It’s that time again: A feeding frenzy on ADHD and the medications used to treat it. Because nothing sells like ADHD hysteria! This latest salvo in the anti-ADHD wars comes from Netflix, Take Your Pills.
Nobody has time for this nonsense. You surely have better things to do than read this post. I was immersed in developing online training for Adult ADHD-Focused Couple Therapy.
Yet, we all have a lot to lose by failing to speak up. The blogosphere is filling up with praise for Take Your Pills.
Don’t ever imagine that ADHD treatment is a given.
Look at many other Western countries, where adult ADHD is not even on the radar (often, pridefully so). The U.S. could devolve to that, too. Especially if single-payer takes hold.
Thank You For Sharing
The film’s clear aim is to provoke, to further confuse a largely science-illiterate public and pile on more stigma. “Driving us back into the closet,” says my friend Meg, age 40 and diagnosed at 35 (below, you’ll see the link to her post on life after she began taking stimulants.)
Moreover, this “Adderall epidemic!!! and ADHD over-diagnosis!!!” theme constantly rears its ugly head. In this post, I shed light on the reality.
The producers and Netflix call it a documentary. Yet that would imply balanced reportage. There is none in Take Your Pills. Most legitimate documentaries don’t shovel shame and stigma on people burdened enough. (A professional documentary critic agrees; see below.)
“I agree with some of it,” a young woman with ADHD responded to my Facebook post. It doesn’t work that way. You cannot cherrypick edible fruit from the toxic and still call the tree viable.
Sure, the filmmakers toss in a smidgeon of valid points. That serves to ensnare people ignorant to the complexities on this topic. But therein lies the trap: the filmmakers’ vainglorious claims of addressing “an important societal issue” amount to nothing more than a transparent and toxic Trojan Horse.
Their true agenda is clear: No more ADHD diagnoses and no more medications.
This Post Covers These Points :
Yes, this post is long. But I want to cover as much territory as possible.
Here are the highlights:
1. The producers are Maria Shriver and daughter Christina Schwarzenegger. Christina was diagnosed with ADHD at age 6. Neither one seems to know a thing about ADHD. Except for having it. But they have gobs of money, access, and an ax to grind.
2. You can watch a video interview, below, where they clearly reveal their ignorance.
3. Contrary to popular belief in the ADHD community, “Neurotypicals” are not the enemy of ADHD awareness and legitimacy. In my observation, it is a subset of people with ADHD who pose the biggest threat.
4. Professional documentary critic Christopher Campbell, an ADHD skeptic until his son was diagnosed, takes this film to task. Excerpt and link below.
5. A list of points about the complexities of “stimulant abuse”—including the fact that most of the people “abusing stimulants” probably have ADHD.
6. Two studies examining the “diversion” problem (diversion is when a prescribed medication is used by someone other than the patient for whom it is prescribed)
7. I provide several links to substantiate or expand my points. I hope they don’t distract you! Maybe try reading the post fully and then going back to the links.
Still Curious? Watch This Interview Instead
So, before you take the bait and watch it on Netflix, please think about the consequences. Every time we “vote” for skewed ADHD propaganda, in a film or newspaper, we say, “Give us more of this, please.”
(I’m convinced that the New York Times has been tapping into public hysteria about ADHD for years—simply because it drives web traffic like little else. That’s why I don’t share the links. And, rest, assured, Alan Schwarz, the former New York Times sports reporter who campaigned on the paper’s front page for a Pulitzer on the backs of people with ADHD, figures prominently in this film. I’ve heard he is now a high school math teacher. Don’t know who he is? Read these posts: Dr. Thomas E. Brown Responds to NYT’s Alan Schwarz and The Truth Behind “10,000 Toddlers Medicated for ADHD)
Hey, but don’t take my word for it! Check the videotaped interview below. It will tell you all you need to know about the filmmakers’ agenda. Shriver and Schwarzenegger are interviewed by Kara Swisher (wearing sunglasses).
Did She Actually Say That?
A friend watched it and said, “Did that woman actually say, ‘Why does a 16-year-old need executive function?’ Good lord!”
Why yes. Yes, she did.
Swisher also proudly disclosed that she “declined” suggestions of ADHD medication for her school-age son. Instead, she let him run around outside.
And. Then. This. Wait for it.
“Well, he’s just not going to do well in school. He’s a tall rich white man in America. I think he’ll be fine.”
