ADHD Does Not Exist? Wrong, Richard Saul

Richard Saul, MD ADHD Does Not Exist

If you’re depressed by sensationalistic headlines such as “ADHD Does Not Exist” or rogue physicians such as Richard Saul marketing their unique ability to “find the root cause” of ADHD, please skip this post.

But before you go, take heart. And remember: The Internet is the Wild West for self-promoters and hucksters. It is not the real world. That is, the world where serious professionals devote themselves assiduously to researching, treating patients, and developing helpful strategies for people with ADHD and their families.

The preponderance of medical and scientific evidence says that ADHD Does Exist. That will not change. We will only continue to refine our knowledge; that has been the course of this condition in the medical literature for centuries.

Self-serving ADHD skeptics come and go, each with their sensationalist sales pitch and blinkered bias. But they are blurry blips on the radar screen of progress. Science keeps marching on, undeterred and even unaware of these ridiculous rogues grandstanding online.

However short-lived each is, there seems to be a steady stream of these hucksters and charlatans. And they can still do a lot of damage. They exacerbate stigma. They also threaten public policy on these issues, including insurance coverage, medication availability, and the like.  We must be vigilant.

It has been a long time since the ADHD Roller Coaster Hall of Shame  has named new inductees. Today, I welcome several:

  1. Richard Saul, author of ADHD Does Not Exist.  (The book’s publisher, Harper Collins, is owned by Rupert Murdoch, owner of Fox News.)
  2. A fellow neurologist and early ADHD denier, Fred Baughman, Jr. author of The ADHD Fraud. 
  3. Four “news” organizations.

 I encourage everyone to speak out in response to any anti-ADHD book or article, even if only in a quick comment or an Amazon review. You can make a difference.  Even if you don’t change anyone’s mind, you can provide courage and validation to those reading the article and comments and wondering….”Is this true? Should I not seek treatment for my or my child’s ADHD?”

Hucksters Self-Promote, Serious People Work

“ADHD makes a great excuse. The diagnosis can be an easy-to-reach-for crutch. Moreover, there’s an attractive element to an ADHD diagnosis, especially in adults. It can be exciting to think of oneself as involved in many things at once, rather than stuck in a boring rut.”—Richard Saul, MD, author of ADHD Does Not Exist

That’s the ticket! You think of your own or your loved one’s ADHD diagnosis as “exciting.”

Newsweek interviewed me for this article about ADHD Does Not Exist (Richard Saul Says ADHD Does Not Exist. Not Everyone Agrees“):

The lack of controversy [about ADHD] among the experts is telling, but it’s an entirely different story online. Comments and debates can spiral out of control quickly, leading to the spread of misinformation. This has already started on blogs and websites covering the book release.

Some commenters claim ADHD can be “cured” by better parenting or that it’s not a disorder, just a lack of discipline.

It’s so important for the public to understand that on the Internet anyone can be an ‘expert,’ ” says Gina Pera, author of Is It You, Me, or Adult A.D.D.? and an ADHD advocate. “The real experts in ADHD are busy researching, writing papers, and treating patients, so they don’t spend time on the Internet writing or commenting. Readers who limit themselves to websites, without knowing how to discern wheat from chaff, do themselves a great disservice.”

Public Denial Springs from Personal Denial?

Many people with ADHD will assume that these “ADHD Deniers” are hard-hearted neurotypicals who cannot appreciate their struggles.

Yet, over 20 years of closely observing the loudest deniers, I can tell you: Most of the “ADHD Deniers” also have ADHD.

Teachers and other might have suggested that their children be screened for ADHD, too.  Given the genetic nature of ADHD, odds are good that this professional ADHD Denier has ADHD, too.

Between the low self-observation and narcissism that ADHD symptoms can confer and the opportunity to elevate their platform and become famous or rich, it’s apparently  obvious to them: “I should go on an anti-ADHD campaign!”

Consider this from Saul’s 2019 obituary:

In his pediatric work, he encountered a number of children with what the younger Saul called “these complicated problems.”

That included two of the doctor’s own children, one so disruptive a teacher put him in a large cardboard box in the classroom and one who made regular trips to the principal’s office, often for firing spitballs.

Are Neurologists Qualified to Recognize and Treat ADHD?

The first rogue physician I encountered was Fred Baughman and his 2006 book, The ADHD Fraud? Like Saul, Baughman is also a neurologist.

(At the time, I did research his “back story” and found what seemed to be an ADHD connection to his son. I cannot find that link now, unfortunately. But I do see that he is considered a “medical expert” for a certain “religious” organization whose calling card is anti-psychiatry fear-mongering and money raising.)

With noted exceptions, neurology is not generally seen as the specialty qualified to diagnose or understand ADHD. That preferred specialty is generally considered psychiatry.  And, in fact, there has been competition between the two specialties for years (italics mine, for emphasis, from The  Wall Between Psychiatry and Neurology: Advances in Neuroscience Indicate It’s Time To Take It Down):

During the 20th century, however, a schism emerged as each of these fields went its separate way.

Neurologists focused on those brain disorders with cognitive and behavioural abnormalities that also presented with somatic signs—stroke, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, and so forth—while psychiatrists focused on those disorders of mood and thought associated with no, or minor, physical signs found in the neurological examination of the motor and sensory systems—schizophrenia, depression, anxiety disorders, and so on.

For certain disorders, conflicting theories emerged about their aetiology and pathogenesis, at times engendering negative attitudes among workers in one or the other field, including derision and incivility. In academic medical centres, separate departments were formed in neurology and psychiatry that had little interest in collaboration in research, teaching, or patient care.

There Is No “Controversy” About ADHD

In labs, clinics, and research centers internationally, there is no “controversy” about ADHD. Yes, there is wide and necessary acknowledgment that we don’t know everything, that the human brain is impossibly complex. But there is also a wide consensus that we know a great deal.

At last check, there were 10,000+ published papers in the literature on ADHD, most of them peer-reviewed. There were far more ADHD-focused scientific papers published in this decade’s first three years than were published in all of the 1990s, the so-called “Decade of the Brain.”

On the Internet, however, a different ethos prevails: Gaining web-traffic and selling dubious books, services, and supplements by confusing the public about ADHD.

