.

Alcohol is suspected to cause changes to the gray brain mass which might influence the concentration and diffusion of – you will have guessed it – dopamine. According to researchers[2], „an increased diffusion in the extracellular space might seem to be a very unspecific mode of action for a drug. But a wide range of communication processes in the brain are being influenced“.

I will not translate the whole article about this, because this hint is enough for my purpose here: Alcohol is a way of self-medication for patients with ADHD, obviously.

And there we are. That is how you might come to addictions and substance abuse because of your undiagnosed disorder.

I would like to add that I have a son who has ADD and has been medicated with methylphenidate ever since he went to secondary school. The effect of this drug which is, in fact, a stimulant, is vastly different from the one it has on people without AD(H)D. My son got more focused, calmer, more determined. Someone without AD(H)D would get nervous and agitated, perhaps even aggressive under this medication.

So, I would not assume that alcohol and/or cocaine will make the user aggressive under these circumstances. Hence, I recommend talking to an expert who knows far more than a concierge doctor or a concierge nurse about what might happen when those drugs are used.

That’s my 2ct on this topic. If you would like to know more about this: Search engines are your friend! ;o)