What does Ritalin do to kids? Why don't we ask the kids?

I know. It's a crazy idea. The ADHD Voices report isn't peer reviewed research (and it's presented in way that you might find to be refreshingly readable, or a jumbly mess that's hard to follow in spots, depending), but it points us toward some ideas that really should be followed up on. Couple things that stood out to me: First, most of the kids surveyed didn't feel like Ritalin changed who they were, or made them mindless robots, or even really "cured" them on its own — rather it helped to create a situation where they could more easily take control of their own behavior and make different choices if they wanted to (which is, frankly, consistent with my own anecdata). Second, I was really troubled by how few of the kids seemed to be active participants in their own treatment. A startling number didn't understand what ADHD really was and some didn't even know that they'd been diagnosed with it. (Via Emily Willingham)


    1.  Agreed.

      Although as someone currently on Adderall, who had to be off it for a bit due to money problems; I can say from expierience that the withdrawal symptoms *suck*…

    2. Desoxyn is better but carries a very heavy stigma… it doesnt have the PNS side effects of adderall or dexedrine. However, some people respond better to ritalin versus amphetamines. Personally, ritalin made me worse. I felt like a zombie. But everyone’s different. Unfortunately, desoxyn is way over priced for as old of generic medication as it is… Now that more than one manufacturer makes it the price has dropped some, but not by much… The time release version is not available anymore, which depending on your dose and why you’re prescribed, can make it a bit of a pain.

    1. I take issue with this statement. As someone who experiences ADHD, in our world it can be crippling. I’m almost incapable of working on things I’m not interested in. Boredom can be physically painful. This is a real problem, and meds help but they don’t solve everything.

      1. Is ADHD an actual, treatable disease, or is it a broadly diagnosed *symptom* with many possible causes? From my perspective, it’s the latter, often times resulting in inappropriate and over diagnosis by some doctors, teachers and parents who are lazy.

        1. Confusing over or misdiagnosis with “this doesn’t exist” is pretty horrendous. We have overperscription of antibiotics, but that doesn’t mean that bacterial infection is a myth and people with bacterial infections are malingering.

          Paradoxical response to stimulants is a measurable biological reaction, and regardless of whether it’s ultimately caused by a number of subtlety different problems (like chemical depression), they’re all resulting in the brain chemistry being fubar in the same or highly similar ways (like chemical depression).

          1. Indeed. But, because people see many examples of cases where ADHD was inappropriately diagnosed, they will easily leap to “it doesn’t exist”.

          2. they will reflexively leap to ‘someone is getting the help I myself could never ask for, SHUN THEM”.

          3. it’s an ‘easy leap’, Phoomp.

            I wasn’t responding to what you said -you- think. That’s fine. Live your life.

            You were discussing what -other people- think. I’m one of them, and your straw man misrepresented me and most people I know.

          4. It is simply not true that stimulants affect people diagnosed with ADD & ADHD differently. The effects on focus and attention are the same in the general population, which is why so many students use the drugs as study aids. The notion of paradoxical response is just not well supported. It’s just something to say to conceal the simple fact that stimulant dependency is a pretty nasty thing to afflict a person with on the basis of a pretty thin diagnosis.

          5. I haven’t encountered any problems with dependency on Ritalin. Only thing I’ve experienced when I don’t take my Ritalin is trouble focusing. It isn’t as thing a diagnosis as you think, either. ADHD can be crippling.

          6.  What is awesome about Ritalin for me is that it works very quickly and leaves my system in 4 hours. To me it’s like Tylenol but instead of fixing headaches it allows me to focus and get mundane tasks completed. My doctor has prescribed it to be used “as needed” so I’m not using it every day. I only use it when I have things like marking papers to do. Otherwise I’m not needing it. (If only it could work that way for children.)

        2. All mental illness and behavioral disorders are treated for the symptoms and not the underlying disease. This goes for everything: depression, OCD, psychotic episodes, ADD….

          1. Damn straight, someone thinks I’ve got a hundred lifetimes to wait around for neurologists to master the most complex shit ever studied instead of treating symptoms, they don’t get how science of the brain is just starting out.

          2. Exactly.  ADD/ADHD are widely recognized as REAL, ACTUAL conditions.  We have a handful of agents that are known to work as treatments without, generally, major side-effects.  Who CARES if the pharma work on the symptoms or the cause?  Doesn’t matter, if the outcomes are effective and do more good than harm.

        3. “Disease” is the wrong word. My understanding: ADD and ADHD are essentially a set character traits caused by a lack of dopamine in the brain (the chemical responsible for making you feel good about interesting things). This lack causes us with ADD or ADHD to crave stimuli. We generally will latch on to the most interesting things/ideas in our environment and we will only let go given a more interesting thing/idea. It is for this reason that people with ADD or ADHD make very bad drivers, but very good video game players / designers.
          On the street, the cars around you are rarely the most interesting thing so our minds wander. While video games are designed to provide constant stimuli and be constantly interesting.
          On top of all that, their is a pattern that ADD and ADHD runs in families. My Grandfather probably had ADD as do I.
          All that being said, the problem is that society has changed in the last few centuries. Our attention is being demanded by so many things at once; yet the expectation that we be able to focus on mundane tasks of homework/office work/driving on a freeway at rush-hour, has never been higher. I like to think that ADD isn’t my problem, society is my problem. Ritalin is one of the few tools I have in dealing with the expectation that society puts on my ability to focus on mundane tasks.

          1. Hmm, maybe I do have ADHD and wasn’t diagnosed because I perversely found schoolwork interesting as a kid.   Besides trouble focusing on mundane tasks, is there also trouble tearing oneself away from things you do find interesting?

          2. Yup. Is called hyper focusing. I’ve got ADHD. When I’m not interested in a book, I can’t read more than a paragraph without losing track of where I am. Then, there have been times where I’ve read an entire discworld novel in a single sitting. That’s ~7 hours of continuous reading.

          3. Thanks.  (Ouch, guess I need to hyperfocus on my grammar.)  Someone elsewhere in the thread mentioned that it’s more properly called “perseveration”.  Definitely a problem for me.

            This makes me wonder how many kids aren’t diagnosed because they’re good at school despite or even because of their ADHD.

          4. I have adult ADD, and I have to control actual anger toward people who tear me away from a task I’m very focused on. If the transition is sudden, I feel sort of dazed, as though I’ve just woken up from a nap.

          5. I find your attitude regarding our current iteration of social relations organized on principles Max Weber described as the “militarization of society” to be laudable.

            I would suggest, also, that ADHD is currently considered to be a disorder that is expressed via a suite of definable, observable and measurable behaviors that is largely genetic in its composition, but is shaped in distinctive ways neurologically and experientially.

            It has been demonstrated time and again that ADHD is not a disorder that has emerged or is caused by social conditions – see my post herein on the results of ADHD research globally.

            Lastly, there are a number of ADHD specialists who are urging their colleagues to reconsider ADHD as a syndrome and not a disorder.  The distinction, though seemingly effete, is in truth a matter of real consequence.  The point is that reclassified as a syndrome, ADHD can then be investigated in very different ways than it is at present.  The defining difference is that “syndrome” are thus categorized because they are causally and expressively multi-modal.

            Consider the revision to the diagnostic definitions of autism.  The revision of autism from disorder/disease to syndrome resulted from the grudging acceptance of mountainous empirical data demonstrating that autism is not a condition resulting from one singular or critical cause.  It emerges in patients due to a variety of factors some genetic and heritable, others acquired by variation and yet others possible arising from environmental factors.

            Reclassifying ADHD as a syndrome will free researchers from the constraints that now bind them.  Such as move may well improve diagnostic accuracy, thereby bringing light and therapeutic focus to the millions of people living with ADHD but have yet to have their condition acknowledged by their doctors, family, friends, educators and/or employers.

            If medical science is duty bound to anything, it is primarily concerned with reducing human suffering from illness and disease.  Freeing medical science to better fulfill its social function would be a very, very good thing for everybody.

          6. “”syndrome” are thus categorized because they are causally and expressively multi-modal.”

            I think I agree, but your definition has left me more confused than I was to begin with.
            To me what causes ADD and ADHD is important from a treatment perspective. However, I’m not entirely comfortable with the idea of a significant portion of the (otherwise healthy) population requiring medication just to function. It seems to me that these mental problems are mostly problems because of the expectations of our societal-environment at the moment. It is very frustrating to live in a world that is designed against my abilities. I take medication because it allows me to succeed in my current situation, but I would much rather live in a world where my constant drive for excitement could be allowed to thrive.
            I guess, in someways my feelings towards Ritalin might be analogous to a legless person’s feelings towards their wheelchair. It allows me to function in the world, but it sure would be great if the world didn’t expect everyone to be able to walk all the time.

        4. Also schools which resemble correctional facilities and put children in an extremely unnatural and hostile environment (shut up, sit still for hours, pay attention to things you don’t care about, obey authority, do not act childlike — through the ages when lots of physical activity and free play are the natural norm) for a third of their waking lives and then treat the ones who react to the oppression and drudgery as somehow abnormal… and then drug them.

      2. I’m almost incapable of working on things I’m not interested in. Boredom can be physically painful.

        I have the same problems.  I never even considered that I might have ADHD.  Still don’t.

        Edit: As a result of this discussion, I actually am considering that I might have ADHD.

          1. 1. I didn’t say “sometimes”.  I always have trouble working on things I’m not interested in.  Sometimes boredom is not so bad, but only when I’m in a head space in which I’m content sitting around and ideating instead of doing stuff, in which case my procrastination is that much worse.
            2. I didn’t say it isn’t real.

            Kinda seems like you’re being dismissive of my experiences here.

          2. Take it easy, man.  (Woman? Person…)  What could help is talking to your doc, just your regular doc.  Get their opinion.  Have the discussion.  If it’s serious enough to warrant further inquiry, then they will give you a referral to a shrink who will make a more pinpointed diagnosis.  There could be LOTS of different possibilities… anxiety, depression, add/adhd… combinations of multiple things… but who knows until it’s checked out.  I would say, for health’s sake, to at least talk to your Primary Care doc about it.  $0.02.

          3. I didn’t mean to be dismissive, wysiwyg. One of the evils of comment threads is that you sometimes read a line of comments as having a general tone, then respond unfairly to one particular commenter who is actually being considerably more thoughtful.

            If you think you might have ADD, maybe check out Hallowell’s Driven to Distraction from your library. There are shelves upon shelves of ADD books, but he is kind of the gold standard.

        1. Heh, sounds familiar. When I first heard about AD/HD, I scoffed. Years later, my psychiatrist is asking me, “How did it take so long for you to get a diagnosis?”

          Those of us who are functional w/o meds are so used to dealing with the constant brain-scattering that we wonder how other people live the lives they do, working jobs that would drive us mad in thirty minutes. It’s like, “I have a degree, I have a job, I have a life, surely there’s nothing wrong with *me*!”