In other words, take a rogue neurologist —in this case, Saul—who graduated medical school in 1961 and who is determined to turn ADHD treatment back to that time. Add a high-powered PR firm eager to make money for Harper Collins on this sham of a book, and you have an international online sensation. (“Fox News” owner Rupert Murdoch also owns Harper Collins, through his News Corporation. Before it was even published in the U.S., there were foreign translations shipping.)

These hucksters all claim to be “protecting the children.”  Don’t be fooled.

Listen closely to what they really say.

You will find they unabashedly make unfounded statements that only worsen stigma and misinformation, such as the quotation from Saul above. Moreover, they do this while burnishing their own lackluster image. These are not compassionate people. They are not even smart or up-to-date physicians.

We Risk Much by Staying Mum

Recently, with the latest story on ADHD in The New York Times by Alan Schwarz and the debut of this outrageously titled  ADHD Does Not Exist, the floodgates gush open anew.

This highly limited physician, Saul, and, Schwarz, a sports reporter at The New York Times, gave every two-bit website and traffic-crazed “news organization” carte blanche to perform the neuroscientific equivalent of climate-change denial.

(Thank you for understanding why I am not providing links to the stories below, only partial screen images. I refuse to play their nasty game—gaining   web traffic on the backs of people with ADHD.)

These alleged news organizations stoop to new lows of Yellow Journalism, and that’s why I’m inducting them into the ADHD Roller Coaster Hall of Shame.

As An ADHD Expert, Richard Saul Does Not Exist

As both a journalist and an ADHD expert, I’m astounded:  Richard Saul, MD, is a virtual unknown neurologist in Illinois with little prominence and no history of publication. Yet, with this broadside, he finds himself elevated to equal footing with a preponderance of medical evidence. Next stop: the lucrative speaker’s circuit.

Moreover, he’s enjoying worldwide coverage, at least in the clickbait-o-sphere. Yet, none of his statements are checked or balanced.

Check out his “blog.” Does it read as though it emanates from someone with ADHD expertise—or really, psychiatric expertise at all? It’s rambling and repetitive. No substance. The same with his book.  [Update: Since this original posting, that page has been removed from his website.]

The man graduated from medical school in 1961—fifty years ago—but apparently hasn’t felt the need to keep up. This was an era when doctors were still viewed by many as “gods”—infallible.  Not to be questioned. Perhaps it went to his head?

Naive readers say, “Well, he’s not saying ADHD doesn’t exist; he’s saying it’s overdiagnosed.”

No, friends, it’s far worse than that.

Read this book carefully. Read the title!

If Saul had his way, he would take ADHD back to the prehistoric era. That is, back to when ADHD itself was missed. Instead, the focus was on all the fallout from ADHD:  obesity, learning disabilities, auditory processing disorder, neurospatial dysfunction, sensory processing disorder, visual impairments, sleep disorder, substance abuse.

Before it was published, the book had already been translated into German and perhaps other languages. The publicity has appeared in the UK, Australia, Germany, and the U.S..  They knew they had a “controversial” product.

In addition to acting as lackeys for Harper Collins—jumping on the red meat thrown to them—the following “news outlets” showed very poor judgment in their photo illustrations.

New ADHD Hall of Shame Media Honorees

Now for the new Hall of Shame Honorees among the media that picked up the ADHD Does Not Exist Story—and ran with it. I include the photos depicting their idea of children with ADHD.

1. The New York Post

Columnist Kyle Smith writes from the press release. He fails to question the legitimacy of Saul’s opinion. He doesn’t pick up on the fact that Saul primarily talks about misdiagnoses and not ADHD itself.  (Note: Saul’s idea of misdiagnoses might in fact be accurate diagnoses but ADHD manifesting in ways he does not understand, such as with Central Auditory Processing disorder.)

The New York Post

The Post’s Smith also freely throws in his own ill-formed opinions:

Patients show up at the clinic with their own ADHD diagnoses these days, simply because ADHD is in the air all around us — and because they want to score some delightful drugs like Adderall or Ritalin, or because their parents want an easy way to get them to sit down and shut up.

Adderall and Ritalin are stimulants, though, and the more you take them the more you develop a tolerance for them, which can lead to a dangerous addiction spiral.

Substance abuse has long cast a long shadow with the human species. The fact that some people abuse stimulants does not argue against the legitimacy of ADHD and the medications used to treat it. The fact is, many of my friends with ADHD forget to take the medication; they certainly don’t abuse it.

What’s more: The majority of research findings on ADHD and addiction show that children treated for ADHD are less likely to abuse substances later in life.

2. Tom Sawyer Meets Linda Blair in The Exorcist

Next, this Australian website picked up the Post’s meager column. But it substituted an even more offensive photo. This is all too common, and it shows that neither the editors nor the graphic designers share a clue about ADHD.

ADHD is not about “children behaving badly”—or, for that matter, held in demonic possession.

ADHD is about children and adults who have a valid neurocognitive condition that affects self-regulation. These children have enough problems with bullies; they don’t need more bullying from the media or from the neurologist who claims to have their best interests at heart.

news.com.au

Yes, some children with ADHD are rambunctious and even dangerously aggressive. But many are shy and conflict-averse.

Perpetuating this myth that ADHD is a “behavior” disorder caused by lax parenting leads to barbaric calls for “treating ADHD” with corporal punishment. Issuing such calls are marginal figures, such as developmental pediatrician Larry Diller (a favored source of The New York Times’ Alan Schwarz, who could use a lesson in vetting sources and selecting bona fide experts).

Interestingly enough, this news.com.au website prominently touts its editorial decision-makers’ expertise. So, you’d think there would have been more deliberation behind running this piece.

After all:

  • Deputy Editor Lisa Muxworthy has reportedly been a journalist for more than 16 years, with experience reporting on politics, health and general news.
  • News Editor Kate de Brito, who the site says has been a reporter, columnist, and feature writer for more than 20 years,  “loves working online for the speed, variety and reader feedback.” (Maybe a little less speed and a little more deliberative editorial process would be a good idea.)  And oh dear, she is also a “trained counsellor”—though surely not in mental health. What kind of psychotherapist would approve of this awful piece and the photos?

