The Addicted Generation: Did we fail our kids by relying on prescription medication to treat ADHD?

Articles like this piss me off to no end. Sure, I understand the danger of prescribing drugs to children. Heck, making kids sit quietly in a classroom all day is a ridiculous notion. If we really want to solve classroom disruptions,  better than prescribing ADHD meds to bored kids, let them run around outside instead! Allow them creative outlets for their energy! Give them one-on-one tutors to ensure maximized, personalized learning!

But short of paying for that kind of public service (hello, anti-taxxers), I doubt we’ll clearly identify who’s really suffering from ADD or ADHD in childhood, or who’s just a bored kid with too much physical and creative energy to submit to the mind-deadening boredom that comes with school as it is today.



However, kids aren’t the only ones dealing with the disorder. Adults benefit from ADD and ADHD medications, too - perhaps even more so than kids.

I wasn’t diagnosed with ADD until my 40s, and taking Adderall has made all the difference in my health and happiness. Ask anyone who knew me before-and-after.

Before medical treatment, I’d struggle with trying to track, say, a dozen or more trains of thought running simultaneously through my mind... but, after starting the meds, it’s down to just a few threads of attention - or even just one, when I’m really involved. The difference between medicated and not-medicated is NIGHT AND DAY. (I take the bare minimum that’s medically effective to avoid developing physical resistance, and to easily clear my system over, say, a frustrating weekend of not taking any meds.)

Sure, the appetite-suppressant side-effect is real: I need to watch the clock to know when it’s time to eat. But when I think about eating, I realize I’m hungry. With kids, that’s probably more of a challenge, so they probably need a reminder to help them remember when it’s time to eat... but do you know any kid on ADHD meds who doesn’t have a smartphone close at hand? There’s apps for that. Better needing to remember when to eat than to go through life with the kind of serious disabilities that come with untreated ADD or ADHD.

Do the ableist a-holes who self-righteously decry “addiction” to ADHD medication say the same thing about heart meds for those in danger of heart attack? Insulin for diabetics? Hearing aids for those who need them? Eyeglasses?

If you can’t do the research, writer (that is, interview those most affected by the topic), talk about something you know or STFU.

Okay, I guess I have some feelings about this. /rant

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EDIT: Need to add this comment by “Heather!” that showed up right after I posted:

First of all, I just need to address how ridiculous it is to conflate ADHD symptom relapse after medication cessation with dependency and addiction. ADHD is a developmental disorder with biological origins in the pre-frontal cortex. Some people’s brains eventually catch up developmentally by adolescence or adulthood, some never do. Medications control symptoms by helping the brain function like normal brains function. Like other developmental disorders, there is no cure for ADHD, and medications are not going to make the brain normalize. They are an aid, like insulin is for diabetics or glasses are for people with myopia.

If you quit taking a medication that controls symptoms caused by inefficient biological processes, those symptoms will return, which is what is happening in the anecdotes mentioned in this article. This has nothing to do with dependency. Research shows that ADHD medication is not habit-forming when taken as directed. In fact, medication treatment before adolescence significantly reduces the risk of drug abuse and addiction in people with ADHD.

Can you imagine someone complaining about the dependency and addiction potential of insulin because high blood sugar resumes with cessation in diabetic patients? That’s how ignorant this argument is.

Besides that, this article is overloaded with myths and unsubstantiated assumptions about ADHD diagnoses, treatment, and outcomes.

Russell Barkley, PHD, has devoted his career to studying ADHD since the 1970s, has authored many studies that are used by organizations cited in this article, and has actually read all of the research and medical literature written on ADHD since the 1700’s (yes, 1970's). He has addressed the myths perpetuated by the media, including all the myths in this article, over and over again:

“If you were to average across all of these figures, it appears to be that somewhere between about 1.5 percent and about 2.5 percent of school-age children are taking medication right now for ADHD. Now, you have to look at that figure in the context of how much ADHD is there. It’s the only way you can answer the question of over-medication, and that is, what’s the reference point? We know that approximately 5 percent to 7 percent of school-age children have this disorder. If we use the conservative figure of 5 percent, and we know that about 2.5 percent of individuals may be taking medication, there’s your answer. We don’t have over-medication. Only about half of all ADHD children are ever taking medication for their disorder.