Let that sink in a minute.
I’ve seen that attitude dominate in San Francisco, where Swisher lives. It’s a city is known for its high rates of substance abuse. Meth, opiates, and cocaine are the drugs of choice (if you don’t count startups and IPOs), according to The Most Commonly Used Drugs in San Francisco. In a future post, I share research showing the reduced risk of developing a substance use disorder among children treated early for ADHD.
“NeuroTypicals” Aren’t The Enemy
Let’s be very clear: “Neurotypicals” didn’t bring us this film. That’s the word commonly used to describe folks who don’t have ADHD but are blamed for ADHD denialism. “They don’t understand what it’s like to live with ADHD,” some will complain.
Here’s a little secret: In my long experience and close observation, no one publicly denies or obfuscates the facts around ADHD more than someone who has ADHD, is “in denial,” is narcissistic—and has something to sell.
The producers are Maria Shriver and her daughter, Christina Schwarzenegger. Diagnosed with ADHD in childhood, Schwarzenegger reports taking Adderall through high school and college. It’s a bit confusing, but it seems the only reason she quit was that her liver enzymes were elevated. “And no one told me this could happen!” With all that Shriver/Schwarzenegger money, her parents a broadcaster and a one-time governor, no one ever looked into this?
Anyway, according to them, everybody is abusing Adderall on college campuses. Everybody. How do they know this? Unclear. But one gets the feeling that, whatever lip service to ADHD’s legitimacy they might give elsewhere, any use of a stimulant is an illegitimate use in their eyes.
Is Everybody Abusing Adderall? Truly?
Shriver particularly points to the dangers of more young women taking stimulant medications—”cause they want to do start-ups.” Yet, my female friends with ADHD work as teachers, nurses, therapists, and every other occupation. Consider this post from the aforementioned Meg: On Trying to Swim Blind: ADHD and Medication
Where Meg writes poetically of horizons expanding and clarity sharpening when she is diagnosed and begins stimulant medication, Shriver sees only disaster and addiction. A national calamity.
Sneak Preview Highlights
Here are some interview highlights:
—Schwarzenegger says she was diagnosed at age 6.
In my experience, only the most severe cases of ADHD in girls are diagnosed that young.
—Shriver says her daughter was a “creative learner”
“But teachers will come to you and say ‘medication’ and I said ‘no no no.’ But there is a lot of pressure when the child falling behind.”
In other words, all the usual tropes….” schools are not designed for creative learners.”
And the world is designed for “creative learners”? Only if you are rich and privileged—and not so severely impaired by ADHD that you end up broke, addicted, and in jail.
—By the first year of high school, Schwarzenegger was taking Adderall.
She is careful to stipulate: This happened “only after extensive testing.” Then onto college, where she discovered the “Adderall epidemic.” She attended the highly competitive and costly Georgetown University. Was that the best choice for someone who had a long history of struggling in school? Who was allegedly a “creative learner”?
—Christina reports a hard time “getting off” of Adderall.
Schwarzenegger reports trouble functioning after stopping the medication. Shriver views that as proof of stimulants’ addictiveness.
But wait. My friends with ADHD might point out, “Well, duh, when you stop the medication, ADHD symptoms return. Maybe you forgot what that was like!”
For a vivid example of an unplanned medication “holiday,” check out Katy Rollins’ essay, ADHD Drug Holiday—Or Horror?
I just have to wonder why, with all their money and access, the Schwarzenegger-Shrivers settled for Adderall, that most problematic of stimulants. It works best for a minority of people. But for most, it causes more problems than it solves. Did the family do no research? Sure seems that way.
He Watched It So You Don’t Have To
Christopher Campbell is a freelance film editor and critic and the founder of the documentary review site Nonfics.
At The Thrillist website, he opens his incisive review of Take Your Pills (Side Effects of Netflix’s New Doc “Take Your Pills” Include Rage and Misinformation) this way:
One of my favorite jokes is about a man goes to the doctor seeking “smart pills,” only to walk out with a sample of what turns out to be rabbit droppings.
When he returns to the doc and points out that the “pills” are actually poop, the doc says, “See, you’re getting smarter already!”
Netflix’s new documentary Take Your Pills is the 90-minute equivalent of the “smart pills.”
Campbell acknowledges he is a reformed ADHD skeptic: