Are ADHD meds an excuse?

We’ve heard it all before:

  • “The only thing scary about the shortage of these drugs is that now the parents may actually have to step up and be parents.”
  • “The vast majority of kids with ADHD don’t come close to suffering from the kind of severe behavioral issues a child with severe autism does-and truth be told, the majority of kids who are on those drugs don’t need them, they need for their parents to actually take the time to work with them.”
  • “A lot of the ADD/ADHD is liberal pansy teachers, not wanting to deal with healthy active young boys.”
  • “I think that maybe 5% of those currently diagnosed with ADD and ADHD actually even have it. The rest are just prescribed it cause the parents are just too lazy to want to parent.”

These are all real comments in response to today’s article on the shortage of Ritalin covered by MSNBC.

Anyone who has lived with ADHD knows there are many, many misconceptions about ADHD. These aren’t new sentiments.  Ritalin and ADHD have been debated for years by the experts and while not all agree with medication usage, there is strong evidence to support Ritalin as one part of an effective treatment program for ADHD.

  • 1991: New York Times: “The published literature shows that about 75 percent of children taking Ritalin show moderate to large improvements in self-control, ability to stay on task and ability to cooperate with adults and peers.”  Laurence l. Greenhill, M.D. New York, child psychiatrist involved in research financed by the National Institute of Mental Health at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons.
  • 1999: Journal of American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry:  “Medication treatments are often not used in treating ADHD children identified in the community, suggesting the need for better education of parents, physicians, and mental health professionals about the effectiveness of these treatments. On the basis of these data it cannot be concluded that substantial ‘overtreatment’ with stimulants is occurring across communities in general.”  Are Stimulants Overprescribed?  Journal of American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Volume 38Issue 7, Pages 797-804 (July 1999)
  • 2001: Frontline: Seven ADHD experts explore the history of ADHD diagnosis and Ritalin usage.   Bottom line: while experts disagree on whether or not we are overmedicating for ADHD, a knee jerk reaction blaming poor parenting is ill informed.
  • 2011: New York Times blog: “Surveys of large populations of people in the United States continue to show that about 5 to 8 percent of children meet criteria for a diagnosis of A.D.H.D., and 4 to 5 percent of adults. That is hardly evidence that everyone is being diagnosed with this disorder.” Dr. Russell A. Barkley, clinical professor of psychiatry at the Medical University of South Carolina.

Here at Edge we offer coaching as an important part of a multi-modal approach to addressing ADHD symptoms and we know many of our clients prefer to not take medication for their ADHD.  BUT the student we work with, the parents we talk to, and our coaches all know that ADHD is real; ADHD is a neuro-biological condition that ADHD is treatable.  And while medication isn’t a cure, it goes a long way to address symptoms and allow people the ability to function productively. Many children and adults need their medication to function properly at school, work and in other aspects of their daily lives. Furthermore, the absence of that medication can lead to erratic behavior. It is important for the public to understand the reality and research based information about ADHD which will hopefully dispel traditional stereotypes and social stigmas.

We wouldn’t tell a person who needs insulin to not take it. Why does our society feel free to criticize people with ADHD for not trying hard enough?  Or for taking medication as a cop-out?


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2 Responses

  1. Darren

    “We wouldn’t tell a person who needs insulin to not take it. Why does our society feel free to criticize people with ADHD for not trying hard enough? Or for taking medication as a cop-out?”

    Perhaps because diabetes can be proven with a blood test and ADHD is “proven” via a psychiatrists subjective analysis of behaviors. Does ADHD medication reduce the symptoms of an active person who has difficulty in concentrating? Sure. Are there perhaps other things actually contributing to these behavioral “issues?” Hey… there’s a thought. Maybe we should study that eh?

    As for me, with my sons doctor, teacher and psychiatrist “diagnosing” him with ADHD, we engaged with him as parents, modified his diet, added supplements (then told his teachers he was being “treated”) and voila – they are amazed at how improved he is!

    • Peggy -- Edge blogger

      You raise an excellent point, Darren. ADHD is a collection of symptoms that requires professional analysis to determine a diagnosis. It also affects each person a little differently. So some people are able to do well without medication, and others, such as our Executive Director Robert Tudisco, find that a combination of exercise, medication and behavioral techniques are the right fit.

      The key, we think, is not slamming people who take medication. Instead it’s educating people about the variety of treatment options — including coaching (!) — that can help a person find their edge.

      Thanks for stopping in and sounding off!