          (“Functional” is not the same thing as “doing well”. Adderall has made a huge difference in my life.)

          1. Thanks for your perspective.  I think I’ll take sourbob’s book recommendation and read more about it.  I’m not terribly enthusiastic about seeing a mental health professional or getting a prescription but we’ll see how I feel after I learn more about it.

          2. Pick whatever way feels right to you. I guarantee if you put out the right feelers, you can find professionals who are sensitive to your unease. There are good doctors out there who are not flippant about this diagnosis, let alone about the prescription of psychoactive medications.

            Best wishes.

      3. I was in my room and I was just like staring at the wall thinking about everything.

        But then again I was thinking about nothing

        And then my mom came in and I didn’t even know she was there.

        She called my name and I didn’t hear her and then she started screaming: MIKE! MIKE!

        And I go:

        What, what’s the matter?

        She goes:

        What’s the matter with you?

        I go:

        There’s nothing wrong mom.

        She’s all:

        Don’t tell me that, you’re on drugs!

        I go:

        No mom I’m not on drugs I’m okay, I was just thinking you know, why don’t you get me a Pepsi.
        Mom just get me a Pepsi, please

        All I want is a Pepsi, and she wouldn’t give it to me

        All I wanted was a Pepsi, just one Pepsi, and she wouldn’t give it to me.

        Just a Pepsi.

      4.  I’m almost incapable of working on things I’m not interested in, too.  I think that’s why they call it… “work”.

    2. Actually Geo Meek the fact is that whether or not you drug the kids you have to teach them something.

      For those appropriately diagnosed the most damning thing revealed in the report we are discussing is the apparent lack of involvement in their own treatment. This vastly reduces the effectiveness of any other aspect of treatment and could actually harm the child in the future by developing the drug treatment as a crutch, that if suddenly unavailable, will cause them to fall.

      For those misdiagnosed the only solution is that realization.

      Back to the former, they are unlikely to realize anywhere near the full potential of the drug treatment or the benefits of being somewhat symptom free without a corresponding therapy to help them change from how they behaved with untreated symptoms. Cognitive behaviour therapy or similar talk therapy is a must IMO. The good part of this is that if well integrated into a program, such therapy does not require professional assistance if kept up. Just a check up now and then or back to the basics if symptoms get uppity after a bit of time without vigilance.

      It’s 100% stupid to provide these drugs without a corresponding therapy. Or a comprehensive class, some subject matter to absorb, but blind is not the way to fly.

    3. If you give someone a powerful upper, and they’re able to settle down and focus, ya think they might have a problem, Skippy?

    1. Yea, i wonder how may repeat offenders of low level crime are adults that grew up before ADHD existed as a diagnosis or somehow slipped thru the cracks. Or for that matter high function autists/aspies.

      1. My mother’s husband wasn’t diagnosed with ADD until he was over 60.  I’m convinced he’s also high-functioning Asperger’s.  (I’m a licensed mental health practitioner so this is isn’t a “diagnosis” per se but I do know what I’m on about).  His lack of dx and treatment meant a lifetime of struggle to hold jobs, a discharge (honorable thank goodness) from the Marines when he wanted to re-up because he couldn’t get along with his COs, and early retirement from a career as a low-level government file clerk (literally) who never got a promotion because his irritability and inappropriate social behaviors annoyed everyone.  It’s really sad to think how much of his potential was wasted because he didn’t get help.  Now he takes meds and is more functional than he ever was, though he still isn’t getting the kind of coaching that could help him with social interactions as a relatively high-functioning spectrum adult.

        1. Interesting that he ended up as a file clerk, as i have been suspecting that the aspies of past generations found themselves doing back room jobs. This because it would allow some measure of relief from the social interaction issues.

          That, or a lone farmer and similar that may come into town once a month or something for various supplies but otherwise not bothering to mingle.

          1.  The “file clerk” references made me think of Harvey Pekar, who sometimes appeared socially awkward (at least during his appearances on Letterman) and retired from a civil service job clerking at the VA.

    2. It is a commonly believed misconception that stimulants work by paradoxical effect on people with ADHD. This idea seems to stem from the idea that it calms people down. It doesn’t calm people down, rather it allows for focused attention which probably leads to kids being able to sit still and stop running around the classroom. It works the same on anyone, ADHD or not. This is why it is often used by university students to aid in study.

        1.  A consensus among ADHD specialists (clinicians and researchers) is gathering in support the hypothesis that hyperactivity as expressed in adolescent and adult ADHD patients is an emergent condition of dysfunctional impulse controls.  Whether one subscribes to the EF or DESR etiological hypotheses, the central role of impaired impulse controls is a macro-behavioral condition that’s shaping a swath of clinical and lab-based research.

          The observation that motivated this adjustment in thinking about ADHD’s etiology came about in a counter-intuitive way.  It had long been the case that ADD was a condition that affected children exclusively.  From that assumption, the portent of an “adult” variant of ADD was discounted because children diagnosed with ADD seems to “outgrow” the hyperactivity that had been so prevalent and observable in their behavior.

          Following that now discarded assumption, the adult experience of “ADD”-like symptoms sans hyperactivity were long thought to be a different disorder all together or a distinctive minority variant of ADD.

          Fortunately, smarter minds were applied to the problem and soon realized that – despite their best intentions – researchers and clinicians had been horrifyingly mistaken.  It was shown that diagnosticians, up to and into the 2000s, been looking for ADHD in patients in the same way the “drunk” in the old joke looks for his lost car keys.

          In the joke, a passer-by asks the drunk if he needs help find his keys and joins him on hand and knee under the glow of a street light.  The passer-by quickly surveys the narrow circle and realizes the keys aren’t nearby, prompting him to ask the drunk “so, where did you drop your keys?”  The drunk replies “over there by the fence.”  To which the passer-by jumps up and shouts, “then why the hell are you looking here?”  The drunk replies, “because this is where the light is!”

          The revision to the then operating hypotheses that posited a lack of hyperactivity was necessarily a factor disqualifying an ADHD diagnosis was abandon, but unfortunately not completely.  The few curmudgeons of honest intent finally came around when the avalanche of clinical data established the facts and the necessity of changing the diagnostic criteria for adults.

          The change in diagnostic criteria to be published in the forth-coming DSM-V is still under review and “healthy” discussion.  But, don’t mistake the reports of lingering discussion over the very specific language that will be published in the DSM-V.  The recognition that the expected, first-time official recognition of Adult ADHD will undoubtedly be free of any language declaring or insinuating “hyperactivity” as a diagnostically valid trait is to honor the scientific process and rock solid data.

          Coda: One interesting thread of discussion, as I can gather, about revision to the ADHD diagnostic criteria is the possibility that “hyperactivity” if not dropped, will be radically re-enumerated in the forth coming criteria for diagnosing children.  There will also be diagnostic endorsement criteria specifically oriented to children as young as 3 or 4 years old.

          The general consensus is that “hyperactivity” is itself and unreliable indicator of “ADHD”.  The observation of hyperactivity in kids is increasingly thought of as a product of overlapping morbidities and/or the outcome of two or more acute conditions of which ADHD contributes a dysregulatory or disinhibitted maladaptation – resulting by virtue of aggregation “hyperactivity”.

      1.  I’ve taken Adderall, and could study or party all night long. My son takes Adderall, and goes to sleep just fine. Works the same, what? If you mean, helps both of us focus, then sure. It keeps me awake and then I can focus; it does whatever and helps him focus. The end result is comparable.

        But I could focus in the first place. I didn’t have an impulse issue in the first place. I could make myself complete the goals and tasks that I set for myself in the first place. There are differences.

        1.  So it does help you both to focus then. Well there, it worked the same. The fact that you started at different baselines appears to count for the variation in response.

          1.  No.

            It keeps me awake, which gives me more time to use my pre-existing ability to focus.

            It helps him focus, after which he has no problem falling asleep.


          2. ” It keeps me awake and then I can focus; it does whatever and helps him focus. The end result is comparable.” Right – so your comment there doesn’t actually mean it does the same thing then? Thanks for suggesting I learn to read, I’ll look into that.

            Here is the theory on how stimulants work on ADHD: It is believed that they act on dopamine in the frontal lobe. Dopamine works as an inhibitory neurotransmitter. This is essential for allowing people to ignore their prepotent impulses, i.e. getting up and doing something else, thinking about something else, eating something, etc. When dopamine is insufficient (as it is believed to be in people with ADHD) it becomes very hard to engage in attention-focused tasks as everthing else keeps butting in. Increased dopamine is believed to allow a person to inhibit those other responses to engage more freely in goal-oriented behaviour.

            If you have sufficient dopamine you don’t need a stimulant. If your son has a lower baseline the stimulant will change his behaviuor in a different way. The stimulant is working the same way in both of you. Your brains aren’t.

          3. Pardon my assumptive intrusion into this thread.  One thing I noticed on this sub-thread, as with many others on this thread is that there’s little mention of the theories of how and why the symptoms of ADHD are caused.

            There are several competing, though overlapping etiologies of the disorder or, as some specialists refer to it, syndrome.

            There’s the DE-SR hypothesis.  The EF hypothesis and others.  DE-SR & EF subsume the various “dopamine” theories into them. 

            The general take-away is that a person diagnosed with ADHD has both conscious and autonomic dysfunctions with regard to managing impulsiveness – the flip-side of inhibitory control.  Dopamine is one of several neurotransmitters involved in the neurobiology of reward.  Stimulants are thought to induce the brain to either produce more dopamine or to consume “free” dopamine more efficiently.  The specific causal mechanisms that connect dopamine creation/consumption and stimulants are still unknown – but there are several highly functional hypotheses.

            One problem with the public’s focus on “dopamine” as a core, if not “the”, problem causing ADHD is that dopamine alone is only the tip of the neurological iceberg.

            fMRI and PET scan based studies are discovering that ADHD patients have a variety of physical differences within the brain that are likely playing a key role in the manifestation of the “disorder”.  Both grey and white matter volumes, connection, density differences have been mapped between ADHD+ and ADHD- controls in hundreds of studies worldwide.

            Some of the inter-regional pathways linking the amygdala and other regions with the pre-frontal regions are smaller, less dense and less synaptically robust in ADHD patients as compared to controls.  Even with in the pre-frontal cortex, white matter density is measurably less than with “controls” in ways that correspond to measurable deficiencies in visual and/or working memory – both of which are deficiencies central to ADHD.

            It is also the case that the measurable cognitive deficiencies that define ADHD (e.g.” working memory) are themselves expressions of dysfunction that informed the genesis of the Executive Function hypothesis.  EF posits that there is a meta-cognitive function that operates across many regions of the brain but is itself an emergent higher-level function, but “below” consciousness/awareness, that is the brain’s and individual’s traffic cop vis-a-vis planning, self-control, valuation and other such activities.  ADHD patients, in nearly all cases, have some form of working memory dysfunction that, in its operationalized mode, causes executive functions to “mis-function” – e.g.: emotional self-regulation, inhibition, ….

