Myth #9: Medication Only for Severe ADHD

who decides who deserves ADHD medication

Myth #9: ADHD medication should be reserved only for severe cases.

Who made that rule? Who knows. Sounds Puritanical. Or, in the case of hucksters exploiting the “ADHD Market,” marketing.

You might have heard ADHD called a spectrum condition. That is, it exhibits in varying degrees of severity.  Therefore, on the face of it, Myth #9 is partly true: Some people with milder ADHD find little need for medication. Instead, they opt to implement targeted strategies. Even people with more severe ADHD symptoms deserve to know all their options.

That’s not the point if this myth-busting post. The point is: Who exactly gets to decide when you’ve suffered enough to meet their criteria for deserving medication?

A Question of Deserving?

The public often dismisses anything but the most severely impairing cases of ADHD as not deserving medication. As if one must first prove worthiness—by failing in life. Amazingly, even among some people affected by ADHD and benefiting from medication, there exists a certain self-centered myopia.

For example, you’ll  see variations on this sentiment expressed in the comments to any online article about ADHD:

Well, I know ADHD is real, because my child has it and has benefited greatly from medication.

But it simply cannot be that all these other children have ADHD and need medication. It’s way over-diagnosed, for sure, and over-medicated.

In other words, ADHD is real for me or my child. But for you or yours? Unlikely.ADHD medication only for severe cases

Physicians, Heal Thyselves

The public is further led astray by fringe physicians claiming ADHD expertise and making sensational claims about who deserves medication. The Anything-Goes Internet makes it oh-so-easy.

Upon closer examination, these physicians’ expertise typically lies more in self-promotion than clinical acumen. They give no indication that they are familiar with research or evidence-based practices. More concerning to me, however, is the reckless and even callous disregard they show their readers.

Instead, they use inflammatory rhetoric in order to exploit a science-ignorant public, vulnerable parents, and “in denial” adults with ADHD.

Consider this, from Dale Archer, MD (in “The High Price of a Quick, Quick Fix”):

“… I have come to understand that medication should only be a last resort, and even in those cases, people don’t need to be on these pills forever. But it has long been held that medication is oh so much easier in our pop-a-pill, immediate gratification culture.”

You read that right: A last resort.

In other words, until you or your child are worn down to a nub, medication is off-limits.

You also read that right: Pop-a-pill.

As if finding a stimulant medication that works best for that individual is ever an easy fix.  Then there are the commonly co-existing conditions to consider. They complicate treatment and often require a fine-tuned balancing act with a second or third medication.

When Medical Doctors Peddle Disinformation

Archer is promoting his book,  The ADHD Advantage.

It’s been endorsed by that heretofore unknown Southern California suburban therapist, Marilyn Wedge.  (She of “French Kids Don’t Have ADHD” infamy). (My response: French Kids Don’t Have ADHD? Wrong!).

Yet, an online ADHD-themed magazine (heavily supported by one pharmaceutical company) promotes a webinar touting Archer as an “ADHD expert”. On what basis? Is there a business association? If so, is it disclosed?

It’s no wonder, then.  The public continues to harshly judge people who take ADHD medication—or who give medication to their children. They have been authorized to do so by MDs.  No matter if the MD was board-certified in psychiatry eons ago and has no discernible expertise in ADHD. No matter if the MD is power-tripping — or in vigorous denial of his own potential ADHD challenges.

The same holds true for fringe neurologist Richard Saul, of ADHD Does Not Exist. That book made a big PR splash, thanks to publisher Rupert Murdoch’s largesse. The rollout included translations in about 10 languages, as I recall. But it flopped soon after. (See ADHD Does Not Exist? Wrong, Richard Saul)

It must be said: Being an MD who allegedly has ADHD does not automatically confer ADHD expertise. That flies in the face of basic logic.

The Risks Are Great

Actions have consequences. These online promoters risk millions of people never

  • Learning why they, or their loved ones, are continuously dogged by certain problems that feel out of their control.
  •  Having the opportunity to choose to gain control, via medication.