“There is controversy about ADHD, I believe, partly because we are using a medication to treat the disorder, and people find that to be of concern. But there’s also concern because ADHD is a disorder that appears to violate a very deeply held assumption that laypeople have about children’s behavior. All of us were brought up believing, almost unconsciously, that children’s misbehavior is largely due to the way they’re raised by their parents and the way they’re educated by their teachers. If you wind up with a child who is out of control and disruptive and not obeying, that that has to be a problem with child rearing.

“We can thank Freudian thinking and Watson’s behaviorism, and other ideas that are part of our common knowledge, for making us believe that behavior problems are learned. Well, along comes this disorder that produces tremendous disruption in children’s behavior, but it has nothing to do with learning, and it isn’t the result of bad parenting. And therefore it violates these very deeply held ideas about bad children and their misbehavior.

“And as long as you have this conflict between science telling you that the disorder is largely genetic and biological, and the public believing that it arises from social causes, you’re going to continue to have tremendous controversy in the mind of the public.

“Now, there is no controversy among practicing scientists who have devoted their careers to this disorder. No scientific meetings mention any controversies about the disorder, about its validity as a disorder, about the usefulness of using stimulant medications like Ritalin for it. There simply is no controversy. The science speaks for itself. And the science is overwhelming that the answer to these questions is in the affirmative: it’s a real disorder; it’s valid; and it can be managed, in many cases, by using stimulant medication in combination with other treatments.

“Saying that we’re not sure about the safety and the long-term use of the stimulant medication is nice to say. But the fact is that we know more about the stimulant medications than just about any other medication
that’s given to children in medicine... All of the research we have indicates that these drugs are some of the safest that we employ in the field of psychiatry and psychology. That’s not to say that we know everything about them. But we know a lot more than we know about cough medicines and Tylenol and aspirins and other things that children swill whenever they come down with a common cold. Nobody asks those questions about those over-the-counter medications, yet we know substantially less about them.”

YES.

If you need to see yet another "OH NOES! ADHD MEDS IZ ROONING UR KIDZ!" article, here's what I was responding to: x

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From: [identity profile] joycemocha.livejournal.com


As a former middle school special ed teacher...yeah. Barkley is the gold resource (and I used one of his diagnostic behavioral scales). I will argue with anyone who falls for one of those clickbait headlines about ADHD meds, because, really? I've had those kids who couldn't focus without them. Seen what happens to many boys with ADHD on meds at adolescence (often needs to be readjusted and what works one day may not the next).

Meds are a tool. And meds combined with CBT are key to helping kids with ADHD. Quite frequently it's not the only disability, and there's a processing disorder hiding there somewhere as well.

But at least in my experience, in a low-income rural school, there wasn't ANY overmedication or overdiagnosis.

From: [identity profile] athenaartemis.livejournal.com


AMEN!

I was diagnosed with AD(H)D when I was 14, and took the meds throughout high school. I didn't think they were doing much, as so stopped them in college. About a year and a half ago, I started seeing a new therapist who wanted me to get back on the meds. By that point, I had seen research about the differences in how AD(H)D presents in boys/men and girls/women, and realized that I definitely had it, and the meds had been helping, but since I didn't have some of the stereotypical AD(H)D symptoms (the ones associated with rowdy young boys), I hadn't realized how useful the meds were. I'm back on the meds, life is amazing, and I can't figure out how I possibly managed to get through college without them. I probably would have done a bit better in your classes had my brain been fully functional...

From: [identity profile] mckitterick.livejournal.com


Wow, if I could go back in time and tell my young self to get diagnosed and on meds
.. how different might life had been?
.

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