            The reason that all of these neurophysical and neurochemical hypotheses are of equal importance, at this point in the chase to better understand ADHD and other disorders/diseases/syndromes that affect cognitive functioning is that there are other conditions – often acquired – that the neurology underlying ADHD make a person more resistant or more susceptible to acquiring.  One such acquired condition is PTSD.

            A growing body of evidence falling out of research conducted worldwide and most interestingly by US studies done in conjunction with the DoD is that ADHD maybe a robust antecedent condition that makes an individual significantly more prone to develop PTSD.  And not only to develop PTSD, but to experience PTSD in more acute and disruptive manner.  This vein of research is still “young”, but the findings are remarkably consistent across studies and are themselves proving to be excellent pathways to further disaggregate the symptomatology of ADHD toward conducting better, more narrowly targeted research of the subjective and neurobiology of ADHD.

            Here’s an example:
            Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder comorbidity in a sample of veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder

  1. If these kids really have ADD and are really assisted in understanding what that means and how they can compensate and adapt to it that early in life, I envy them.

    I wasn’t diagnosed with ADD until I was 30. My parents, teachers, school counselors, psychologist, etc. did not figure it out despite my failing a year, being in gifted classes yet not being able to focus to do regular school work, and so on.

    Now that I know, and have Ritalin as an adult, I’m better able to adapt since I know what I’m adapting to instead of blindly self medicating with endless amounts of teeth-corroding soda and coffee. Ritalin is good for being able to think straight, multitask, actually pay attention when my significant other is talking at the same time that the TV is on. A non-chemical side effect is confidence stemming from knowing that I can focus long enough to complete tasks, which helps in not avoiding tasks that I even want to do but fear starting due to the eminent threat of not finishing them and having to feel that sense of defeat.

    It’s not a miracle cure. It doesn’t prevent procrastination. It’s part of this balanced breakfast of coping mechanisms, keeping lists, setting alarms, calendar events, and reminders.

    1.  I hope you are finding solace now that you’ve been diagnosed and are realizing benefits via ritalin.

      Have you considered Vyvanse, assuming your insurer covers or offers it.

        1. Go with what works.  My suggestion re: the other med was born of that med’s attributes such as single-dosing, longer effect and a root chemistry that makes it un-abusable.

          I meant no offense and hope my comment didn’t convey any criticism of a tool that’s working for you.

    2. You know, I don’t know why I’m sharing this with you, but I am: I thought about going to the doctor after seeing Patrick McKenna’s documentary, but didn’t.  Now here’s an odd thing: for me, it’s always been more that I’ve experienced the world through brain fog.  Or rather, from a certain age–maybe 14–to relatively recently.

      At age 35, I was diagnosed with high blood pressure and my cholesterol levels were all wrong.  First I was put on, and tried, a traditional low-fat, high-fiber, low-salt diet.  Yeah…it worked, but it’s hard to stay on that.  It’s not just cravings, tour body rebels at eating like that.  It craves things like fat, because you need a bit of fat in your diet. At age 37, my current doctor suggested the South Beach diet, and I’m losing weight like mad.  There was a happy side effect from going through Phase 1, though: the fog lifted.

    3.  I like your final paragraph.

      I was diagnosed at 29. Though I never failed a grade, I did hit a wall when I reached college and had no idea how to study. I was quiet, well-behaved, *female* — not what people look for in AD/HD. What nobody knew until after I started meds was that my social awkwardness and my emotional outbursts were symptoms.

      I still can’t pay attention to a conversation if there’s a TV on in the room. But I *can* figure out the unspoken nuances of a conversation, and stay attentive (mostly) during a half-hour meeting.

      Meds are never the whole treatment. Organizational skills, stress relief, good health: these free up the brain in ways drugs can’t.

    4. “It’s part of this balanced breakfast of coping mechanisms, keeping lists, setting alarms, calendar events, and reminders”


      People act like we just dope our kids and go on about our day, as opposed to using medication in addition to a variety of other methods to help our children thrive, as opposed to merely coping (or not).

      1. People act like we just dope our kids and go on about our day, as opposed to using medication in addition to a variety of other methods to help our children thrive, as opposed to merely coping (or not).

        Given that most people have no idea what medications they’re taking for themselves, or why, I can’t see that the standard of care would be higher for their children.

          1. [Citation needed.]

            Spend a day in health care asking patients what they’re on and why.  Half of them just wave the bottle at you and can’t even name the drug, let alone tell you what it’s for.

        1. Hey also, what does understanding the pharma side of it have to do with the rest? I can follow my doctor’s advice there* and still work diligently with teachers and his therapist, in addition to reading everything I can get my hands on re biofeedback and behavioral strategies for long-term success, and helping my kiddo, and thereby afford my child a comprehensive care plan for his ADHD and any comorbid disorders without really understanding the medication. (And I don’t think anyone really understands the medication, anyway.)

          You’re actually doing exactly what I lamented, by considering only the medication.

          *Or I can be all like, hey I totes know better than anyone else, so let’s give him some diluted homeopathic meds, because parents are damned if we follow physician advice and damned if we don’t. :(

  2. I, like most people, suffer from PADD: Predictable Attention Deficit Disorder.  If I’m going to have to pay attention to something I don’t find interesting, it’s highly likely I will suffer from a deficit of attention.

    1. Honestly, I have ADHD. I’m on disability because of it. It’s extremely difficult to work around, even with the meds. I’m in university, and the maximum course load I can handle is three. It’s going to take me much longer to graduate because of it. It isn’t something to make light of.

      1. Yes, like every other heavy thing, it’s okay to make light of in the way aikimoe did. Nobody was picking on you Paul.  Noboby was calling names or demeaning your reality.

      2. Paul, I would never imply that ADHD doesn’t have a negative impact on people’s lives, and I’m sorry to hear of the difficulties it’s causing you.  I worked for years with kids who had ADHD – like yours, the real kind that didn’t go away when they were watching movies or playing video games – and I saw how hard it was for them.  I sincerely hope you find find the right combination of pharmaceutical and cognitive therapy to help improve your condition.

        That said, there is nothing in this world that we shouldn’t make light of.  The only crime in making light of something serious is to not be amusing, which I might very well be guilty of in this case.  

          1. Thanks, I was asking this upthread.  (BTW, you misspelled “perseveration”, probably because spell check.)  Anyone notice that a lot of symptoms seem to be shared between ASD and ADHD?  I’ve often wondered if I have some elements of ASD but never considered ADHD until this discussion.

          2.  I’ve noticed some similar things too. In fact, my mom tells me that she used to wonder whether I might have mild ASD. Turns out it was just some lesser-known symptoms of ADHD, and there are hallmarks of ASD that I don’t have. ADHD can “look like” depression, bipolar syndrome, sleep deprivation, malnutrition, and a bunch of other things.

            Differential diagnosis = very important! I understand there are some people with OCD who, lo and behold, are not actually OCD. They’re ADHD, and the OCD symptoms are an overdeveloped coping mechanism. The problem is that OCD and ADHD need completely different treatment.

          3. Didn’t mean to imply that, though I see that I kind of clearly did.  

            Getting stuck in a video game for 10 hours is a different thing from playing a video game in the same way most people do.  When a kid who’s been diagnosed with ADD is easily able to transition between enjoyed activities within healthy time intervals, it’s reasonable to assume they don’t suffer from hyperfocus and even to question the ADD diagnosis, itself.

            The symptoms of ADD are not actually uncommon in kids with interests different from those expected of them by adults, and those symptoms can certainly be present in kids without any sort of “disorder” at all.

        1. I am somewhat sensitive about apparent dismissal of the reality of ADHD, as you can understand. I sent much of my life thinking I was stupid or lazy, and completely unable to understand why I couldn’t do homework everybody else could. My condition is vastly improved, and (with a reduced course load) I’m managing to handle university. The change has been enormous, but it is still a daily struggle.

          1. Paul, the reality of ADHD isn’t in question, but its prevalence is. 

            Different people can’t do homework for different reasons.  Some people (especially kids) simply don’t want to do homework because they see it (often correctly) as a waste of time.  When a kid doesn’t want to do the things expected of him or her at school (homework, sitting in one place, taking notes on boring subjects), it shouldn’t automatically mean there’s a “disorder” involved.  It could simply mean that this kid is a round peg being forced into a square hole.

            However, for people like yourself, who want to be able to focus more on academics and other detail-oriented aspects of their lives, but are unable to, the diagnosis and  treatments, both pharmacological and behavioral, are invaluable.

            So, I would never want you to think that a recognition of the newness and mystery of ADHD that inevitably produces false diagnoses implies in any way a lack of sincere compassion for what you’re going through.

            I hope that, though every day is a struggle for you, it’s a noticeably lessened struggle, and that you’re able to feel optimism about your future ability to constantly improve your situation.

  3. “it helped to create a situation where they could more easily take control of their own behavior and make different choices if they wanted to” — something I have been saying for years. The empathy-challenged comments are typical. If people, even supposedly smart ones like Sir Ken Robinson, realized these medications are stimulants, maybe they wouldn’t be so quick to bloviate about “drugging kids.” Giving someone control of their own mind seems like a win.

    1. I’m of the opinion that over-diagnosing is indeed happening and rampant in many different areas of treatment, but I still agree with you 100% because these things are not exclusive.

      I call it the Bad Coach Approach, far too common. “Muddled?, Confused?, Can’t focus?, WELL WALK IT OFF SON, HARDEN THE FUCK UP” yeah cause it’s just exactly like a physical foul coach, I’ll just walk it off..

      1. But misdiagnosed stimulants work as stimulants and the issue should be easily resolved. This, of course, requires monitoring and follow up. Also not widely understood is that not all medications are effective in all cases. Methylphenidate/Ritalin doesn’t work for me. If the MD doesn’t know the formulary that well, that may be the end of it for many.
        This isn’t to argue that meds are the first resort or to deny that over-diagnoses exist. There’s a lot of room for improvement in diagnostics and treatment.

        1. I just posted about how the worst thing in the report is the apparent application of drug therapy without corresponding programs/follow up. There is a lot of room for improvement I agree. 

          One thing I was lucky to avoid was switching around between drugs, that too is a danger too many face because of a poor or inappropriate diagnosis

  4. the trolls are really coming out tonight

    when i was a kid i was diagnosed with ADD, they put me on ritalin and it was a night and day difference in my productivity at school, but if you had asked me i didnt know anything was different, in my mind i had always been a good student and had always been doing my work to the best of my ability

    in my teens i could really feel the medicine, it made me feel drained and anxious by the end of the day so i opted to stop taking it in favor of higher effort and lower grades, school was much harder but i was much happier

    as an adult i work as a graphic illustrator which goes very well with my ADD, ive always been able to focus on creative things and so im automatically drawn to and suited to a creative profession

  5. As a teen, I exclusively babysat for kids diagnosed with ADHD (because I was a super patient, Super Nerd): the kids who’s parents supported their treatment (meds+behavior change) always did better – the kids with parents who resisted treatment and focused on discipline saw their kids get worse and, in some cases, become anti-social. As an adult, I’ve seen “troubled” people turn their lives around after being diagnosed ADHD and being treated properly. They were all, kids and adults, sugar addicts. Something about their body chemistry made it calming for them, I guess.