They might even prey on a human proclivity toward begrudging others who gain a perceived advantage they do not enjoy.

Borrowing a metaphor from my blog series ADHD, Eyeglasses, and Stigma: We might compare it to how some of us need eyeglasses to keep from walking into walls, but others need eyeglasses only to see finer details. As in reading.

Here in this 21st Century, reading is important. Don’t you find it equally important to see finer details, such as the word stop on that big red sign or a contract’s “fine print”  before you sign it?

These rogue physicians perpetuate misinformation that risks eroding ADHD public policy, including insurance coverage and medication.

ADHD medication only for severe cases

Don’t Count On “Society” Being Logical

By the way, never assume that because millions of people suffer from a condition, society will acknowledge the need for treatment—even if it is readily available.

Consider the discovery that eating citrus fruit prevented scurvy in British sailors. It took more than 100 years for officials to start implementing those measures. What’s worse, scurvy’s symptoms were known, obvious (pallor and abundant spots), and fatal.

Have times changed? Not enough, experts warn.

Clinical Care Lags Behind Best Practices

Medical evidence can take 20 years or more to trickle down to the clinical standard of care—that is, what you’ll find in the average physician’s office. That goes for everything from hypertension to ADHD.

It also took years for our society to accept the widespread occurrence of depression and anxiety, conditions commonly linked to serotonin, among other brain chemicals.

Now, society is slowly accepting that, in a similar fashion, ADHD is linked to brain chemicals such as dopamine and norepinephrine.

We have a choice to make: embracing modern scientific discovery or languishing in old superstitions and promoting misinformation that limits human potential.

I welcome your comments.
—Gina Pera

49 thoughts on “Myth #9: Medication Only for Severe ADHD”

  1. I just found you yesterday through a recommendation from Jaclyn Paul, author of Order from Chaos. I immediately purchased your audible book, Is it you, me or ADHD and am currently listening to it. I also am looking through your website. When I read this article, I knew I had reached the information I’ve been looking for.

    I am 54 years old, was finally diagnosed with ADHD and started medication in April of this year. I’ve suspected I had it for 30 years but couldn’t get anyone to believe me. Ironically, Dr. Dale Archer was the first “expert” I saw to get diagnosed because my son was diagnosed with it back in the early 90’s. Dr. Archer informed me I couldn’t have ADHD because “adults don’t have ADHD”. He then went on to not only claim HE had ADHD but also wrote the books you reference here.

    Unfortunately, all of the mental health professionals in my area have worked under him at one point or another during their careers so they share that same idea. Instead, I’ve been on depression and anxiety medication for 30 years with no improvement. One psychiatrist went so far as to argue with me that I was bipolar instead of ADHD. She refused to listen when I explained I had never in my life had a manic episode. I was so exhausted trying to function. She then claimed I was depressed instead.

    From the first pill, my life these last 4 months has been a complete turnaround. Each day is better than the last. Through your book and further research, I am starting to realize that both my husband and I have ADHD. It’s mind boggling to me how so very thorough that ADHD affects our lives.

    While it is painful to hear myself described in your book, I am determined to move forward with healing, better coping skills, and awareness of my brain.

    Once we get our financial situation back under control, I will be purchasing your counseling program.

    1. Dear S.W.,

      I am SO grateful that my friend Jaclyn steered you in the right direction. Anything she writes you can take to the bank!

      While reading stories such as yours, I feel extremely grateful that I don’t have high blood pressure. Because stories like this ….. so outrageous….. real lives. Just astounding.

      Congratulations to you, for pushing through. And wow, you’re having success with medication! Hurrah!

      Mind-boggling indeed!

      I’ll be in touch via e-mail. Please look for a message.

      Thank you so much for your comment.

      Best of luck to you and your husband!

