Myth #9: ADHD medication should be reserved only for severe cases.
Who made that rule? Who knows. Sounds Puritanical.
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 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.
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 disregard they seem to have for 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.”
A last resort.
In other words, until you or your child are worn down to a nub, medication is off-limits.
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 (of “French Kids Don’t Have ADHD” infamy). (My response: French Kids Don’t Have ADHD? Wrong!).
Yet, an online ADHD-themed magazine promotes a webinar touting Archer as an “ADHD expert”. On what basis?
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 neurologist Richard Saul, of ADHD Does Not Exist—which made a big PR splash, thanks to publisher Rupert Murdoch’s largesse, but has since flopped. (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.
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. 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 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.
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 misinformation that limits human potential.
I welcome your comments.