    This is all anecdotal, but it’s really influenced my thoughts on treatment and learning disabilities and it’s fairly obvious to me that a lot of people think that learning disabilities and ADHD aren’t “real” because they’ve never seen a real before and after story.  

  6. I think it’s WAY over diagnosed. I’ve seen several kids on Ritalin or the like, and I’ve also seen the parenting and diets too. I have little doubt MANY (not all, but many) of these kids would not be on Ritalin with some dietary changes and more proactive parenting.

    Many of these so called hyperactive kids are eating $h1t, fructose/sucrose laden juice, amazing amounts of caffeinated soda, so-called ‘energy’ drinks, very sweet chocolate milk, even coffee based beverages.

    I honestly think before any child is diagnosed with ADHD, the first thing to do is seriously evaluate their sugar, chocolate and caffeine intake.

    I’ve also seem some very effective parenting techniques that got so-called ADHD kids into a much better (more calm/focused) place.

      1. True that a sugar high doesn’t exist in that way, but you do see a lot of kids drinking highly caffeinated drinks (and a good bit of those are high in sugar as well.)  I grew up with a steady intake of Mt. Dew and sweet tea, so my caffeine tolerance was high as a child (as was my waist size).  Now that I’m in my 30’s caffeine and I don’t get along so well.  I still have the occasional glass of tea or soda, but daily consumption leads to symptoms of a caffeine overdose like jitters, twitching, tingling sensations, jumbled train of thought (those at least are my biggest ones).  I’m not saying that’ll happen to all these kids, that’s just what happened to me.

        Plus caffeine gives a nice boost, but just like most drugs you get used to it.  If I don’t consume any caffeine for a couple of weeks and then have a cup of coffee…WOW, I can get all the things done.  Repeat the next day and it’s not as impressive, and again until finally I just need that cup to “wake up”.  And near the end of that two week or so detox period I don’t have that focus or mental speed that caffeine gives, but I do have a certain feeling of clarity.  At least that’s how it work with my body/mind.

        (Now if I just didn’t like the taste of sweet tea and Dew – I drink most of these out, so decaf is much harder to come by.)

        I don’t think dmc10 is wrong in saying that all avenues should be explored when dealing with children with ADHD symptoms.  Taking the “easy” way out by giving them drugs first isn’t being a really responsible parent, but if everything else hasn’t work it is certain worth a try.

          1. See look what lack of sleep does to me – I er mean the inability to pick out the correct spelling. 

        1. “It is by will alone I set my mind in motion. It is by the juice of Sapho that thoughts acquire speed, the lips acquire stains, stains become a warning. It is by will alone I set my mind in motion.”

        2.  Caffeine and theobromine have a slightly calming and focusing effect on me.  Amphetamines and the like much more so. 
          I’ve never experienced that jolt of nervous energy and unfocused urge that most people clearly get from stimulants.  Or I have, only without stimulants. 
          I drink coffee any time of day and it often helps me to fall asleep at night. 

      2. Wow, such a bold proclamation. There’s also studies that say the opposite or say it’s inconclusive, or say that kids with ADHD may respond to sugar differently than ‘typical’ kids.

        Several of those studies you mentioned I noticed also relied on the parents’ observation and judgement on the behavior, there’s a serious issue of bias and non-objectivity there.

        Those studies also used artificial sweeteners like aspartame in one group and sugar in the other, so you’ve just introduced a second variable by doing so, a big no no. What if aspartame has a similar neurological effect as sugar? You’ve just invalidated the data.

        I think there’s WAY more research that needs to be done before you can just flat out say “Sugar high does not exist.”

  7. ok. here’s what i gathered. myself being clinically diagnosed as ADD in the early 90s, didn’t notice much different taking ritalin.  gym class was a little wierd, as my heart rate was alot higher than at rest.  but my 2 of my closest friends were tagged with ADHD. they claimed ritalin made them feel like zombies that they didn’t feel like they were themslves when on the meds.   so… in looking at this article. i wonder if the kids were more ADD than ADHD.   and yes 2 of us are in the artists profession.   hmmmm…   and are left handed.  lol  random coincidences..

  8. ADHD is a myth created by the pharmaceutical industry to drug kids and make a profit from it. My sister does it to my nephew and I am completely opposed to it. It’s completely unnecessary. 

    1. ADHD is a myth created by the pharmaceutical industry to drug kids and make a profit from it.

      What a well-reasoned and credibly substantiated argument. Unfortunately, your list of citations seems to have been accidentally lost.

      1. Well, the alternative is that, for inexplicable reasons, 1 in 10 boys in the US has some terrible congenital malformation of the brain. 

          1. Or maybe just that different people are different, and some of them struggle focussing their attention?

            I’m honestly open to reading more about ADHD, as I’ve seen lists of symptoms and was surprised that I could tick quite a lot of them.

            But at what point do we define a characteristic as a condition?

            I also don’t think there’s any need for people to be so dismissive of those that question the validity of ADHD – its been a contentious topic for years, at least where I live.

          2. Sure, that’s a viable counterargument, and one I’d agree with (to a point).

            It seems reasonably safe to say that some of the people diagnosed have focus problems that are both several stdDevs away from the mean (or median, if you prefer) and a practical problem for them in their daily life. That alone is typically enough to consider it a syndrome and something to be considered for treatment.

            I really have no idea where we are re. underlying causes, tough. It’s always harder to argue for the validity of a diagnosis if there’s no obvious biological process to point to. One small thing I’d love to see is a histogram of some measure of people’s ability to focus … is it a perfectly plain normal distribution? Bimodal?  Something else? In the first case, all we’re doing is to set an arbitrary cutoff out in (one of the) tails.

            Then again. Even if it is all within normal variation, what does that mean? It’s still a problem for some, and it wouldn’t be ideal to just stop all treatments either: At some point on the scale, the benefits of pharmacological treatments begin to outweigh the problems. And when talking about it, it’s convenient to have a short but specific name … and then we’re back to something that sounds like a disorder even if that might be over-selling it.

            edit: And with the above in mind, “overtreated” means roughly “we currently hand out treatments to people on the wrong side of the point where the benefits start outweighing the downsides”, while “overdiagnosed” means “we start labeling people who manage fine”.

          3. Good point there, naturally if enough people deviate from the norm I guess it’s hard to argue that it’s not a condition. I’d be interested to see what factors come into play though – as ultimately I wonder if it’s just a product of our lifestyles – we are bombarded by external stimuli and this does seem to be something that’s more prominent in countries like the US and UK – but of course the obvious retort to this is that these countries could just be diagnosing more people, not necessarily seeing more people with the condition.

            I personally have real trouble relaxing – which would sound crazy to the people that know me as I’m pretty lazy. But ultimately I need to be doing at least 2 things at all times. But this is something I feel has developed more over time, almost in parallel with my increased exposure to sources of stimulus – like my brain demands it.
            Googling around for more info on ADHD is a thankless task though. I either find articles focussed entirely on children or broad definitions that could describe pretty much anyone, they read more like horoscopes than medical conditions – which is what I imagine lends to an over diagnosis (if there is one).

          4. I’m honestly open to reading more about ADHD, as I’ve seen lists of symptoms and was surprised that I could tick quite a lot of them.

            You and me both.  I love procrastinating, loose focus to things that entertain me easily, basically every non-amped up symptom I have.  I however don’t have the lack of social skills that seem to be present in more obvious cases.

            (Also according to the symptoms I’m highly depressed.  I’m pretty sure I could get a prescription for something, but why?  I’m not depressed because I don’t know why – ie a chemical imbalance.  I’m depressed because my life is in the shitter.  I don’t want a band aid for my symptoms, I want someone to help me fix my life and then those symptoms will go away.  Just like I don’t want to take an upper to not be a lazy ass…I want to work on some willpower.  Again personal issues/experience YMMV.)

            I think ADHD is real, but I think it is a lot harder to really diagnose in children than adults.  I worked with a gentleman a few years ago doing computer repair.  If he had 3 or 4 systems to work on at a time he could keep busy, but drop it down to 1 or 2 and all of a sudden he’d be lost doing something else.  I brought it up one day and sure enough he did have ADHD, and he is one of the few people I thought it made a good fit for.  As a child I did the things I didn’t like (ie homework, chores), regardless of my ability to focus or whine or complain – I did them because the other options weren’t nearly as nice.

          5. Oddly enough I had a conversation with someone last night about work load and efficiency. If I only have one thing to do you’ll be lucky to get me to even make a start on it. If I have a full schedule then I’m a workhorse. I don’t know if that’s significant, but a coincidence none the less.

            Sounds similar to myself – in that socially I’m fine – but then I don’t think I exhibited the same behavioural tendencies as a child as I do now anyway, and I’m sure that’s more of a personal development issue than a psychological barrier.

            Ultimately I just worry that in a rush to stick labels on actions a whole bunch of kids are being pumped with chemicals at a stage in their life where they’re still finding their feet. I think as with any behaviour trait it can become a debilitating problem – but I have a feeling that the number of people this effects is far smaller than the number that identify themselves with the condition.

          6.  @NathanHornby:disqus
            Can’t it be both? Considering lifestyle-caused health issues with more obvious biological effects (obesity, heart problems, even stress issues) as disorders to be diagnosed and treated isn’t especially contentious.

            Agreed on the vagueness of psychological disorders, though. I’m not sure if it’s because they tend to be spectrum-like or if it’s because we don’t understand some (clearer) set of underlying causes, but certain diagnoses seem to depend rather a lot on chance and whoever does the diagnosing.

          7. Those are both problematic concepts.  Why is it “overdiagnosed”?  It’s certainly diagnosed a lot, but since the criteria are terribly vague in the first place, who’s to say how many diagnoses there ought to be?
            Why is it “real”?  We can easily agree that “broken leg” is a real condition because we fully understand the aetiology.  We have no idea what is behind most psych/neuro “disorders” and they’re essentially just defined by whatever a committee decided to write into the DSM.  It’s slightly chilling to note that people who influence these definitions have received payments from pharma companies to promote these conditions.  (E.g. look up Biederman and his millions in payments, which were also undeclared – in theory a serious violation.)

            (Please note that I’ve not said anything to suggest that people don’t have all kinds of problems.)

