Myth #9: ADHD medication should be reserved only for severe cases.
Who made that rule? Who knows.
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 in this myth-busting post. The point is: Who 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 people affected by ADHD and benefiting from medication, there exists a certain self-centered myopia.
For example, you’ll see 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? Color me skeptical.
Physicians, Heal Thyselves
The public is further led astray by fringe physicians claiming ADHD expertise and making sensational claims about who “deserves” medication.
Sorry to say, these physicians’ expertise lies more in self-promotion than clinical acumen. They seldom bother to read the research. Even worse: They show not the slightest concern for the people they are harming.
Instead, they use reckless rhetoric in order to exploit a science-ignorant public, vulnerable parents, and “in denial” adults with ADHD. The Internet makes it oh-so-easy.
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.”
A last resort.
In other words, until you or your child is worn down to a nub, medication is off-limits.
As if medication is ever an easy fix. (Look for a post on that particular myth soon!) No prescribing physician who competently treats ADHD thinks of medication as an easy fix.
The ADHD Advantage?
(Or, Taking Advantage of People with ADHD?)
Archer is promoting a book called The ADHD Advantage.
It’s been endorsed by that heretofore unknown Southern California suburban therapist, Marilyn Wedge (of “French Kids Don’t Have ADHD” infamy). (My response: French Kids Don’t Have ADHD? Bien Sûr Que Si, Ils L’ont!).
Even worse, Additude magazine promotes a webinar by touting Archer as an “ADHD expert”.
It’s no wonder, then, that 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. (The same is true for fringe neurologists, such as Richard Saul, of ADHD Does Not Exist—which made a big PR splash, thanks to publisher Rupert Murdoch’s largesse, but has since flopped.)
It must be said: Being an MD who allegedly has ADHD does not automatically make you an ADHD expert.
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. They risk millions of people never having the opportunity to choose to gain control, via medication. They prey on an American tendency to hold grudges over someone gaining 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 the words in a contract before you sign it?
Who are the Dale Archers and Richard Sauls of the world to limit your or your loved one’s options?
The misinformation created by these operators risks eroding ADHD public policy, including insurance coverage and medication. ADHD needs to be taken seriously, not treated like a giant pinata by opportunists.
Don’t Count On “Society” Being Logical
By the way, never assume that because millions of people suffer from a condition, society will act quickly to treat it.
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.
Medical Evidence to Clinical Care:
It Takes 20 Years, On Average
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 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 misinformation that limits human potential.
I welcome your comments.