3. UK’s Daily Fail, er Mail

The UK’s Daily Mail did a slightly better job by at least talking to a few reputable sources.

Still, the paper qualifies as a full-fledged Hall of Shame honoree by running this headline…and these photos.

 

Daily Mail
Daily Mail

4. Rev. Moon’s Washington Times

Finally and perhaps predictably, The Washington Times makes a mockery of reporting by running this, below. (If you are unfamiliar with this plutocratic cult leader: The Strange Life of Reverend Sun Myong Moon)

 

If you can’t see that illustration, here is a larger version.

Mike Meyers’ depiction of a “hyperactive” child

What is especially ludicrous is that Washington Times’ article from Cheryl K. Chumley? It continually cites The New York Post, as if it were a real piece of reporting and not a re-hash of a press release embellished with the columnist’s uninformed opinions.

Now more than ever, vetting news sources and experts is critically important. These headlines represent only a small slice of what is happening not only in ADHD coverage but every other topic of importance.

And, with that, I welcome all these complicit characters to the ADHD Roller Coaster Hall of Shame.

Richard Saul’s Error-Ridden Website

The image below is from the website of Richard Saul, author of ADHD Does Not Exist.  [Update: His website has since been removed.]

Yes, even in this barebones website, Saul did not notice that medicine is misspelled. Was he not paying attention, or is accuracy simply unimportant to him in all things? What has he been missing in the children he allegedly treats?

We always want to address challenges with the right diagnosis.  That requires parents being pro-active in reading and learning so they can pursue the best care for their child. If food sensitivities are causing a child’s cognitive problems, for example, those should be addressed. If troubles at home between the parents are creating stress and anxiety, don’t scapegoat the child for responding with anxiety.

But make no mistake: Any physician who claims that ADHD is not a valid disorder is lying to you. And perhaps to himself.

Gina Pera

64 thoughts on “ADHD Does Not Exist? Wrong, Richard Saul”

  1. Gina, twice now you have saved me from the abyss 🙂 Two years ago I read your book with tears pouring down my face—finally everything that was complicated in my marriage made sense. Your book gave me a vocabulary to talk about all these unnamed reality. It was absolutely the key that allowed me to find support, information & treatment.
    A few nights ago I read about 1/2 of “ADHD Does Not Exist.” Thanks for this article; your words were the reality check that helps so many of us feel confident that the floor is still the floor, the ceiling is still the ceiling & that some “experts” spew garbage. Grateful for a community of support that has guided my family in so many ways. High Five!

    1. Yay! Thanks for letting me know, Annie, that my work has helped you.

      If you’d like to support my blog, please feel free to start any Amazon shopping expeditions in the little Amazon box — in the sidebar to right. Just bookmark it as “Amazon.”

      I will receive a small portion of purchases when shoppers start there.

      Thank you!

      g

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  3. As a 52 year old licensed clinical therapist and a person who has ADHD, I can assure anyone that ADHD is a real physiological condition. I was ADHD before it was even a thing, before foods had high fructose corn syrup and red dye #40 in it, before Red bull and energy drinks. But the ironic thing is, as a child, caffeine helped me. Cafe con leche is the Ritalin or Adderall of the 60s and 70s. Today, I will occasionally take Adderall when I am forced to sit through a long, boring experience, but even trying to sit through a movie, in which I am highly interested, is difficult … Because I have ADHD. No matter how interesting something is, unless I can get up and move around and be involved…I get distracted. I don’t use it as an excuse, but it helps to know I’m not crazy just a little chemically out of balance. Understanding this helps. People need to stop vilifying ADHD and also, stop over diagnosing it. Sometimes it really is just a Behavioral problem or an environmental issue. But please, don’t tell me what I live with every day isn’t real. Thank you for your article. I have shared it with many nay sayers.

    1. I think your attention deficits are real. But I think what Saul is saying is that its not a disease. And that you are simply wired that way and there are things you can do that do not require ingesting chemicals to fix it.

    2. Hi Bob,

      Have you read Saul’s words? Are you familiar with ADHD?

      Facts do matter. Sources do matter. 🙂

      Individuals who have ADHD—each with their own experience of this highly variable syndrome—are not helped by those who seek to minimize their challenges or stigmatize the medications used to treat ADHD.

      Thanks for stopping by. I’m a big fan of Arrested Development. 🙂

      Gina

  4. I was diagnosed as a older teenager with “ADHD” and i have a son that was diagnosed at 5 yrs old. I disagree with both sides. I think it is a real thing, i think our brains work differently.

    I dont think its a disease, i dont think it should be treated with medications thats short term AND long term effects are far worse than what they are calling a “disease” i think its simply a different kind of brain, a different kind of personality, and people can learn to manage it with many other things that dont include these dangerous drugs.

    The problem is our society, especially the school system, doesnt want to make time or resources for individual learning needs. They want a bunch of zombies to pass tests. I am now an adult in the medical field, and the future medicine is creating for us is a sad and scary one. MEDICINE is drugs. It’s drugs. Theres dangerous side effects and drs now a days are too quick to throw a drug at someone because they dont care enough or have the time to figure out what the underlying problems are, or to teach their patients ways to “treat” or even cure their problems with diet and exercise and all kinds of other natural options. SOCIETY wants a quick fix and drs are ready to give it to them.. but the costs are so high….its sad.

    1. HI Jackson,

      Thanks for your comment.

      ADHD is a highly variable syndrome. What might be true for you and/or your son might not be true for others.

      That’s why we rely on science and large-scale studies, to give us a broader picture of the potential adverse effects from ADHD and a range of effective treatments for those who seek them.

      best,
      Gina

  5. Hi Gina

    I come as a confused friend sitting on a not so well informed fence, wanting a few measured clarifications, so please bare with me.

    I’ve read your article and all of the replies on this feed and I still can’t confirm in my head if you have read Richard Saul’s book?

    I ask because the crux of the book is about Dr Saul demanding a more in-depth analysis of each patient to ascertain symptoms and potential diagnosis of other neurological issues at play rather than, here is ADHD symptom. Here is ADHD. Here is pharmaceutical giant. Here is magic pill.

