These days, I feel like Gilda Ratner’s character Emily Litella. No, it’s not because I’m mishearing “Youth in Asia” for “euthanasia” or “presidential erections” instead of “presidential elections.” Instead, I’m listening to news and analysis about the federal “stimulus package” but in my mind I keep hearing “stimulants package.”
Now that’s an odd thing, you might say. But consider this:
- Only one in 10 adults with ADHD in the U.S. are thought to be diagnosed, and only one-tenth of those adults are pursuing treatment.
- We also know that adults with unaddressed ADHD symptoms earn less, are more likely to be underemployed and unemployed, and are more likely to file bankruptcy and for divorce.
- In other words, many of these adults — 10-30 million Americans in all — stand at the very edge of our widening financial abyss. And their partners and children stand with them.
One thing about ADHD most people don’t understand: It’s not an attention disorder. It’s more of a regulation disorder. In fact, you could say that ADHD “deregulates” a person’s actions, thoughts, willpower, and behaviors.
Coincidentally, for the last two decades of this “deregulated” economy, we’ve also seen a staggering amount of unhealthy “self-medicating” — faster and faster cars, mountains of electronic gizmos, historic profits for the porn industry, unprecedented gambling opportunities, and unparalleled spending that has left us swamped in debt and willing to turn an increasingly blind eye to shenanigans on Wall Street.
I’m still waiting for the video “Limbic Systems Gone Wild.”
If a lone voice of reason spoke out—”This will not come to a good end!” —that voice was quickly shouted down with the adomonishment: “Don’t be negative!” (Funny, partners of some adults with ADHD know that retort well; they hear it whenever they express hesitations about their partners’ next new get-rich-quick scheme, for example, the one that threatens to plunge the family even further into debt.)
Not only that, but over the last few decades of “deregulation”, we have also gotten fatter and lazier, suffering from chronic “lifestyle” diseases. Research shows that untreated ADHD is also associated with higher rates of obesity. And while there’s no double-blind controlled research to prove my point, anecdotal reports from the support groups assure me of this: Their ADHD partners, in large part, eat horribly, sleep poorly, and get far too little exercise. (The credit card debt is pretty sickening, too.) It’s no wonder so many of them report hypertension and diabetes, even at young ages.
How are we going to “reform” healthcare if the role that unaddressed ADHD plays in chronic, epidemic health conditions is completely ignored? How will we “reform” costly prisons if we continue to ignore underlying psychiatric issues in the majority of the incarcerated?
But when I examine where these federal stimulus dollars are going, I sure don’t see billions allocated for mental healthcare, not to mention stimulant medications. Ironic, because maybe if some of these titans of industry who self-medicated with greed and increasingly complex and cockamamie schemes had received double-blind, control studied-stimulants, our federal coffers might have a few billion to spare for more high-minded purposes.
In California, following voter fervor for getting tough on crime with “three strikes,” we have prisons bursting at the seams and untenable costs both financially and socially.
(While working at a business paper during the military downsizing in the early 1990s, I wondered where all those defense contractors would turn their profitable attentions next. It took only a little digging: prisons. Next thing we knew: pandering campaigns to get tough on crime and the three strikes law, bought by a gullible public who were stuck in old paradigms. Many people have been made rich by these prisons, and their cost to society has been incalculable. But I digress.)
The “deregulating” Reagan administration scaled back federal leadership and funding for community health centers. In fact, even here in wealthy Silicon Valley, when people needing ADHD treatment but lacking insurance ask for help, I have nowhere to refer them. It’s a horribly helpless feeling.
And, frankly, it’s not much better when they have an HMO insurance or PPO insurance. The competent ADHD specialists simply cannot afford to treat ADHD in the way that these plans dictate it — in 15-minute increments monthly or on generic medications. (Thank you, insurance companies. Keep stirring up anti-psychiatry sentiments with fear of Big Pharma; that way, you won’t have to pay for all those next-generation medications that are a definite improvement over their ancestors, in the case of stimulants for ADHD, anyway.)
I realize I’m no public-policy expert. But I see the need, and the need is great. Moreover, for this country to massively ignore the impact of untreated ADHD on our financial, healthcare, and other systems is collective national denial. But it’s a stimulus package, isn’t it, not a stimulants package.
As Ms. Litella would say, “Never mind.”