Category Archives: Black Iron Prison

Syndemics and the Black Iron Prison

In talking about the Black Iron Prison, I’ve realised there are elements of my occupation that have some relevancy to the discussions.  (Indeed, I’ve also found there are elements of BIP that are relevant to my occupation.)  I work in a field where we have a seat at the table where decisions about policy are made.  Specifically, policy around issues related to adolescents and substance abuse.  At one conference I attended, the genius Dr. Dennis Embry talked about something called Syndemics and then the “kernels” that can be used to impact them.

Syndemics are multiple, related afflictions. 
An example:

ADHD <–> Conduct Disorder <–> Addictions <–> Domestic Violence

Four afflictions, with some common ties:  impulsivity, brain chemistry, diet (Omega 6 to Omega 3 consumption ratio), accidental attention to negative behavior, media, etc.

There are 5 Syndemic structures:

1.  Caused by the same biological agent (ex. rise in Omega-6 consumption causes bipolar, depression, asthma, diabetes, learning disabilities & violence)
2.  Share risk or protective behaviors  (ex. TV in children’s bedrooms linked to increased obesity, diabetes, ADHD, mood disorders, etc.)
3.  Respond to similar environmental conditions (ex. Lack of cooperative play at home and recess is increasing bullying, aggression, obesity, ADHD, mood disorders and overall health)
4.  Have reciprocal or interdependent effects (ex. Low omega-3 consumption increases cravings for alcohol and drugs.  High consumption of alcohol and drugs reduce omega-3, which increase mood disorders and suicidal thoughts.)
5.  Are managed by the same, similar, or reciprocal organizations (ex. Schools, Health Care, and Juvenile Courts)

So what’s the point of all this?  The point is that in my field there are these concepts called “kernels” that have been developed that when implemented can affect multiple related afflictions, or the syndemics.  An example is the Good Behaviour Game I’ve talked about before over at PD.COM.  This is called a Reinforcement Kernel, because it is reinforcing good behaviour.  Studies have shown that this tactic has a resulting impact on ADHD, Tobacco use, Prenatal Drug Exposure, Addictions, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Mood Disorders, Violence Exposure and some others.  The idea that it is addressing the ties between the afflictions. 

So why do I even bring this up?  I see this kind of idea being applicable to some of the ideas we’ve discussed in BIP.  I think it is clear for any kind of change in our society(ies) we have to impact a system.  I think we can identify some multiple related afflictions, or syndemics.  The question then becomes, what kind of “kernels” could address them?  Could a GASM become a “kernel”?  Of course, the reality is that we asshats in this little corner of the internet are extremely limited in what, if anything, we could do to affect syndemics.  However, I think it’s worth to at least think about, and to see if one can recognize some elements of society that might be related, and that if there is a way to affect them by targetting one thing that seems to affect them all.  I think just the recognition and identification of the related conditions is important in and of itself. 

If you want to read more about this stuff check out this site at the CDC: