12 June 2007

Poor Paris

It’s very hard to be an heiress when you get chucked into chookie, and no-one feels sorry for you because, well, they’re saying you must be doing psychotropic drugs.

It’s very hard to be an heiress when you get chucked into chookie, released and then imprisoned again and no-one feels sorry for you because, well, they’re saying you must be doing psychotropic drugs.

Why, even fellow celebs are having a dig at her: "I think all heiresses should be put in prison on general principle," said actor John Cusack, star of Being John Malkovich, High Fidelity, and The Ice Harvest.

Everyone knows by now that the nasty triumvirate of medical conditions that led to Paris’s near breakdown in prison is dehydration, claustrophobia, and hyperventilation – but just to settle things, Health24 thought we’d best explore how psychotropic drugs could, hypothetically, make life harder.

What are psychotropic drugs?
On a briefly scientific note - a psychotropic substance is a chemical substance that has an effect on the central nervous system. It changes brain function and can change a person’s perceptions, moods, consciousness and behaviour. Psychotropic drugs include antipsychotics, mood stabilisers, anti-anxiety agents and antidepressants.

“They’re mostly not nearly as dramatic as they’re made to sound,” says Professor Michael Simpson, psychiatrist and Health24’s CyberShrink. “We could be talking about one or two Valiums. Psychotropic drugs, especially anti-anxiety agents, are frequently abused.”

Prof Simpson said it would be particularly odd - and legally unprecedented - that anyone could be released from prison on the grounds of a secret medical condition. The procedure of releasing someone on medical grounds usually entails the cross-examination of a psychiatrist or doctor by the magistrate or judge, not a sheriff waving about a single piece of paper, the contents of which he does not divulge.

Someone’s being made a fool of here, said the sentencing judge, and put Paris straight back behind bars. He has a point.

Imagine if someone tried the medical-condition trick to try and get released from Pollsmoor. There, even a combination of HIV and tuberculosis may fail to get you a slot with the day nurse, let alone a bed in the hospital section. You’d be laughed out of your cell – into one with 60 people in it. Here’s more about the other three conditions from which poor Paris suffers.

A dangerous condition, which – especially in developing countries – leads to many infant deaths. So what was the problem with Paris? No water in the prison? No. Apparently Ms Hilton did not want to sully her behind by using the toilet in the prison. One that has – horrors – been used by other people. So she stopped drinking water.

Then she also did not eat for three days. The reason? The self-same toilet that would have to be used.

But wait a minute. How much weight did she lose? I see a business opportunity here. Want to lose five kilos? Just drive on a suspended licence and the rest will be taken care of.

The fear of narrow or confined spaces. It’s a scary and socially inhibiting phobia. Claustrophobics will go to some lengths to avoid the narrow confines of an aeroplane, and they’re hopelessly bad at crowded parties.

That doesn’t sound like our Paris.

The last time I looked, prisons were not meant to be spacious. They are meant to be narrow and confining. That’s why they put people in there who have broken the law.

This has to do with breathing faster or deeper than necessary, thereby reducing the carbon dioxide concentration of the blood to below normal. A panic attack can cause someone to hyperventilate. Reducing the amount of oxygen someone is breathing in, puts an end to this condition. How is this done? A paper bag over the nose and mouth for a minute or two should do it. So, sorry Paris. No highly publicised visit to the emergency room today. Nice try, but no cigar.

Poor little rich girl?
It’s difficult to muster sympathy for a Barbie doll whose claims to fame are an inheritance, home porn movies, and partying. She has succeeded at something, though: making a generation of teens, who’re growing up in a materialistic and consumer-driven society, feel inadequate.

So I take my hat off to the magistrate who would fall for none of the histrionics.

And now it’s time for the world media to do their bit. There’s a real world out there – and a pretty harsh one at that for many people. Wars, famine, prison torture (don’t give me ideas), malnutrition. Maybe it’s time for us to focus on these things more and a little less on a vacuous blonde and her problems with the traffic department.

(Susan Erasmus, Health24, June 2007) (Sources:,,,


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