Ever get "The Look" when you casually mention ADD or ADHD to a friend or colleague? It’s that poor-you-for-buying-into-the-hype cover-up smile that implies you are sadly mistaken about the validity of ADHD.
I get "The Look" most often when I am inhabiting my "other life"- that New Age-y spiritual side of me that resonates deeply with the notion of a universal energy that connects all of us. And while those deeply spiritual folks pay homage to non-judgmental acceptance, apparently some of them share the opinion that:
a) ADHD is a medically-manufactured disorder designed solely to boost the bottom line of the pharmaceutical industry;
b) ADD-ish tendencies are sad byproducts of our rush-rush culture; and
c) a little more introspection and a few herbs will calm the ADD soul.
I admit it: I waffle on this issue. I simply cannot ignore the fact that pharmaceutical companies today spend more money on advertising than on research and development. There was a study done some years ago that showed that new medications worked better than older ones solely because the patient believed the new drug was more effective. If people think ADHD drugs will work, isn’t the same principle in play?
Last month, a woman whom I respect and admire unsubscribed from the ADDiva email list because I hosted a speaker who explained the medication effects on ADHD. The woman had professional and familial experience with drug addiction and was painfully aware of the potential for abuse.
I know it’s heresy for an ADHD coach to say this, but I semi-agree with her. Study after study shows that addiction rates actually fall dramatically when ADHD meds are prescribed and administered appropriately (e.g. a drop from 81% drug abuse to 23% which is near the rate for the general population).
But when your ADD has kept you up all night and you have to go to work, it’s awfully easy to pop an extra stimulant to wake up. A woman with two late teen/early adult sons admitted to me that she and her sons had abused stimulants. "We thought if a few were good, then more would be better!" she said. The three of them ended up having some trouble backing down from the stimulants. They now take them with caution, mindful of the possibility for addiction.
After all, it’s pretty addictive for us to Get Things Done. And that’s what ADD meds help us do. Often we have fallen so far behind that it’s tempting to try to catch up in the shortest time possible. Meds can help you do that. But it’s not a pretty picture when the drugs become YOU.
So, here’s a tip of the hat to my friend who presented the pharmaceutical information – without bias, I might add. And a tip of the hat to my friend who worries about addiction potential when taking ADD meds.
And here’s a word of caution to the ADDivas of the world — take APPROPRIATE medication if it’s prescribed. Monitor yourself carefully. And don’t let those "focus pills" become the only way to treat your ADHD.