    In the last half of the book he names alternate diagnosis to ADHD including learning difficulties, substance abuse and mood disorders and it kinda makes sense. Sorry.

    You beat this guy up for peddling his book but all through these conversations above you have done the same…which in a capitalist society is the name of the game and well done for it!
    Instead of beating this guy around the ears, potentially what you could do is sight why ADHD is a walk up start? why people should accept that diagnosis? or even what is the best resources for ADHD suffers. Apart from ADD website which seems confusing to me. Ha, must be the ADHD kicking in.

    I’m a 40 something alcoholic and gambling addict that was abused grwing up. I’m constantly disorganised, skittish, never completing tasks and adding to my health issues….I’ve gone it alone mostly but this has caused severe pain and suffering in my life. I want to know if I go on drugs that this will be better than eating right, exercising, sleeping and limiting clutter in my life, obviously if ADHD is my diagnosis.

    I certainly would think a professional psychologist would not have to sling mud at the opposition!! maybe kill the guy with facts? Cold hard facts. About ADHD, including names of the legends of the field. Not about him peddling his book.

    I hope you understand the sentiment of the question and look forward to your reply.

    Confused Joe

    1. Hi Joe,

      Richard Saul, through Rupert Murdoch’s publishing company, exploited a very vulnerable topic for his own vainglory and profit.

      What you call “slinging mud,” I call shedding light on a charlatan who is over his head, and whose nonsense risks people not getting the help they need.

      Seems like he’s the one you should be criticizing, not me. but hey, that’s your call.

      Everything you list is strongly associated with ADHD. But hey, you’re 40-something. If cleaning up your act was going to result in miracles, why haven’t you done it yet?

      Please read throughout my blog. It’s free. Buy my book if you like. It explains how medication can help.

      Good luck,
      Gina

  6. Dr. Saul is not saying that any of the symptoms commonly referred to as ADHD are not problematic or distressing – he indicates that these symptoms are severe enough for someone to seek help. He is not saying that these symptoms don’t exist – I believe that Instead of diagnosing a child or adult with ADHD the diagnostician should dig deeper to determine other conditions that may be causing problems. For instance, I had symptoms of ADD as a child, but as it turned out I had in diagnosed double vision and a hearing loss- of course I would have a hard time attending to information at school.

    1. As I said, Liz, ADHD is associated with auditory deficits. Vision problems, too. Perhaps you truly had ADHD — and still do. If so, medication often helps with these issues, and it helps globally instead of targeting, as Saul would advise, piecemeal symptoms with insufficient solutions.

      Saul is operating out of a 1950s mindset. He fails to make connections between the dopamine system and the various issues he cites as unrelated to ADHD. The book has flopped miserably, despite an aggressive and no doubt expensive media campaign. It currently ranks at 265,000 on Amazon. By contrast, my award-winning book was published six years ago and tonight it is at 10,000. Consumers aren’t stupid.

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  8. That’s always the way – when you write something, especially for print, it always needs careful thought- you can have an army of subs and copy-writers, but human nature being what it is, people tend not to question, even though it’s their job.

    One thing I realised about Dr Saul is that he was born in about the 30’s or 40’s and I suspect has a mind-set still rooted in those times – that might be a point worth making publicly.

    Also, you may enjoy reading (and joining in with) this thread from the British newspaper, The Guardian. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/mar/11/pronunciation-errors-english-language?CMP=fb_ot&commentpage=26

    It’s an amusing battle between US and UK English speakers, but extremely interesting if you like the origins of language, and how it changes.

    Thank you for not taking umbrage at my bluntness – have a good one (American phrase we BE speakers have adopted!) 🙂

    PS – what’s the book? I might be interested …

    1. Hi Stan,

      Regarding Saul, I am reluctant to be an ageist. The fool man’s age isn’t the problem. Paul Wender is probably older than Saul, and he is the “Dean of ADHD,” having contributed remarkably to putting ADHD on the map and still lecturing at Harvard. http://www.webmd.com/paul-h-wender

      Rather, I think Saul is simply arrogant and in many ways overestimates his abilities as a physician. The best physicians, in my opinion, have a good bit of the scientist in their mindset. Saul, by contrast, is a simple-minded proceduralist. He seems to understand nothing of the ADHD neurobiology.

      I am reading his book now, and it’s an abomination. For information on vision problems, he cites the Lenscrafters website! And the rest of his “citations” aren’t much better.

      He is a joke, a charlatan, a quack, and the foolish tool of some avaricious shark at Harper Collins, owned by Murdoch.

      As for my next book, Routledge Press asked me to produce a clinical guide for couple therapists. It’s been 18 months in the making, and I’m almost at the finish line. Whew!

      best,
      g

  9. I always do – I’m from the North East of England and we are pretty blunt! Sorry.

    However, you are quite right, although I think I would have described it in any review I made as ‘an overly-sensational and somewhat stupid book’.

    As you know, I don’t hold back … 🙂

    1. 🙂 Yes, you’re right. I vaguely remember questioning that word as I typed it. What I’ve learned, though, is if I try to perfect everything I type, I will feel overwhelmed by every blog post and comment to stupid articles on ADHD. My motto is: Progress not perfection.

      In my book, however, I reviewed each draft at least 50 times (or more) and hired three copy editors and proof readers. The printed word requires more care.

      tx
      g

  10. The World English dictionary is wrong and so are you to rely on it. It’s an AMERICAN dictionary, and Americans love to lengthen words t appear more important than they are (the people, not the words).

    Adding the suffix ‘ic’ is nothing to do with being from the Southern US, it’s all do do with poor use of English, sorry.

    Sensation can mean ‘a widespread feeling of excitement’

    Sensational can mean ‘arousing the senses’ or ‘exceptionally good’

    Sensationalist can mean ‘A PERSON who indulges in, or believes in, sensational behaviour or actions’. With this definition, it is a noun.

    So, you have TWO redundant suffixes to the word ‘sensational’ which is the one you should have used to describe Dr Saul’s stupid little book. 😉

    Sorry, I’m an English teacher, have AD/HD and probably a good salting of Asperger’s or some flavour of autism too … 🙂

    1. Haha! Don’t hold back, Stan. Give it to me straight!

      Here’s the rub: If I had described Saul’s “stupid little book” as “sensational,” readers (at least here in the U.S.) would take that to mean that I found it a wonderful book! The best ever! Awesome!

      g

  11. I agree with every word you say against this Dr Saul idiot but ‘sensationalistic’? No such word. You do yourself a disservice by your poor use of English.