      Gina

  2. Challenging myths and misconceptions is important. Thank you Gina! I call ADHD a “condition” deliberately, because words and how we think is important. ADHD is not a “problem.” Sure, it can cause problems, but ADHD itself is a neurophysiological condition. It is not a mental illness. It’s not a behavior problem. It’s not a moral degeneration. Yet many folks have seen it as such, and still do. The objective of this BLOG is consistent with the mission of “The ADHD Guy” – to dispense with, and dispel the, at times, gross misunderstandings and myths that still exist out there about ADHD. Thank you for all that you do! – Shane Bruce

  3. Gina I may have made a huge mistake unknowingly the doctor that I’m seeing is an opiate addiction DR and works for the county of Ventura behavioral please let me know if I made a goof. He is reducing my Dexidrine medication and giving me dum answers.

    1. Jerry — of course I can’t really offer a useful opinion.

      But some addiction docs have seen more people who abuse stimulants than they’ve seen people with ADHD who use stimulants responsibly (and often forget to refill or even take!). So, he might have a “hole” in his knowledge base.

      g

  4. Yes Gina, I got the information but all I have is Medicare and at the end of each month I am flat broke because things keep going wrong. My medi-cal plan is Gold Coast health plan in Ventura I don’t know if they cover it or not. I’m not sure how to use the leads effectively that you gave me. How can I do anything like research and even talking correctly to someone. I honestly don’t even know if I’m doing your program correctly I don’t know computers and how do I know if I’m talking to you or the world. I’m very self conscious about sounding stupid about anything I say on the net. Would you kindly let me know where on your program I made mistakes or been in the wrong place when saying something.

    1. HI Jerry —

      Good. Thanks for letting me know.

      I understand. Medicare can be an issue when it comes to psychiatric services.

      Can you call maybe two of those resources I sent? And just talk to them? Maybe they take Medicare or would otherwise be willing to help you.

      If not that, about about a GP who takes medicare? Or county mental health? Here is a website:

      http://www.vchca.org/behavioral-health/clinics-and-services-locations

      Maybe you have a friend who would help you research this, in person? I’m sorry it is so difficult. 🙁

      Don’t worry about making mistakes here. You’re doing fine. I’ll always delete your last name, to retain your privacy.

      best,
      g

    2. This indicates I wanted to cancel my subscription I do not I maybe I pushed the wrong button. Do you have some kind of outline you showing how to respond to what and what button to push. Basically right now I’m just shooting in the dark in fact I can’t find all my comments that I made and if I want to keep a particular comment or comments how do I do that

    3. Hi Jerry,

      Just try to re-subscribe, with the same e-mail address as before.

      It won’t let you subscribe twice.

      As for searching for your comments, I don’t know of a way you can do that.

      best
      g

  5. Gina,

    Nice piece, you’ve indicted both medical professionals and social opinion in this piece. It makes me smile.

    The article is helpful in clarifying my approach to all those people with “mild ADHD” out there…who have been through divorce, addiction, bankruptcy, prison etc. The common perspective is they want to stay away from meds because of “side effects” because they has a “mild” case. This post will help them consider one of the most effective tools in managing ADHD symptoms.

    Again, you’ve elucidated something I am passionate about and created something valuable.

    Thank you,

    David

    1. Hi David,

      Thanks for visiting the roller coaster!

      You know, I never intend to indict anyone. 🙂 Rather, my intention is to caution the innocent. And protect.

      Thanks for your comment,
      g

  6. Eeika do your homework. Find a good Dr “quick” that understands ADHD. You’re lucky you’re in San Francisco with this problem I wish I was

    1. Jerry — Did you see the information I posted (in a comment) about ADHD specialists in Camarillo/Ventura? I also e-mailed it to you.

      Please respond to let me know you saw it.

      tx
      g

  7. I am absolutely positive that my 11yr old son has ADHD but am running into every road block imaginable (it’s too long of a story for here) getting him tested. Please, if you have any ideas of who I could take him to in the San Francisco bay area – the north bay – that would be covered by Anthem Blue Cross, I would be so appreciative of the help. My husband and I have tried every alternative therapy possible for him and I am finally ready to consider medication. I’m scared, but I’m willing. Please help?!

