Sunday, July 29, 2007

James Valliant and Rand's Use of Dexamyl

The extent to which James Valliant is willing to misrepresent his sources can be seen in his evaluation of Barbara Branden’s discussion of Rand’s use of a diet pill, Dexamyl (which contains an amphetamine).

On page 173 Branden mentions that Rand had low physical energy level. and was worried about her weight. She then drops the following footnote, which I will quote in full:

"It was during this period of nonstop work on The Fountainhead that Ayn went to see a doctor. She had heard there was a harmless pill one could take to increase one's energy and lessen one's appetite. The doctor, telling her there would be no negative consequences, prescribed a low dosage of a small green tablet which doctors had begun prescribing rather routinely. Its trade name was Dexamyl. Ayn took two of these pills each day for more than thirty years. They appeared to work: she felt that her physical energy had increased, although it was never high, and her weight stayed under reasonable control. In fact, medical opinion today suggests that they soon ceased to be a source of physical energy; their effect shortly became that of a placebo."

"Dexamyl consists of two chemicals: an amphetamine and a barbiturate. It was not until the sixties that researchers investigated the effects of large doses of these chemicals. They found that extremely high doses were harmful, sometimes even resulting in paranoid symptoms; but to this day, there is only the most fragmentary and contradictory scientific evidence to suggest that low doses such as Ayn took could be harmful. As one pharmacological specialist has said: 'Perhaps they hurt her, and perhaps they didn't.'"

"In the early seventies, when for the first time she became seriously ill, her doctor took her medical history, and, quite innocently, she told him about the Dexamyl. Disapproving, he ordered her to cease taking them at once. She never took another."

"I include this discussion only because I have learned that a number of people, aware that she took this medication, have drawn ominous conclusions about Ayn's mental health; there is no scientific basis for their conclusions." [PAR, p. 173 n. 1.]

There have been (and continue to be) unsupported allegations over the years that Rand was addicted to “speed.” Branden wanted to put these allegations to rest.

Valliant’s mangling of Branden’s footnote is as follows:

“The level of Ms. Branden’s desperation for evidence can be measured by the fact that she speculates in a footnote that the low-dosage diet pill that Rand was prescribed by a doctor ‘may’ have resulted in ‘paranoid symptoms.’ Ms. Branden does so despite also conceding that the pills only had a ‘placebo effect’ after just a short time. Nor is Ms. Branden in any way dissuaded by the fact that Rand easily discontinued their use, again on medical advice.” [PARC, p. 51.]

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