          8. Proper modern brain imaging can often provide answers, but many psychologists are still scared of the Phrenology scammers, so they discount it

        1. Actually, it is quite possible that ADHD would manifest itself less or just be less of a problem in the world as it existed 10K years ago or even 200 years ago. Your argument comes down to noting that the observed frequency of pathology is implausible (presumably, given the nature of evolution) but you aren’t accounting for the changed environment. It would certainly be interesting in its own way if someone tried to treat ADHD by adopting an Old Order Amish lifestyle for the whole family (I wouldn’t bet against it working!), but Adderall is probably more practical, no?

          1. But would the Old Order Amish lifestyle work by simply removing the external stimulus of modern society or is it the enforcement of a rigid structure to live by?

          2. It could also possibly work by eliminating inactivity. I have nothing, and haven’t done enough reading to say more on it, but it has always niggled at me that inactivity has ballooned among youth over the same time period, for many different reasons.

            I do know that sustained physical activity helps me with symptoms (and everything else in life) but I can stil be a bit of a slug if left to my own devices.

        2. To be honest, the idea isn’t even that far-fetched; look at sickle cell.  I mean– if that is the crux of your argument, a statistical unlikelihood.

        3. Or that something in the modern lifestyle affects a large number of them. The age of onset of puberty has dropped by seven years since the 1840s, by a year between 1991 and 2006. Who would believe a ridiculous claim like that? And yet it’s true.

          1.  Do you have linkies?  It was my understanding that for most of human history people were having children between the ages of 14 and 21 so this factoid confuses me a little.

          2. The average age at which the onset of puberty occurs has dropped significantly since the 1840s.  This was dubbed ‘the secular trend’ by J.M. Tanner. In every decade from 1840 to 1950 there was a drop of four months in the average age of menarche among Western European females.  In Norway, girls born in 1840 had their menarche at an average age of 17 years. In France, the average in 1840 was 15.3 years. In England, the average in 1840 was 16.5 years. In Japan the decline happened later and was then more rapid: from 1945 to 1975 in Japan there was a drop of 11 months per decade.

            A 2006 study in Denmark found that puberty, as evidenced by breast development, started at an average age of 9 years and 10 months, a year earlier than when a similar study was done in 1991. Scientists believe the phenomenon could be linked to obesity or exposure to chemicals in the food chain, and is putting girls at greater long-term risk of breast cancer.


        1. LOL, nice one. That’s a whole thread we could go off on for hours. My daughter goes to a school that works with autistic kids that they are mainstreaming with other kids (my daughter is ‘typical’ as they say, meaning not autistic). The director and psych on staff are furious with people like McCarthy. We’ve had outbreaks of totally preventable diseases, even fatalities because of Dr. I-Make-Up-My-Data, and that twit McCarthy.

  9. Completely unnecessary, and you base this on what expertise?

    I take it you have the studies at hand that would qualify your statement.

    I personally find much resonance in the statement about “…choices,” or lack of them when not medicating.

    If you really do have alternatives, with a solid track record, please contribute to the community. 

  10. The subjective experience of these meds has been considered before.  And published in actual pediatric journals (see Moncrieff for details)

    “A German psychiatrist reported that the children he treated felt unhappy and wished to be like they were before they started taking the drugs”

    “…there was a pervasive dislike among hyperactive children for taking stimulants.”

    “Children described the experience of taking stimulants in the following ways: the drug ‘numbed me’, ‘it makes me sad’, ‘I wouldn’t smile or anything’, ‘it takes over of me’, ‘don’t feel like myself'”

    1. IMO, those are hallmarks of people who are either on too high a dosage, or don’t actually have ADHD. In my experience, all Ritalin does is make it easier to control my focus. Note I say easier, it doesn’t make it so I have total control. I still struggle to focus.

  11. As someone who has ADHD and is one of a lucky few able to operate without medication I only ever took Ritalin when I was a kid. It caused heart palpitations, paranoia and at one point something akin to a psychotic episode- which are all in line with the current documentations descriptions of the chemicals long term effects. 

    I find the proliferation of ADHD’s (and ADD) diagnosis in young people to be possibly one (or a combination) of three things: 1) a trend in the psychiatric profession whereby medication is the first and often only  solution (this is a problem of technical approach within the field which has developed concurrent with the rise of big pharma’s practices within the medical and psychiatric fields)- this is a trend and will pass as a body of evidence grows against this practice. 2) a push from outside the profession in the form of pharmaceutical industries (earlier mentioned) 3) an over diagnosis within the psychiatric field due to lack of proper categorization. Hyperactivity was the original historical diagnosis until it was changed to ADD and ADHD and more often than not it these are accompanied by diagnoses of things like OCD and ODD which denotes a potential further categorical breakdown to clarify and treat the myriad symptoms the illness generates. 

    But in my experience, I think this illness is being over diagnosed in young people. The latest trends seem to point to a move in the psychiatric community to diagnose children with even more serious illnesses like bipolar disorder- treatment for which currently involves a regimen of anti-psychotics (medications that can cause permanent and pronounced neurological symptoms as a result of the course- stuff like tardive dyskinesia- a horrifying symptom to behold in children). 

    I don’t know what others have experienced (some above have described truly crippling symptoms), I can only speak to my own experiences in overcoming symptoms. It requires a refocusing of interests for me- and a constant effort to do so when I need to focus long term on things. But I have succeeded in it. Essentially the trick for me was a determination to achieve a goal over time- I went back to school when I was older instead. I then worked to find a way to connect topics I was studying to things I was interested in. I am lucky in that my interests were very broad and could be connected to many things (new interests developed over time as I worked and aided in this interconnectivity). But these methods may not be possible for everyone.

    The only advice I can suggest to others is not to think of ADHD or ADD as something that hinders. Those who suffer from it will understand what I’m speaking of when I mention the hyper-focusing element of the illness. My advice is to use this to one’s advantage. Do everything you can to trick the mind into focusing like that. Understand that when you succeed in this that you are learning things in a way that is more complete and more holistic than most other people approaching the subject. Therefore it is not a weakness. Do not use it as a crutch. It is a strength. An advantage, that will prompt new and creative thinking if you can connect the disparate pieces of your understanding. If you feel the need for the medication, take it. But know that our current (and limited) understanding of the manner in which the brain works still requires an enormous effort on the part of the patient. So go into treatment knowing that it is right to ask for help if you need it, but that it will be you who must achieve- who must help yourself.

    And now I’ll shut up. 

  12. I was diagnosed with ADD 17 years ago when I was 14. I had become problematic in school to the point where my teachers had banded together to adopt a zero tolerance policy with me. My parents were brought in for meetings, I was in and out of the guidance councillor’s office. Then one day I was sent to a doctor who talked to me for maybe two minutes, asked some very basic questions, and I was diagnosed with ADD and put on Ritalin. 

    At first, being on Ritalin was amazing. Instead of being interested in everything and anything, I was actually interested in what was happening at the front of the room. For the first time ever, I felt like one of the other kids. I felt normal. It was a good feeling.

    But it didn’t last. Within a couple of months, my anxiety levels, which were non-existant before, were peaking. I was crying for no reason, pulling out my hair – I’d never experienced anything like it. 

    The very first adult thing I ever did was telling my parents I was taking myself off of Ritalin. I expected a fight, but they heard me out and saw my conviction, and my pain, and they supported me.

    I’d never been great with school, never was since. The environment just didn’t work for me. But I like who I am, I like the way my mind works, and I wouldn’t subdue that to blend in ever again.

    1.  You hit one of the key problems with medicating kids for behavioural disorders.  Whether or not there are behavioural problems shouldn’t really be seriously doubted, since if there were not problem than parents/teachers/kids would not complain about the behaviour.  The issue is whether the problem merits medication with drugs — because drugs affect us in a whole host of ways. 

      Consider Asthma.  I don’t think anyone here would argue that those asthmatics are just making up having trouble breathing, nor would they say that inhalers don’t help.  But the drugs that help asthmatics breathe can have serious (negative) health consequences.  So an asthmatic would be well served to make lifestyle changes to ameliorate the asthma (more exercise, less allergens….) instead of simply grabbing a puffer all the time.

      Drugs can help people a lot.  But they can also harm people, and the harm is not always obvious in the short term.  I wish that people were better informed about the risks of their meds, and also that more people felt empowered to question treatments that were not working for them.

    2. That’s a common problem with anti-depressants as well. They work for a little while but ake things worse in the long run.

  13. 1) My description of antidepressants would be very similar to the quote in the original article. It doesn’t change “who I am”. It helps keep me from falling into the worst departures from who I try to be, and limits how far and how long I go there.

    2) No drug, especially no psychotropic drug, works the same for everyone. Most have at least some side effects, some have severe side effects. If the side effects are unacceptable, get off the drug — it’s the wrong one for you. There may or may not be a better alternative; sometimes the symptoms are themselves the most acceptable choice. This is an especially important point for “maintenance medicines”.

    There’s a quote I ran across in an article some years ago, which went something like:

      “Doctor, will I be on this drug for the rest of my life?”

      “… You’re an optimist. We’ll probably have to try several before we find the one that’s right for you.”

    They’re getting better at recognizing which drugs are most likely to work best, but it’s still critical for the patient to be asked how it feels from inside. Which means that for this class of drugs you really do want to work with a specialist — a psychiatrist — unless (perhaps) you’re in crisis and really need an immediate “first aid” solution.

  14. I am a stepmother to a boy, now in his 20’s, who was first diagnosed ADHD then bipolar. I was opposed to drugging children. However, because his mother had arranged for him to see a psychiatrist who put him on Ritalin I kept his drug schedule up when he was visiting us. I believe he started Ritalin when he was about 5 years old or thereabouts. 

    Later, I was involved in having this child hospitalized in mental hospitals several times throughout his teen years, either for suicide attempts or for violent outbursts with frighteningly little impulse control. I went down the rabbit hole of trying to get his drugs ironed out – I don’t even remember all the drugs we tried him on. Antidepressants, anti-psychotic stuff, bipolar meds. Some would help for a while and then stop working. Some made him gain a ton of weight, which affected his very fragile ego. Some gave him a drugged affect. 

    I have so many mixed feelings on what we went through, but it changed my ideas of whether medication is appropriate and whether just talk therapy or good parenting can make a difference, as I had believed before. I have much more compassion for the parents who are trying to help their children, and don’t know anyone who has lightly put their children on medications. I have seen some kids (and adults) get the right drug and seen it make all the difference in the world. Then it seems like us there are so many people who are searching for some help and not ever finding anything that helps for long.I also want to add that my husband is a cop and he once had a 10 year old child die as he was trying to resuscitate him. Later he learned the boy was on Ritalin and that it probably caused the child to have the heart attack. I think people need to be aware of the serious side effects of the drug, because I think most people see it as one step up from caffeine. 

  15. Adderall xr works nice for me, just wish it wasn’t $200 a month. Even with insurance that only comes down to $90. Won’t be generics till 2017 or something, god knows if they’ll make it right. They don’t make the generic ritalin xr right at all. 

