Truth Serum More Helpful Than ADHD Snake Oil

ADHD snake oil

Here’s one example of ADHD Snake Oil—the idea that stimulant medication makes you a drone of the “normal” world.

Historically, the term snake oil describes a worthless pseudo-medical remedy promoted as a cure for various illnesses. In 19th century America, snake oil was commonly promoted as a cure-all. (Read: The History of Snake Oil.)

In online archives where adults with ADHD share their thoughts, you will encounter just a few like this:

“Those of us who do take meds take them so we can function in a non-ADHD world.”

They would operate just fine in the world, they insist. That is, if it weren’t for all the “neurotypical” types making them toe the line.

Betsy Davenport, a Portland clinician who specializes in treating ADHD (and has it herself), responded to one such post. She has granted me permission to share it below.

Take Meds to Function in the “Non-ADHD” World?

Actually, I take medication to maximize my functioning in THE REAL world.  That includes my home, where we ALL have Quirky Brains. It has nothing to do with:

  • Other people
  • The conventional expectations of “the world”
  • The rigid social climate in which we live
  • Or any of that rot

It has everything to do with wanting to use my head effectively, with some basic activities of daily living. That includes things like:

  • Laundry
  • Meals
  • Heat and hot running water
  • Everyone sitting down together for a meal now and then
  • The abiding desire to live a life as somebody a little less primitive than the one I was born to be, given a brain that is not endowed with some of the higher functions.

That’s not to mention my wish to engage in more interesting matters like writing the three books I’m trying to write, the unique contributions I am in a position to make to my profession, or the responsibility I have to and for my family members, some young and some ancient.

The Road to a Satisfying Life Is Paved with Truth Serum

I am sick to death of combating the sour-grapes mentality that we’d be just fine if only the rest of the world would accommodate us.

First of all, it’s not going to. More importantly, I don’t care if it does or doesn’t. The fact is, it’s ME and MY hopes and dreams and ambitions and expectations that go unrealized as a result of ADD.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

My personal odyssey is far from over. It’s just begun. And, I am flabbergasted and appalled and SICKENED that it took almost a half-century for me to be at the beginning…that is, to finally have an ADHD diagnosis. It’s the crime of the millennium.

Finally, I submit to you all: The sooner you get on with it and stop kidding yourselves that ADHD is not a real disability which presents real problems which need real solutions, the sooner you’ll be functioning more effectively in work and play.

The road to a satisfying life is paved with truth serum.”

Thank you, Betsy!

For an example of life before ADHD medication—and after she had to go a weekend without them:  ADHD Drug Holiday—Or Horror?

Originally published December 2, 2008


4 thoughts on “Truth Serum More Helpful Than ADHD Snake Oil”

  1. Betsy Davenport

    Gina –
    If by “summer camp,” you mean for adults, I could really go for that. Kids get sent away a lot, and those who can’t go for reasons of their own (AD/HD, abxiety, etc.) stay home.

    EYE would be interested in a camp for grownups/parents that would help wth self regulation and plain old REST. And maybe a bit of instruction or whatever someone might feel they have to provide to consider it educayshunl.

  2. Thanks for your comments, folks.

    W — there are many more thousands (millions?) like you. Thanks for speaking up for them. The forces of ignorance are still upon us, and every voice counts!

    Dr P — There is one physician I’ve identified on the Peninsula (Silicon Valley) who brings a similar “meta” view to ADHD and other diagnoses. I can count on him to help people in a more holistic way, one that factors in medical and nutrition issues along with “mind” issues.

    Otherwise, it’s sort of a grim landscape, with the client having to piece together physicians who can really read lab reports, therapists who can apply neurocognitive knowledge to talk therapy, etc. It’s a lot to ask of anyone, much less someone who already has organizational issues.

    It’s just amazing to me that, with all of the money floating around Silicon Valley, we do not have a comprehensive ADHD clinic — or better yet, a summer camp. A place where someone could get help in regulating sleep, develop healthier habits, and have medication titrated in a watchful setting.

    Ah well, a girl can dream…..

  3. Betsey put its very well! As someone with adult ADD, I certainly would not want to live in a world that conformed to the disorder; it would be a world of wasted opportunity, frustration and misspent energy. I was diagnosed ten years ago and adderall has truly turned my life around, not gotten rid of the add but allowed me to hold a job and be successful and build and maintain relationships.


  4. G-
    Each time I drop by over here I am so encouraged by the comments you choose from interesting, articulate folks like Betsy, – to the practical and useful tips from your considerable experience with those ADHD folk right there on the front lines of life. I’m encouraged because voices with your passion and intelligence will ultimately demystify and reduce the pervasive stigma that continues regarding ADHD on the streets.

    In the medical profession many have lost their footing, and shoot at medical targets, the ephemeral vapors of ADHD diagnostic criteria, that prove amorphous at best. Since Freud we have repeatedly found ourselves lost in dreams, fantasies and ‘descriptions’ with little appreciation of functional, systems biology. No blame, fault finding or finger pointing here, – the science simply has raced past everyday office work.

    As a result of this unhappy circumstance many wait for scientific diagnostic pronouncements from psychologists who also find themselves perplexed and clouded by the same diagnostic limitations, the same fuzzy thinking.

    The solutions for this pervasive perplexity are at once simple and complex. On the simple side we must look more deeply at function, ‘brain and body function’ – basic evidence without overlooking clinical ‘description.’ The complexity comes with understanding the new science, from brain imaging to molecular and cellular physiology – it’s complicated, but is teachable, clinically useful and interesting.

    Thanks also for your ‘medical support.’ It certainly helps that you have excellent experience with different interventions, including medications when they do work, and are properly adjusted. With so much imprecision out there, it’s reassuring to know that real precision, correct dosing and titration, is possible – and affirmed by common experience.

    Thanks for your excellent work, your passion, and your fresh wit on some very touchy subjects.

    Very much look forward to working together this year!

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