    1. Erika, don’t waste any time getting him the medication believe me Gina knows what she’s talking about. I’ve been there, under worse circumstances. I know what I’m talking about. Just do it tomorrow. It takes time just to find a doctor, then you find one that knows what he’s doing its going to take 3 to 4 weeks to get the appointment and it sounds like you need it now

  8. If you really do have ADHD it does not go away. It will never go away. It WILL take medication to keep you going.

    I was on medication for over 20 years. It seems that when you get over 70 years old doctors do not want to take the risk and will slow your meds down and even refused to give them to you. You cannot just stop taking meds because your life stops and if you have always been used of being on the go and getting things done and always developing new things otherwise keeping yourself busy and you cannot find a doctor that will prescribe what kept you going for that 20 some years then you have a good chance of dying and I don’t mean of natural causes I’m 75 years old I’ve been on the meds for 25 years now doctors won’t give them to me and because of the risk.

    When I ran out of medication and the doctor wouldn’t give me enough to function then I become very tired and feel very helpless all the time. I went through the Northridge earthquake and was on the fault line. Five years after that my wife committed suicide so suicide is no stranger to me and I’m smart enough to know that my life is over as I know it and without the proper amount of medcations there will be no future for me When an ADHDer goes to school as a child to learn they can not learn. If you need to do something or accomplish something you must figure it out yourself or in short you have to wing it or just get lucky which happened to me but only for five years..if a person is not adhd the medication will not work but if a person is actually adhd medication will work and it must be kept in your system every single day and above all, Dont forget a dose. I used alarms.

    It took aprox 2 yrs to figure out what worked, the dosag amout and how many doses per day. It took 6 doses of 25mg Dexidrine tablets every 2 1/2 hrs, ( SRs) didn’t work for me, neather did Adderall. I knew Gina Pera from over 20 years ago we had long talks. I was referred to her by Dr. J. From Canada. I recently moved from LA County to Ventura County. I had to acquire a new doctor and I am 75 years old now and the doctor is giving me 20 mg of Dexidrine insted of 30mg at 3 times a day insted of 6. I tried this 20 yrs. ago and it didn’t work. This tells me he just doesn’t care. He cares more about himself than his patient. He has over 20 years of documentation and letters.

    I’m not going to have near enough medication to do anything for me and I know where my life is going to go. If you have ADHD and you’re in my situation do not change doctors if you can help it. When you get older and have a situation which requires a new doctor he will not treat you with the correct amount of medication that you must have to function properly or function at all. The age of the patient seems to be 70 years old or older as far as doctors are concerned. Doctors these days are running scared of being sued because of the people that do not have ADHD but are abusing the medication they sniff it they even mix it with water and inject it in there vains and we have to pay for that sometimes with our lives.

    1. Hi again, Gerald,

      I am really outraged at your situation. I know that it happens — MDs refusing to prescribe stimulants for people older than 65 (or even younger) — because I’ve tried to help many people in that situation.

      I’ve made a few inquiries on your behalf, in the Camarillo area. I’ll let you know if I receive a response.

      You DESERVE your ADHD medications. Doctors are throwing entire pharmaceutical arsenals at older people these days, many of them that aren’t doing much good and can do much harm. Your medication can keep you healthy, happy, and active, and that’s what they need to understand.

      I’ll keep you posted, and you keep trying, okay?

      And, yes, I remember you!

      Gina

    2. I appreciate that very much Gina because my world seems to be crumbling underneath me all because the doctors won’t let me have a life.
      Jerry

    3. Hi Jerry,

      I found some leads!

      Here is a link: https://psychiatrists.psychologytoday.com/rms/prof_results.php?city=Camarillo&spec=6

      I left a message with Wendy Piper, but her webpage says that she treats seniors.

      I also called Joyce Weckl’s office (she, like Piper, is a psychiatric nurse). They treat seniors with ADHD as well. She is actually in Venture, not Camarillo, as the website says. 3585 Maple Street. They take some insurance (Aetna, etc.) but no Medicare. The first visit is $300, and thereafter $110.

      I hope this information is helpful! Please keep me posted.

      g

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