    Regular ritalin sucked. I was like everything that was good was muted, and all the bad stuff was still there, then you came off it and it was like the good stuff was all too much and the bad stuff was even worse. No wonder I slept when I got home and was coming down. Or jerked off. I did that way too much. I wonder if it’s why I have such a crazy sex drive now. 

    Ritlain xr is ok but the generics suck and you can’t find the brand stuff anywhere. That’s the FDA and DEA’s fault really. Strattera just made me angry and combative all the time. I think my college gpa dropped .2-.3 from that experiment in failure. 

    Night time when you can’t sleep is the worst. The amphetmine derivatives really fuck with you, and my trying to sleep through coming off them didn’t help, and then you just lay their and try to sleep and your brain just won’t let anything go. Like you’re just trying to meditate and zone out but all you do is just race from one thing to another to another. So then you go jerk off or read until you’re so exhausted you fall asleep and then you wake up and you’re falling asleep in class and they ask you if you took your meds today. 

    Prozac helps with the sleeplessness and depression that comes with them, but then the itching from gets worse and I have scabs all over when I itch myself raw without noticing. I keep going on and off it nowadays, off until I get too mean and nasty, then on until I can’t stand the itching and start worrying the scabs don’t heal fast like they did when I was a kid. 

    My parents didn’t force me on them, my teachers forced them to put me on drugs if I wanted to stay in regular school, and I was desperate not to be weird or go to a different school. They were required by law to accommodate me, but they just said I was a “gifted underachiever”. That meant smart but lazy and looking for a way to not have to work. They didn’t think ADD existed. There were kids that did it after I did that got that kind of thing. bad doctors diagnosing it cause they sucked or the parents wanted to tranq their kids. I laugh at that south park add episode all the time. So many kids I knew just needed that alternative treatment to be smacked upside the head and told to sit down and shut the fuck up and study. 

    I probably needed it some too, but I wasn’t that kind of kid. I was the first one diagnosed in my district. The whole child psychology and psychiatric team at the hospital where my dad worked was in on it. I think they were afraid they’d fucked me up when they had to take my mom’s appendix out a month before I was born. I had thirty doctors watching that, and my birth, cause it was something that had never happened and they wanted to see what would happen. So then I had a whole mental health dept at a hospital that checked me for fucking everything in the world and told me it was ADD, so fuck I figure they must be right. 

    This was all just after section 504 got put into the ADA. My parents could have sued but I didn’t want to be “that kid that sued the school”. I honestly thought I’d ruin the school system if we did that, and I loved most of my teachers. I wish I’d been smarter, or maybe just more cynical, and let them do it. Certainly would have paid for college, and probably more. Definitely wished I would have once I was older and my mom opened up about the whole thing, told me how many of my teachers were total douchebags behind my back. There were some good ones. Most of them would manipulate me though, come up t me and tell em it was so hard for them to understand what I needed and it’d be so easy for me to do it without any help, and then go to my parents and say I wanted to do it without help. I think back on that and how much I loved them as teachers and just wanted to impress them and be a good student and now I just want to torture them to death, but they were mostly old so I think they’re all dead now. 

    At least I got one good before she died. Saw her at a store and introduced myself, told her how I graduated and was an engineer and all that. Told her how once I was accommodated I flourished and how happy I was. She was the bitch that I was so scared of in second grade I was afraid to ask to go to the bathroom. She told my parents I was just a lazy good for nothing brat. Felt like I showed her. I dunno. 

    I wish there’d been some option for me not to go on the drugs, to learn not to need them some how. I wonder how my life would be different. I keep wondering how long it will be before the adderall xr starts not to work so well. It’s this horrible trap, wondering if you’re just having a bad day at work or just didn’t sleep well, or if it’s time to start trying new meds again. That’s the part of it that makes me just want to scream when I think about it too much. How much of it is just the failure of a human being that I am, and how much is it the ADD? How much better could I have been without the drugs, or without the disease at all? How much has it cost me in stupid shit I’ve done and opportunities I’ve lost? 

    That and how once everyone know all the time they ask “did you take your meds?” every time you fuck up. Like the meds are what makes you a human being, and without them you’;re just trash. It’s not what they mean I think but it’s what it feels like. And then you just start back on thinking how little you’d mean to them, to anyone without the meds. Sometimes I feel like a junkie in reverse. Nobody wants you around unless you’re on your meds, and you hate how they make you feel, but once you try them you hate how you feel when you don’t have them cause you can’t focus and do a god damned thing you want to do. 

    They shouldn’t be medicating us, but I don’t know what else they can do. God knows a normal classroom wasn’t working for me, and I was just so damned determined not to be that weird, sick kid that had to go to a special school. And in the end, it’s not like that’s a real solution. Nobody’s gonna hire a guy that can’t sit down do a god damned job like a fucking adult. I’ve met the kids that went to the special schools, most of them that are like me with normal office jobs are on meds or something. The only ones that aren’t on meds still are in special jobs that work for them cause they have some talent that lead them there or something. Like cooking or art or music, something that isn’t an office job where people just want you to do your fucking job. Only person I know that’s not on meds is my cousin, but she was more H than ADD. She just ran 5 miles a day starting in 6th grade. Now she’s a ski bum studying to be a teacher out in Colorado, of all things. 

    This is all rambling, but I dunno. I’m sitting here sort of half ass crying at work after reading some of that pdf and I just wanted to talk a little. 

    tl;dr: Fuck you I’m the one with ADD. Read what I fucking wrote. 

    1. Yo when I moved to Canada my meds dropped from several hundred a month to about $60 a month no insurance. 

      I can’t hook you up myself, and don’t trust websites period, but if you have a friend or relative… many doctors here will prescribe knowing damn well it’s going elsewhere (south) for economical (read as humanitarian) reasons, so long as they aren’t asked to prescribe a narcotic.

      1.  Ha. My experience was the opposite. I had insurance in the US and so had a 10$ co-pay for my monthly drugs, and when I moved to Canada, that jumped to 100$ until I found a job with aditional medical coverage. NOW I pay nothing… well blood sweat and tears I guess.

        1. I hear ya, but a part of your premiums went toward your drug program too. Co-pays are like a small fine for accessing your coverage at all.

          Now if your employer is footing the bill on the premiums, that’s all good.

    2. I had a similar experience and I feel your pain. Eventually, I got to the point (it took 4 years) when Adderall caused heart palpitations, being perpetually high-strung and little else. My heart felt cold and emotionally numb. Even cutting down the prescribed dose in half or in thirds didn’t get rid of the side effects. Now, it’s been about a year without it for me. And to be fair, I’m not exactly an ˝achiever˝but that kindness and tenderness that one has deep inside one’s heart, the ones I thought I lost for good…that stuff came back and somehow I feel that for me it’s more valuable than measurable success.

  16. If a parent tells his peers that his child has, say, a nerve issue in her neck, that he can be sure of this because it was diagnosed by highly trained specialists working from years of experience, reams of data stretching back decades, and CAT scans, and now he has opted to medicate the child to help her lead a more normal life, people applaud that parent for getting his child the help she needs.

    If the problem is six inches higher, in the brain, the parent gets pilloried as a lazy parent, giving in to a trend diagnosis and “drugging” his kid for his own convenience.

    Funny how that works, isn’t it?

  17. Wow.  This comment thread may be evidence of pervasive schizophrenia in society.  The stark contrasts between the well informed and vacuous histrionics is a thing to see.

    Let’s give the science a chance to speak directly and for itself.

    A study published in JAMA this very week has an interesting tale to tell about the lived lives of people who have ADHD and have been receiving therapy and meds for the condition.

    The study I’m speaking of is a follow-up conducted at the 33 year mark of the study’s lifetime.  The study is tracking 200 ADHD+ and ADHD- (controls) and comparing their respective life-outcomes – such as income, educational attainment, divorce rates, incarceration rates, and many other demographic data (the kind FB and every other web marketer covets).

    The subject, the ADHD+ cohort, qualified for the study only if they did not have other observed or diagnosed comorbid conditions not any indications of substance abuse (SUD or not).

    Here are the numbers (scrapped from the opennly accessible abstract on JAMA and NIH’s web sites).

    Clinical and Functional Outcome of Childhood Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder 33 Years Later

    Probands had significantly worse educational, occupational, economic, and social outcomes; more divorces; and higher rates of ongoing ADHD (22.2% vs 5.1%, P < .001), ASPD (16.3% vs 0%, P < .001), and SUDs (14.1% vs 5.1%, P = .01) but not more mood or anxiety disorders (P = .36 and .33) than did comparison participants. Ongoing ADHD was weakly related to ongoing SUDs (ϕ = 0.19, P = .04), as well as ASPD with SUDs (ϕ = 0.20, P = .04). During their lifetime, probands had significantly more ASPD and SUDs but not mood or anxiety disorders and more psychiatric hospitalizations and incarcerations than comparison participants. Relative to comparisons, psychiatric disorders with onsets at 21 years or older were not significantly elevated in probands. Probands without ongoing psychiatric disorders had worse social, but not occupational, functioning.

    The multiple disadvantages predicted by childhood ADHD well into adulthood began in adolescence, without increased onsets of new disorders after 20 years of age. Findings highlight the importance of extended monitoring and treatment of children with ADHD.

    Here's the link to the entire report, a 9ppg PDF.  Without some credential login, it costs ~$35.

    My conclusion is this, anyone who doubts or casts aspersions on persons who suspect or have been diagnosed as having ADHD deserve nothing but scorn and ridicule.  Those deniers who artfully play the "scary medication" card are even more reprehensible.  I'll resist, for the moment, the urge to write-up and provide citations for the inarguable fact that stimulant medications are the most effective means for an individual to realize the ability to manage ADHD's symptoms.  Stimulants medications are safe when used as prescribed, period.  Those who suggest that stimulants do not solve the "ADD" problem are correct in the way a broken analog clock is twice daily correct.  My questions, rhetorically posed, for persons who proffer such deceptive bullshit is this; do you apply yourself with similar vigor when trying to convince diabetics of the evils of using insulin?

  18. Do they have ADD in 3rd world countries? As a layman – and please, please forgive me if my ignorance offends – it sounds like what I’m hearing here is an inability to just be. An inability to not focus and just be bored.

    Could this not  be a learned response? Not that if it were, the problem would go away, and most certainly not to detract from those that suffer with these issues. I just wonder if this isn’t an example of a learned response to a lifetime of constant stimulation and very little introspection.

    1. A veritable mountain of original research and longitudinal studies have been published in over 140 nations.  Meta-analyses of these data demonstrate that:

      – ADHD is a culturally blind medical condition
      – ADHD effects ~10-14% of all children (5-18) and ~7-12% of all adults globally
      – ADHD produces remarkably similar outcomes in patients’ lives as they age; e.g., lower income, lower educational attainment, higher instances of traumatic injury, higher instances of incarceration and more (meta-analyses corrected for relative disparities in national/regional SES categories).
      – ADHD is most efficaciously and safely managed with stimulant medication

      That’s the short list. Searching Google Scholar, NIH or other such research aggregators will return bountiful results supporting the data points I listed above.