    The adjective is ‘sensationalist’ – no ‘ic’.

    Sorry, I have AD/HD – I’m picky and also a British English teacher from England!

    1. Hi Stan,

      Ha! My Brit friends on Facebook love to correct my grammar, too. And they’re usually right! Of course, because I spend all day writing and editing (a new book for couple therapists), my poor brain sometimes lapses into my Southern colloquialisms when writing informally. 🙂

      According to the World English dictionary, sensationalist is both a noun and adjective whereas sensationalistic is an adjective. So maybe I’m not the New World heathen you have mistaken me for? 🙂

      At least we agree on Dr. Saul, and that’s the important thing!

      Thanks for writing,
      g

  12. hi everyone,

    I’ve read all of your comments with interest. I am a trainee primary school teacher who is currently working on a presentation focusing on aspects of ADHD.

    I have looked at Dr. Saul’s work and I find it interesting along with some other literature reviews that diagnosis has become “muddled” in some cases and unfortunately some children are misdiagnosed. I do not believe there are not people suffering with ADHD for one minute. There is enough evidence to support that. However, from a teacher’s point of view I thought you guys might be pleased that this has strengthened the cause to take each child as an individual and to work with the parents on issues around learning difficulties.

    May I address all the mum’s, dad’s and carers of children with ADHD please.
    How would you like to be involved/have been involved with the teacher of your child and supporting their learning? I feel that communication and teamwork between families and outside professionals that may become involved is essential. Is this your experience? Would any one like to give me any tips that I could apply in my future profession for the benefit of children who suffer with ADHD.

    Thank you in advance.
    Miranda

  13. Christopher Staeheli

    A simple question for this Neurologist, Dr. Saul: do headaches exist?

    Thanks for countering this dangerous physician. It is unfortunate that the media has now widely promoted and published Dr. Saul’s scientifically unsupported thoughts. There are other Authors, like one at the New york Times who make their living attacking the diagnosis and treatment of AD/HD. I would be amazing if a major News paper or magazine actually published an article on the individuals and families who have so clearly benefitted from having their AD/HD diagnosed and effectively treated. The over diagnosis of Bipolar disorder, then inappropriate treatment, has been extremely damaging to many children. By far the majority of Children who come to me labelled “bipolar” are not and most actually have untreated or poorly treated ADHD. I will do here what Dr. Saul did, site one case, I saw a boy on 6 medications for Bipolar disorder and had been tried on many more and nothing worked. Once his AD/HD was effectively treated he was on a single medication and went on to be extremely successful at home and school, he was simply a fast metabolizer and required a higher dose of a stimulant and treatment covering the whole day. It is dangerous and damaging though to use one patient anecdote instead of real scientific data, that said every single patient is unique and must be treated that way. Dr. Saul has done a great disservice. Thanks for refuting him. PS. DR. Saul just created a new “cause” for a headache, so I guess headaches do exist.

    1. Great points, Christopher. I know of several people with ADHD who, when given Adderall, displayed more “bi-polar” symptoms such as mania and increased aggression. Their physicians said that the stimulant had “unmasked” bi-polar. Instead, it was later determined that Adderall simply was not the right stimulant for this person. I wonder how often this happens with children diagnosed with bi-polar (which no doubt exists in children nonetheless).

      Thanks for your comments,
      g

  14. Thank you Gina for your response – I especially appreciate your way of
    being supportive while expressing your concern – re use of marijuana – and I
    also have to thank Matt for putting his question in a way that I have been looking for (alas, unsuccessfully so..:-)), for some time now (English is not my first language).
    I want to add that it was not my intent to propagate the use of marijuana on a
    regular basis (especially not for young people) and I have never done so myself – actually my sleep pattern has vastly improved after developing and training
    several relaxation techniques that I am mostly using now – takes some time and effort, though.

    cheers

    1. Hi bonfanoid,

      Thanks for your clarification. And I’m happy to hear that your sleep pattern has improved. My next book was supposed to be about ADHD and sleep, but I was prevailed upon to write/edit a book for therapists on ADHD couple therapy. It has been a LOT of work but is almost done.

      here’s a blog post I wrote on sleep and ADHD; the comments are particularly enlightening.

      To be sure: I’m not the marijuana police. 🙂 And I make no moral judgments. I just am concerned about people with ADHD not getting the help they deserve and being forced to find what works for them, even if only the short-term, and might make things worse for them.

      That’s one thing I greatly admire about Dr. Volkow, in addition to her scientific rigor and attitude of public service. She has made it her mission in life to understand why people become addicted and to adopt a more understanding/compassionate/practical attitude. Instead of shaming people and locking them up in jail — or putting them through expensive and often futile drug treatment programs that ignore underlying neurobiology — she promotes education and knowledge.

      I wrote this piece about her: http://www.ginapera.com/images/experts.pdf

      Thanks for the conversation.

      Gina

  15. Gina,

    Thank you for calling this guy out. I sincerely think people do not understand the harm this type of misinformation can do. Adhd as a diagnosis has Always been attacked, nothing new there. However, I do notice a huge uptick in challenging the research and it doesn’t necessarily have to be a reasonable challenge. It’s like people are already primed to hear ADHD isn’t real, and this kind of stuff sets them off and reinforces antagonism to any person with adhd getting help.

    How can this guy even keep a medical licence when adhd is the most studied child hood disorder?

    1. I agree, ginniebean. We can’t take anything for granted these days.

      There are some powerful and well-funded forces out there, wreaking havoc in all kinds of ways.

      Hold the line! 🙂

      g

  16. Gina, I decided to go on medication after reading your book and I’ve never looked back. I was having marital struggles and my ADHD was part of it. My marriage is as well as ever and medication was very helpful (there were other issues but me recognizing ADHD and seeking treatment was imperative). Drugs that create dependency destroy families, so the assertion feels like a personal affront.

    However, I believe impugning the character of someone is a slippery slope. I want that reserved for the realm of politics (actually I want it out of that too but I am being realistic). My life is a walking billboard for medication and a testament to those with an ear to hear. Fortunately for me my colleagues are on my side and I have converted a lot of people along the way.

    1. Hi Drew,

      I’m so glad my book was helpful. Good for you, for seizing the information and running with it.

      If I’m understanding your point, you think that I am “impugning the character” of this neurologist. In fact, I am impugning his actions, which I find despicable. If he had his way, you would NOT be getting treatment that you deserve. And, that is not acceptable.

      I believe that people should speak out. There is already so much misinformation around ADHD, these shameless charlatans and attention-seekers can do great harm. Harm that influences public policy, in fact, such as with Senator Chuck Grassley’s unrelenting attacks on psychiatric researchers — all in the name of “protecting the children.”

      We take for granted the excellent ADHD medication options in this country. People internationally write to me all the time, expressing their frustration that they have little to no access. And, we could lose this access if we don’t call out the nonsense and stand by the evidence — and the people with ADHD.

      So, no I brook none of this nonsense. The stakes are too high. I see the after-effects of each shameless book, each headline-grabbing article. They have real and lasting effects. Tolerance is not an option, in my opinion. Only vigilance.

      I’m glad your colleagues are supportive.

      Best,
      g

  17. Pingback: ADHD Does Too Exist! | Attentionality

  18. For anybody who might be interested in digging deeper into the subject of how
    drugs function inside the brain I recommend to take a close look at the Coursera course “Drugs and the Brain”, which has started just a couple of days ago.
    There is no need to feel shame or be defensive about trying to find out what works best for a person who is (desperately) seeking to establish a somewhat “normal” functionality of the brain and trying to make one’s work life easier.
    And even smoking can help under certain circumstances. I myself – who hates smoking – use every once in a while a cigarette to calm myself down and enhance my ability to focus. After years of trying (lots of prescriptions by MDs), I have finally discovered that the one thing that puts me to sleep without regret – is a joint. Since all these “substances” (and others) in question are natural ingrediences of the brain’s own pool of neurotransmitters the lack (or malfunction) thereof has to be adressed accordingly.
    Science and (recent) findings of scientific research and personal experience as well leave no room for doubt about the
    validity of this attitude.

    1. Hi Bonfanoid —

      That course sounds interesting; I’ll look for it.

      I know that a Coursera offering on ADHD was done by respected ADHD MD Tony Rostain, co-director (with Russ Ramsay, PhD) of the UPenn Adult ADHD Clinic. That’s worth looking into.

      And, I hate to disagree with you, but I would encourage you to be extremely cautious about using marijuana in that way (or any way). Especially with baseline ADHD. I know. I KNOW that it helps many people with ADHD to feel calmer and to go to sleep. But we have evidence that it can be further impairing — to motivation and to working memory — and on top of that, it creates an addiction.

      I know it can be tough to fall asleep at night, but truly, there are many other options to try before marijuana.

      It might be that something like 5-HTP (serotonin precursor) would help. Or, sometimes even a low dose of stimulant at night helps to “focus” on going to sleep and tuning out all the other thoughts. There are other possibilities that don’t involve Rx or involve Rx that are less risky than marijuana.

      best,
      g

    2. I couldn’t tell how to reply to Ms Pera’s reply, but this is to address her message:

      Out of respect for your evident knowledge in the general field, may I ask what is the basis for your assertion that marijuana creates an addiction? Or, perhaps just a clarification on the resulting addiction and marijuana’s role in creating it?

      Cheers,
      -Matt

    3. Hi Matt,

      Thanks for your question, so politely phrased. 🙂

      I am reporting the opinion of experts much more learned than I am, regarding people with ADHD “self-medicating” with marijuana. I’m not speaking of marijuana in general, for people who have no baseline psychiatric or neurocognitive conditions, though that apparently is problematic enough.

      Anecdotally, I know many people with ADHD who, often prior to diagnosis, used marijuana to help them get to sleep. Then to alleviate anxiety around work/study. Then, it was a daily habit. At today’s very strong marijuana levels (compared to, say, the 1980s), that’s a problem. ADHD already presents problems with initiation, motivation, and working memory. Adding a compound that further reduces those functions seems a very poor idea to me.

      I do appreciate that some people with ADHD honestly feel relief from marijuana, but there are much better ways of dealing with the anxiety or sleep problems that are often co-existing with ADHD. For one thing, stimulants alone are too often prescribed to people with ADHD, with no concern from the physician about co-existing depression and anxiety. I can’t count how many people I’ve heard from who take Adderall only and feel they must smoke marijuana every night to deal with the anxiety, sleeplessness. It is bad doctoring that causes these people to be vulnerable to marijuana’s perceived benefits.

      It’s a complicated issue, I know. And I’ve seen the ferocity with which people argue for the “natural” medication of ADHD. When it comes to brain function, however, I prefer to consult the brain scientists with no skin in the game of marijuana production and profit, such as NIDA’s Nora Volkow. She is an impressive scientist made all the more impressive because she has devoted her career to public service, in particular changing the discourse around addictions to be a more compassionate, scientific one. She could easily have gone into private industry and made many times the salary—and with less controversy. Here’s what Dr. Volkow says:

      The use of marijuana can produce adverse physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral effects. It can impair short-term memory and judgment and distort perception. Because marijuana affects brain systems that are still maturing through young adulthood, its use by teens may have a negative effect on their development. And contrary to popular belief, it can be addictive.

      http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/marijuana-abuse/letter-director

      more info here:

      http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/marijuana-abuse/marijuana-addictive

  19. I am an adult with recently diagnosed ADHD. I have suffered a lifetime of bullying, ridicule, criticism and shame. And what’s worse, I thought it really was all my fault, that I really was “lazy”, “stupid” and “irresponsible”.

    I could have been on medication many, many years ago. A doctor tried to prescribe Ritalin for me when I was a child but my mother was afraid to give it to me because she “heard bad things about it”.

    In my early 20’s, after my first diagnosis, I refused to take Ritalin because I had “heard bad things about it”.

