Escaping Bounds: Why We Should Not Restrict Research
One of my favorite things to experience is chance conversations that often lead to me learning about topics that I am not familiar with. During one of these chance encounters, I newly learned about a facet of the infamous Nixon administration.
Nixon was known for many things. Likely too many things. Among his many actions was the ‘war on drugs’ that he began 50 years ago. The war that despite certain policy changes still very much rages on today with nearly 1.5 million drug arrests and disproportional impacts on minority communities regarding these incarcerations. However, there was another facet of his decision that negatively impacted the outcome of life in the United States: the bans on research.
Though it was not solely the result of the ‘war on drugs,’ research in psychedelic drugs was prematurely halted due to the negative feelings surrounding such substances. And yes, when abused these substances are certainly what they were portrayed to be at the time, but that does not negate the fact that they also have potential positive uses in the field of medicine, specifically in psychological research. For example, LSD was found to be an effective tool in the treatment of alcoholism; a tool that could not have been found if the bias around this substance was allowed to halt research on the subject. Biases exist. They do and it is undeniable, but to allow them to prevent the expansion of learning, whether the results be positive or negative would be a great disservice to every person. And LSD is not the only example of this.
Gender biases have been prevalent in society for centuries and it is not a surprise that their effects have branched into the field of research. Indeed, research has found that the “evidence basis of medicine may be fundamentally flawed because there is an ongoing failure of research tools to include sex differences in study design and analysis.” This flaw is prevalent in all sorts of research, from ADHD to new diets like intermittent fasting. Too often researchers allow the results of a select gender to represent the effects on all individuals. This bias allows the formation of findings that are not only inaccurate but can also prove harmful. The variety in the illness experience and symptoms of men and women with ADHD is a perfect representation of this. Numerous studies have found that ADHD presents differently between men and women but since the basis for a while was tuned to men’s symptoms, women were often undiagnosed or diagnosed incompletely. This can often leave women confused regarding their diagnosis and unsure about what the next steps should be. Whereas, boys, since they are often diagnosed earlier, also have access to treatment plans earlier. And unfortunately, ADHD is not the only disorder or disease where women are left floundering due the lack of information regarding their specific symptoms that sometimes diverge from what has been considered standard.
The field of research is one of the most promising fields out there. It is a field focused on development and learning; one that has the capacity to do so much good. But all this could be negated by the biases that cloud methodologies. A failure to include all creeds results in research that cannot be morally applied to all people. Research should always be wary of the differences between individuals not to further divide them but, specifically in the field of medicine, to better treat and understand them.