  19. The leap from “no paradoxical effect” to “fake disorder,” is a pretty huge leap, so there’s no reason to just assume someone is making it. I can simultaneously ‘believe’ in ADD and question whether paradoxical (sedative) effects are supported by evidence. Why would someone bother – you might ask – if he’s not trying to invalidate the underlying disorder? Because a third perspective that never seems to get discussed in this debate is that of the healthy kid or adult who is JEALOUS of her peers’ ADD scripts. 

    And this jealousy doesn’t have to be one-dimensional either. It can contain BOTH:

    1) an un-begrudging, dare-not-speak-its-name jealousy, like being jealous of a cancer patient’s medical marijuana, AND
    2) righteous indignation at the idea that a small number of liars are going to exploit a mercy like medical marijuana. Not because it’s callous or something, but because I dislike a system that makes me wish I was a better liar. 

    Caffeine, like amphetamines, carries serious risks of addiction and overdose. Maybe it just got grandfathered in. Maybe coffee is objectively horrible for our bodies. But it’s not absurd to argue that coffee, on balance, has been a boon to culture and civilization. (For a consideration of both sides of that coin, check out: http://www.harpers.org/archive/2007/08/hbc-90000931
    b/c you could just as easily argue that puritanical alertness is BAD for culture, I just disagree)

    So I think it’s a valid question – among the ubiquitous red bulls and four hour energies, and amidst all this talk about legalizing marijuana – why not legalize Adderall?

    If it helps EVERYONE focus, I think that’s an argument for legalization. But if it helps everyone focus through the SAME MECHANISM – I think that’s an even stronger argument.

    I can see why asking about paradoxical responses can seem like an attack. If studies don’t wind up supporting the idea that amphetamines make ADD-sufferers sedate or affect sufferers in a way different from the general population, then you might make two types of inferences. The first type is privilege-denying douchebag flavored, i.e., “ADD isn’t real,” or “even if it is real, most people are faking.”

    The second type, I think, is more egalitarian, something like “privileges for everyone!” Here’s an analogy for that second type: I shouldn’t be denied access to antihistamines just because my allergies aren’t SEVERE enough. If I benefit from antihistamines through the same mechanism as someone with severe allergies, then everyone should have access to them if anyone does. This perspective is still mindful of ‘fakers’, but like I said, in a JEALOUS sense, not a begrudging one. The dude who says allergies are a myth should get smacked in the mouth. But the dude who says – I feel better on antihistamines, but I would have to pretend to be sicker than I am to get some. That guy I commiserate with. My life has drastically improved since Allegra went OTC. So I have very little patience for the ‘drugs are bad because they’re drugs’ tautologist.

    Not every neurobehavioral disorder is boolean. In fact most aren’t. There’s usually some kind of spectrum. Most ADD drugs have already been green-lit for use in a substantial population – one that includes children, no less. We can offset the risk of addiction or overdose with age and dosage regulations, the same way we already do with cigarettes, alcohol and caffeine. (Yes, there is a U.S. statutory cap on caffeine content, in ‘foods’ at least).  
    And can you see why this argument does not HAVE to include an attack on those who have been diagnosed with ADD? If I argue for the complete legalization of marijuana, that doesn’t mean I think everyone – or even anyone – with cancer is faking. It just means I want marijuana for myself, or that I think it’s safe for other people to use it.

    If it turned out that marijuana affected people who have cancer differently from the general population, this would hurt my legalization argument. It would mean I couldn’t carry over any of the safety or efficacy research or oversight from the clinical setting into the general population. I couldn’t say – “It was safe and effective for a cancer patient, so it will be safe and effective for me,” because it will affect me in a different way. More importantly, even if it did HELP me, albeit differently, it would be easier to dismiss its effect on me as ‘recreational’ in that instance. But most importantly, caring about the incidence of paradoxical effects, in the marijuana analogy, would not require or imply that I was somehow disavowing cancer.

    Same idea here. The idea that “kids surveyed didn’t feel like Ritalin changed who they were,” is a sticking point for me. Not because I doubt, or worse, ‘want’ their disorder. But if ADD meds are non-paradoxical for ADD sufferers, then I would also love to partake in something that allowed me to “more easily take control of my own behavior.”    

    Maybe it would allow me to control my comments to readable lengths.

    1. Lol, no. Your comments would get longer on adderall. Your mind would make a zillion more pertinent connections and invariably come up with more talking points in this discussion.

  20. I want to comment here, but I would like more information, Maggie.  What do you mean by ‘active participation’?  Does it include the right of refusal?

    1. I’d suggest that active participation is at least more than “Take 1 daily” which is not an uncommon level of participation, unfortunately. 

      Usually for that phrase to mean something, there must be a program of some kind that requires input from the subject. Even if it just checking in with a health professional once a week for the first 12 weeks, one that includes a discussion of any side-effects, intended effects, how the patient relates either etc etc.

  21. One summer when I was 11 or 12, I gradually realized that I couldn’t remember the last few days, and hadn’t been out of the house to visit my friends or done anything other than watch tv and slowly do the list of chores my divorced mother had begun giving to me. One afternoon, I spent what seemed like hours, sluggishly inching down the hallway vacuuming, without a thought in my mind. I remember I could turn my head one way, and the drone of the vacuum seemed to vanish, then it would come back as I moved again. I just stood there, doing it again and again.

    Usually, we would argue over chores since she had pretty bad parenting skills, and I was pretty strong willed, with a teenage grudge for the way she treated me. I almost never got my $1.25 allowance anyway, and once she’d docked it for “reasons”, she had little else to punish me with besides the threat of violence. She had recently begun cooking dinners again, which she hadn’t done since I was very little; I always cooked for myself due to her neglect. I was lucky if there was even food in the house. Sometimes she would leave for nearly a week, without bothering to stock up on mac and cheese for me.

    Now she would come find me, sitting somewhere and staring into space, and assign a task with her Imperious Voice of Command. After a long pause, finding myself without the will to object, I would respond with “ok” and ponderously move to perform. She would smirk with amusement and satisfaction.

    While vacuuming Her Highness’s bedroom floor one day, I opened her top dresser drawer to see if there was any spare change I could take to buy candy. What I found was a prescription bottle with MY NAME ON IT. Knowing my recent memories were unreliable, I still knew I hadn’t been to a doctor in years. Ritalin was the name of the drug. Very tiny little pale yellow tablets were inside. Small enough to slip into food without the diner perceiving them. My heart pounding, my head blazing with the sting of betrayal, I poured them all out onto the shag carpeting.

    When she discovered, she WAS PISSED. She shrieked about how expensive they were, and at first, ordered me to pick them up. I suppressed the urge to oooobeeeeyyy like it was rising nausea. As I walked out, I saw her on her hands and knees picking the filthy things out from the carpet fibers and dropping them back into the bottle.

    When dinner time came, I refused to eat, of course. She stopped making dinner again after that. It took days for my head to clear, for me to feel like myself again, and to feel my curiosity, creativity and imagination return. I resumed playing in the neighborhood with my friends like a normal child again. Some months later, she slashed my wrist open with a steak knife, snarling with rage, and never took me to the doctor. Instead of stitches, I had duct tape. I’m looking at the lump of scar tissue as I write this. Thankfully I went to live with other relatives before she managed to kill me.

    Fukc anyone who advocates ritalin. With a rusty chainsaw. Fukc your zombie drug and fukc you doctors who prescribe it based on nothing but a parent’s complaint of “uncontrollability”. Fukc parents who are thrilled with their new chemical child, doped to the gills on legal amphetamines. Thank you for asking.

      1. fukc you doctors who prescribe it based on nothing but a parent’s complaint of “uncontrollability”.

        Maybe not just the mother.

          1.  My point was that it seems like in this case the doctor wasn’t doing his or her due diligence in making sure this case warranted a ritalin scrip.  I’m not sure what you’re getting at but it seems like you’re trying to use Austin’s pain as an argument against him, which is pretty fucked up in my opinion.

    1. Ritalin is bad, because your mother was abusive and neglected you.

      Oh…kay…It’s interesting that you say that it’s the drugs that caused that, when you also say your mother would leave, sometimes a week at a time, leaving you to eat mac & cheese.

      I’d say it’s just as likely–actually more likely–that your mother got the prescription for you, then started abusing the stuff herself, and that your behavior may have been due to something else.  Wouldn’t surprise me if your mom was slipping you Benadryl to keep you out of her hair.

      1. She was only able to use ritalin to dope me for the week or so that she had resumed cooking dinners. I’ve never had symptoms like that before, or since. She didn’t need me ‘out of her hair’. She was usually rarely home, and I avoided her because she was mean and confrontative. Maybe ritalin works for some people. However, many kids are drugged with it by doctors who never even examine the child, on behalf of parents who are putting their own selfish desires ahead of the children’s needs. The bad effects of ritalin, and the abuse of it by parents is insufficiently talked about. I don’t care if you have any compassion for my childhood abuse. What I care about is getting the word out about what this drug does to kids. It was a chemical lobotomy. It was a horrible violation of of my innermost self.

    2. I’m nearly in tears reading about your horrific youth.  As some of the other commenters noted, the medication wasn’t the problem, your abusive mother was.  Don’t lose focus of where the fault lies – it isn’t with you.  It sounds like it’s something of a miracle that you are here to share your story at all. 

      I wish you success in whatever you endeavor and that your are able to heal yourself some day. 

      1. Thanks for the words of encouragement, Edith, and I am sorry for having upset you. Perhaps I could have left a few graphic details out, for my focus is on what the drug made me into, the lack of oversight in prescribing it, and how seductive it’s effects were for the purposes of those who administered it to me. I just get so sick of reading hand picked statements from parents and children about how “it helps me do my homework”, “momma doesn’t yell at me for squirming any more”, ” I feel prettier now” etc. The zombie effect is glossed over, treated as a myth. We need a thousand outspoken victims of ritalin like myself to make people aware of what this drug’s effects feel like. Sadly, I fear there are some so-called parents reading about it’s obedience effect, and wondering how they can get some of the stuff.

    1. That’s ambiguous. I’m reopening your case. Are you trying to say that proponents are for ADD meds because they’re on them? Or that proponents are on ADD meds because they’re for them?   

      1. Or that this entire blog post was not needed because people who experience a set of symptoms that lead to prescription for a drug should be discounted when it comes to discussing whether their problem is real or not as obviously people who have never experienced that know better than they do?

    2. I advocate for ADD/ADHD meds, and I’m not on them.

      But I don’t get your point, anyway. Wouldn’t your point really be for med usage as the users advocate for it? (Well, I assume at least your point was against med usage… I’m honestly not sure.)