    And when I finally did give in and try the Ritalin, I only experienced the life altering effects of it briefly before being cut off by a misinformed doctor who didn’t understand how it works.

    I recently began taking Vyvanse and even at the low trial dose of 20mg have experienced a wonderful change in my life. The ability to think clearly, to make decisions easily, and to focus on a task and complete it without feeling overwhelmed. These simple pleasures are what I get from taking a stimulant, things that others take for granted, that just come naturally to them.

    So to me, this Richard Saul’s assertion that adults who seek out an ADHD diagnoses are just looking to score some drugs is highly offensive. I have never used drugs. I don’t even smoke and rarely drink alcohol.

    Dependence and addiction are two different things. There are many people with serious medical conditions who are dependant on medication to be able to function and live a normal life. And many of those medications are far more dangerous than those used to treat ADHD. And yet no one calls them addicts.

    Alcohol and cigarettes claim thousands of lives every year, and not just those of the people who use them, but those of innocent bystanders. And yet they are readily available and not controlled as strictly as the stimulants used to treat ADHD.

    (For those who do not know, the stimulants used to treat ADHD are “controlled substances”, which means there are very strict rules to be followed by the prescribing physician and pharmacist. And that getting them is not so easy as Mr. Saul would have you believe.)

    “Exciting” and “an easy to reach for crutch” has to be the most inaccurate description I have ever seen for ADHD. There is nothing easy about living with ADHD. In fact, I have to work twice as hard as anyone else just to keep up. And it’s exhausting. Taking a stimulant is one way to help me keep up and alleviate that exhaustion, so that one day I may actually be able to enjoy having luxuries like a career, financial security and a home of my own. Things that, up until now, have always been nothing more than a dream. Now, for the first time, they seem like they might actually be attainable.

    It is no surprise to me that the media latched on to this story so quickly. It’s just the kind of sensational headline that they love. Things like scientific research and facts are boring. They don’t sell newspapers or increase traffic on your website.

    1. Good for you, Kaylee, that you kept your mind open despite all the things you’d “heard about.”

      Yes, it’s sensation-seeking at its worst.

      The day after the recent NYT story came out, the Washington Post ran a very balanced story based on interviews with top experts. Did that get posted and go viral? No, it wasn’t exciting enough.

      But Schwarz cherry-picks data and interviews fringe characters, and suddenly it’s gospel.

      The public needs to be cautious and vet their sources, but I’m afraid that is becoming a lost art.

    2. I’ve had similar experiences. Keep doing what helps you and allows you to do what you want to achieve.

  20. Gina,
    Saul joins the NYT in its repeated sensational misrepresentation of a clearly biological condition. Schwarz and Saul quite obviously seize on the *180 Degree Reverse-Marketing Concept:* First find the pulse of gossip, then convert it to a song, and jump our of your cave to dance around the campfire. Work up a sweat with school yard thinking whilst shouting in the darkness of denial.

    Categorical Opposites:
    1. Market the categorical opposite of scientific inquiry & discovery since the 1930’s – great headlines, makes the front page, puts the author’s kids through college. No attribution, rather self-opinion.
    2. Completely renounce rapidly growing cellular data – brain evidence that applies to Executive Function Disorder from brain researchers.
    3. Disdain technology and critical thinking – and completely ignore the thousands who have progressed with appropriate medical attention. Are those thousands simply ‘true believers?’

    This anti-intellectual trend would make Galileo smirk in the heavens as he will quickly recognize parallels between now and his times – how the Church in the 1600s decided the telescopic discoveries were wrong, especially when everyone could see that the sun rotates around the earth – everyday…

    Yes, seeing is believing to the anti-intellectual, the non-curious, and the reductionistic, regressive reactionaries who seek to pander on undeniable challenges built in to measurements of behavioral exactitude.

    Behavioral measures are inadequate, but not incorrect. It’s an accurate observation that ADHD medication protocols need a significant upgrade, and that ADHD diagnosis is a problem, but let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

    Those who suffer with Executive Function Challenges deserve, as you so accurately demonstrate, more consideration than pictures of kids screaming. Those pictures work for the campfire games, but only destructively undermine the rapidly evolving functional science, that neither author remotely understands.

    As for us, let’s work with Galileo who said:
    “Measure what is measurable, and make measurable what is not so.”

    Also they both need to curl up with the best work that covers the intricacy of current Executive Function Challenges: “Science and Sanity – An Introduction to Non-Aristotelian Systems and General Semantics” by Alfred Korzybski. He might curb their anti-complexity fervor with improved big-picture thinking.

    Kudos for standing up to be counted. Thanks for this interesting piece. Press on.

    Chuck
    Author: New ADHD Medication Rules – Brain Science & Common Sense

  21. He should have taken the Coursera course “Pay Attention!!” (by Dr. Rostain) and payed some attention!!!

    As someone who has been diagnosed and started treatment at age 64 (after retirement), I want to add this: I am thoroughly pissed off, angry at, apalled by, not amused at all and tired of people (especially when they out to know better – by their profession) who are inclined to making other peoples lives more difficult and miserable through ignorance or even (semi-) professional activities – as like in this this case – appearently driven by the wish to make some easy money on the expense of others – or does he present any scientifically approved research data ( maybe his own?) to support his case?.

    Professor Rostain has also adressed (providing data) issues like: over-diagnosing
    of ADHS (false), over-prescribing of drugs (false), (increased) addiction as a result of intake as prescribed (false).

    I am looking forward to the (necessary) increase of awareness in the public about the topic through websites like this one.

    Thank you for your work, Gina.

    1. You’re most welcome, bonafanoid. Thanks for noticing my work. 🙂

      It would be wonderful if Saul took Dr. Rostain’s course (talk about a wonderful ADHD expert!).

      But maybe that is the problem: Saul can’t pay attention! It presents quite a conundrum, when you can’t pay attention in order to learn about paying attention. You’d think he’d have more compassion for folks with ADHD. 😉

      g

  22. Holly Seerley, MA, MFT

    Gina, I sure wish all prescribers would follow the model used in the NIMH research. When behavior baseline checklists and follow ups are done, it is so much easier to figure out how meds are or are not working. And when parents are educated that one med causing side effects or not being effective does NOT predict that their child will react similarly to all stimulants, then parents don’t give up on the first trial. Adults too. I know you know this all too well.