  22. The people commenting their dismissiveness and lack of sympathy for ADHD people here on Boing Boing sure don’t know how to pick their demo, do they? This is a site where nerds scan quickly through short pieces on odd facts, fun distractions, the latest cool, shiny things, etc. This site is like candy for ADDers. Come here to say you think maybe ADD is all hysteria or overdiagnosing? You may as well pick the comments section at Vibe to discuss your theories on racial inferiority.

    1. Do you suppose people could be legitimately suspicious that overdiagnosis or hysteria may be occurring without necessarily dismissing the reality of ADHD entirely?  This is also a site where smart, skeptical people are constantly questioning conventional wisdom as well as the questioners of conventional wisdom.

      1. The problem with that is, being a good skeptic requires putting personal feelings or sketchy anecdotal evidence aside and looking at available data. The people here kvetching about “kids they have known” who were wrongly diagnosed or how ADD “seems to me” rather than giving credence to the researchers and health professionals and what years of treatment and study have taught them are knee deep in the former and not so much the latter.

        1. I base part of my expectation that there may be a problem with over-diagnosis on my interactions with health professionals who themselves witness it. Labeling is not diagnosing, yet many treatments are go-to for behaviour problems that only may indicate certain conditions.

          This is occurring through schools, to the extent that 6 states have now prohibited teachers from recommending ADD/ADHD diagnosis to parents because of a noted trend among busy general practitioners to accept the recommendation as diagnosis when presented with same by the parent.

          Is it over-diagnosis where you find prescriptions without an actual diagnosis?  No, but it Seems like fertile ground.

          1. Let’s say for a minute I agree with your position that there can be thoughtful, evidence-based skepticism of the growing number of ADHD diagnoses. (I’m not necessarily on board, but you seem like a reasonable person, so I’m not too troubled by this hypothetical.)

            The thing I would ask you to bear in mind is that one of the biggest heartaches people with ADHD face is contempt from people who believe it’s “all a scam.” Your position is more nuanced than that, I can see. But it’s something you might bear in mind: whether you are presenting your case in such a way that it is sensitive to real people with real problems or whether it simply serves as a few more decibels in the awful chorus of dismissal and disrespect that ADD sufferers go through every single day.

          2. It’s why I resisted treatment myself, both the contempt you mention and my alarm at the casual methodology that some institutions/individuals seemed to employ. I mean really, teachers can address behaviour, please do, but venturing into clinical interpretations of that behaviour is an abuse of authority, albeit probably well intentioned.

            It’s why I’m specific and am sure to mention that it could only be part of the problem. Wingnuts or empathy-challenged people I’ve noticed tend to latch onto something and proclaim it on high, refusing any other perspective or that large problems may be multi-faceted. 

        2. Suppose someone were skeptical of the mental health profession itself and so wasn’t sure they can trust all the professional literature on the subject?

          Besides that, you seem to be on a hair-trigger.  See your dismissive response to my comment way above.

          1. Suppose someone were suspicious of the mental health profession in general?

            Well, they could try Scientology.

            Okay, that was a joke. Kidding.

            A better way would be to try and inform your opinion by taking in additional personal stories from things like the ADHD Voices Report.

            It’s one of the continuing sources of frustration for people undergoing ADD treatment that so many seemingly nice people express their distaste for and disbelief in the diagnosis of ADD based on scary anecdata (to borrow a genius term from earlier in the thread) but don’t seem interested in actually hearing from the legions of actual people receiving successful ADD treatment.

            I’m fairly sure that was one of MK-B’s key reasons for posting this in the first place.

          2. but don’t seem interested in actually hearing from the legions of actual people receiving successful ADD treatment.

            But I am interested in that, even if it does technically constitute anecdata.  I think you can give people some room to disagree on these issues and not be so dismissive of people who do so.

            Edit: Just saw your apology on the comment above. Thanks, I really appreciate it. And I agree it’s hard not to respond reflexively after seeing a bunch of comments that are very similar in tenor.

          3. Maybe it would help if I explained my own perspective a little better.

            I have ADHD. And the only thing that is nearly as difficult for me as the actual symptoms that represents is the contempt I hear from people every time I open my mouth and say so.

            I do probably end up oversensitive on the matter. But honestly, I was diagnosed maybe 15 years ago and I’ve met dozens and dozens of people, maybe hundreds, who were in the same boat and were greatly helped by ADD treatment and no one at all who ever told me they felt they or they child were misdiagnosed or medicated in an unwarranted, unhelpful fashion. It’s frustrating to have to listen over and over to stories of “some kid my mom knows” or “these kids a teacher told me about” in the name of balance and fairness when the only manner in which these isolated, second-hand stories truly compare to the broader experiences of ADHD sufferers is in the column inches and conversation minutes they are given.

          4.  I think I understand your frustration.  Sorry to get on you about this.  And thanks for the book recommendation above.  Well wishes.

        3. The problem with that is, being a good skeptic requires putting personal feelings or sketchy anecdotal evidence aside and looking at available data.

          Since the data consists of people self-reporting how they feel or parents/teachers reporting perceived behavioral changes, good luck with that.

          1. That’s a valid point. I didn’t mean to imply that there is quantifiable data on this that people are opting to ignore. I’m only trying to draw distinction between different types of reported experiences. It’s one thing to declare overdiagnosis a problem (or worse yet, something to browbeat every person you meet who tells you they have ADD) because of some stories you heard or a news item you read. It’s another thing entirely to make your mind up after looking at larger sets of reported experiences, preferably from actual medical/psychiatric channels instead of say, the Lifestyles section of your Sunday paper.

  23. I didn’t bother go through and read all the comments, but the few I did read were refreshingly pro-medicine. Good job, people who’s comments I happened to read.

  24. Question for you all: I’ve been on ritalin in some form or other for years (concerta for a time), and my only experience with adderal was that it seemed to make me quite irritable.

    My problem with Ritalin is that it makes me feel pretty depressed, which sucks because it helps to curb so many problematic things (the comment about boredom being painful really hit home). Is there a medication that might work better for me?

    1. I had problems with depression (self-loathing, really) on Ritalin as well. Have you tried the time-release versions? Those work better for most folks. Failing that, Strattera has had some success as an alternative for people who don’t do well on stimulants.

      In any case, despite the stereotype of doctors who “just want to drug you,” most of the health professionals I have known who treat ADD prefer to think of meds as temporary tools to create better habits. I have stopped and started my meds as needed, sort of recalibrating from time to time.

    2. Sorry to read that your experiences with various stimulants haven’t been pleasant.

      Have you heard of Vyvanse?  if so, have you considered trying it?  It is more expensive than Adderal and other XD meds, but it’s also longer acting and provides a smoother delivery arc across the day.

  25. In this far and absolutely no references to Gummo? I’m glad to see all of these personal anecdotes, but I can’t help but want to spread my knowledge of this great piece of cinematic joy.

  26. When discussing medication, it’s important to keep in mind that pills aren’t magic bullets. Even when someone has the condition, it’s no guarantee that a specific type of medicine will work or keep working; everyone’s neruochemistry is a little bit different, and can change over time, especially in a young brain that’s still developing. And just because a pill doesn’t work in a specific anecdote doesn’t mean we should throw the people for whom this specific treatment DOES work under the bus by saying “it never works.”

    My experience with medication in childhood was relatively positive. I had to take Paxil because I was experiencing obsessive-compulsive thoughts that caused me great distress, and the pill helped me. I went off it when I felt that I no longer needed it and had the mental support system in place to help me manage symptoms, and now although they occasionally surface they no longer cause me distress. Medication was what worked for me at that time, and I don’t think we should judge people or parents for deciding to take drugs to help with their symptoms. I think that the people squawking about homeopathic treatments and sugar and “toughing it out” have never experienced such uncontrollable symptoms themselves. When you have ADD, you can’t magically start paying attention just by resolving to focus, any more than I could have stopped the thoughts by trying not to think them. In fact, trying to stop them only made me feel worse. The medication helped me by stopping them until I could have a suitable coping mechanism in place through therapy.

  27. All that pharmaceutical stuff is no good. It’s unnecessary if parents are willing to actually do some parenting, governments are willing to properly fund education systems so that teachers and schools have the resources so they can actually work with students on a personalized individual level, and schools were to allow kids to fully be themselves and make the learning process more geared towards ALL learning styles. I mean, how do you get someone to pay attention to something they simply don’t care about? And how can you expect kids to learn and behave in a calm manner when their main babysitter is the television and other mind-burning activities. In many cases, the kids just need to go run around in the park and burn off the excess energy. And schools never seem to have the resources to actually gear learning towards every learning style. It seems that many kids are expected to learn in ways that they simply cannot learn. Everyone has a different way of learning, from children to adults. That must be respected.

    These drugs are just a short-term quick-fix band-aid solution to a problem nobody is willing to actually roll up their sleeves and deal with, not that I’m placing blame or anything. I know it isn’t the easiest problem to fix in our society/culture in it’s current state. But seriously, we CAN (and will) do better than THIS.

    1. I think the problem here is that psychologists don’t have the necessary tools to identify the children who actually have a neurological problem versus the kids who don’t have the proper environment, and doing such extensive testing can be costly and time-consuming. Also, there are some symptoms that can’t be solved  just by “running around in the park” – you can’t really judge whether the child really needs treatment unless you’ve interacted with them extensively and have the training to recognize when something’s wrong. There are quacks out there, just as there are quacks in every profession, but I don’t think it’s fair to blame every case of medication on the parents, or to treat the need for treatment as a “failure” on the patient or family’s part.

    2.  I’m feeling generous and in a polite mood, otherwise I’d be inclined to land on your comment like a ton o’ bricks.

      In the millions of years of human existence prior to the invention of medical x-ray technology, people who suffered a broken leg where the bone did not puncture the surface of the skin they might well have been treated as laggards and layabouts by people such as you.

      Even today, a minor fracture suffered in geography were medical help is but a dream, the expression of a bobbing gait or limp due to the untreated underlying injury could be the means by which you’re ostracized from a community or simply the cause of your death.

      Ignorant is no way to go through life.

  28. What does Ritalin do to kids? My recollection is that it gives them psychokinetic powers. Do I win a prize for that?

    Oh, you’re all being realistic and frumpy. Never mind.

    1. your usual morning coffee cup is no longer in the same place.

      also, don’t bother looking for your cufflinks. you’ll find them later.

  29. I just want to say that I can’t read through all of these comments.

    I’m on the dextroamphetamine now, used to be on ritalin for quite some time, but for non ADD reasons. 

    Ritalin makes my armpits sweat a LOT.

  30. Am I the only one wondering WTF they were thinking with the pie chart on page 16? They’re not giving *percentages,* and it’s an utterly nonsensical way to display information about how the proportions experiencing certain effects differ between countries.

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