    Holly

    1. Yes, I include this kind of information on medication in my book.

      Precisely so that consumers could help guide their physicians.

  23. Holly Seerley, MA, MFT

    KK, Yup. It is often a difficult choice for parents to make—medication. But I do not recall any parent I have woke with who made the medication choice who has come back and said they regret it. Instead parents have regretted not trying it sooner. They often see how much easier it is for their child to actually be themselves and in better control of decision-making. The right meds at the right dose can be life-giving.

    Holly Seerley, MFT

    1. Right Holly. And the wrong meds at any dose are another reason we have such confusion around ADHD.

      tx
      g

  24. Is that a direct screen shot? If it is, he needs to proof it better…it’s medicine, not medinicine.

    He wants to un-medicate my daughter and live with her without an ounce of compassion for what it does to her, her life and her family, he’s welcome to try. Not treating her was inhumane. Treating her was love.

    1. Hi KK — I wondered who would catch that! 🙂 Yes, it’s a screen shot.

      Guess the ADHD-denying doc has problems with details?

      Yes, exactly. Love and compassion and willingness to consider new ideas.

      best,
      g

  25. Agree, any parent can see the mental and physical aspects of ADHD in their children. My 12yr hates taking medication and tries to control impulses etc He cannot do it alone. Anyone who really has this does not want it

  26. The assumption that ADHD is fabricated is asinine and can only be proffered by people who have ZERO experience with it. A person WITHOUT ADHD responds to stimulants as if they are, you know, stimulants. However, a person WITH ADHD responds completely DIFFERENTLY. It’s biochemical and it’s OBVIOUS.

    So, people who know nothing? How about you STFU and stop stigmatizing (further) an observable, legitimate neurobiological variation.

    1. Thank you! I agree 100%. As a person who has ADD, and a mother of an ADHD child, I find it incredibly insulting that this doctor/author refers to people who use stimulant medications are chasing some kind of high and refers to them as ‘delightful’ drugs. That is the most ludicrous thing I’ve ever heard. Perhaps, in the case of wrong diagnoses and misuse of the medications, they may be viewed that way. However, for someone who actually has ADD/ADHD, the experience is NOTHING like that. These medications are life changing and absolutely needed. And, to be honest, I can’t believe this man thinks that any parent out there would give their child something in an attempt of chasing some kind of high. What parent wants their child to be high? Or drug addicted? I have stopped my meds in order to have another baby and while in search of a new doctor in the past. And can tell you I certainly am not now, nor was I then, drug addicted. He needs to spend some time with families who have parents and/or children affected by this disorder, not just a few minutes in a clinical setting. And do some real science-based research on the disorder. What an ass.

    2. You’re exactly right, Samantha. Thanks for your comment.

      I think this neurologist does not want to know the truth. It would interfere with his marketing strategy.

    3. In reply to Samatha: I agree with you. I have ADD inattentive type, my stepfather has it, and my younger sister has ADHD. We all take medication, and the things it does to my body are not pleasant: I lose weight, look less attractive, can’t sleep, and am dehydrated almost all of the time. Oh, and I have to eat about three times as much as I would otherwise just to keep myself satiated since it speeds up my metabolism, and to keep my weight in check, which often drops too much for me to continue taking it. Then, because of the metabolism thing, if I work out, I am hungry almost constantly to the point that I again, can’t concentrate, which is what the medicine helps me do in the first place. As such, while they help my concentration, motivation and energy level, these are not “delightful drugs” at all, and he clearly has no clue.

    4. Exactly, C. So much for “quick fixes.” He is clueless. And more importantly, seems to want to remain that way.

      I hope that you keep looking for ways to round out your treatment. You should not have to be suffering so many side effects in order to get benefits. You might want to check out some of the less-talked-about issues such as in Dr. Charles Parker’s book. http://www.amazon.com/New-ADHD-Medication-Rules-Attention/dp/B00DIKYPHS/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1389670141&sr=1-1&keywords=paying+attention+to+the+meds

      Maybe even look into a good assessment of your vitamin/mineral status, too.

      My MD just did this Spectracell test for me, and I was very impressed with its thoroughness. My scientist husband was impressed with the test and the way the information is presented, too. I trust his opinion.

      http://www.spectracell.com/patients/patient-micronutrient-testing/
      Good luck!
      Gina

  27. Ask anyone married to anyone with ADHD and they’ll tell you it’s real. And stimulant medications absolutely do help for a positive change, not for chasing some “high.”

    1. Definitely true, CR. Ask any parent of a child with ADHD, too.

      ADHD is very much real, and to deprive people who have it of legitimate information is a new class of low.

    2. While it makes sense to question things, why would the scientific community dedicate so many resources and so much time to something that doesn’t exist? There are EXPERTS on ADHD, who specialize in the study of it. This guy is clearly too narrow-minded to be a doctor, and I would never let him see my children.

    3. Hi C — good question.

      I think it plays to the “contrarian” attitude among some people. Or should I say “conspiracy theorist”?

      The idea that all the rest of medical science is wrong, and there’s this little ol’ unknown neurologist in Illinois who has the One True Answer.

      That’s why I call them the equivalent of climate-change deniers.

      Best,
      g

    4. I completely agree with Dr. Saul. It is a brilliant book. I have worked with special education children for over 20 years as a Speech and Language Pathologist, and every student I encountered with a diagnosis of “ADHD” had one or more conditions such as vision problems, hearing problems , lead poisoning, autism spectrum, etc. Of course ” ADHD”is a collection of symptoms- that is how it is “diagnosed”! I believe ADHD is a false disorder as well as Oppositional Defiance Disorder; the newest IEP label to excuse kids from poor behavior. Also, if you allow an “ADHD child to do something they love to do- suddenly they are no longer ADHD!

    5. Sorry, Liz. It is obvious that you don’t know the first thing about ADHD, including the fact that the underlying neurobiology can itself cause problems with hearing, vision, sensory issues, motor coordination, and even speech. It would behoove your work to learn more about ADHD so you are not susceptible to nincompoops such as Saul. Children depend on your being knowledgeable.

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