. . . because so many people get it wrong.
Blogs are for complaining, so here goes.
Well-meaning people think that I want to be an ADHD advocate because I have it. They have the idea that I would be waiting on pins and needles for any new news. Well I’m not. In fact, I often dread it because all the old saws about ADHD resurface again. I see ADHD ranking high on Google News and I sigh.
The news that ADHD diagnoses are on the rise is a non event. It could mean so many things: more ADHD, better diagnosis, worse diagnosis, change in criteria for diagnosis, journalists misinterpreting scientific studies.
Morning Joe had their way with the story yesterday. Joe Scarborough got going on his usual trope about overmedicated kids when that wasn’t even the news story. The panel discussion wound its way to prescription drug abuse and Joe’s contention that “they” tried to put “every kid” on medication at a certain time in history. There was talk of stimulant medication as a gateway drug, how high school and college students use illegally obtained Ritalin to study or perform better on their SAT’s.
The subtext is clear: they think ADHD doesn’t exist.
I find the Morning Joe show’s critique of stimulant medication quite entertaining given that their show is a daily three-hour advertisement for Starbucks, and as they make these critiques, they are literally sitting at an altar of coffee beans. It’d be like sitting around a hookah taking drags while complaining that people need to start taking better care of their health to reduce cancer rates.
Guess what? People use coffee to perform better. People take it to do better on tests, and it doesn’t stop there. Coffee is a gateway drug. Alcohol is next. If there ever was an American way of life, it is uppers in the morning, and downers in the evening. Once you’re into drinking, well, you know where that goes. It all starts by getting hopped up on coffee.
So, some more myths about ADHD and medication:
1. Read this carefully and understand it. It’s the one thing I want people to know. ADHD is difficult to diagnose and treat properly. A lot of wrong diagnoses probably happened in the world. Children should not be casually be given medication for ADHD like they might be given a pain reliever for a fever or a piece of candy for cleaning their rooms. A teacher should not be making medical and psychiatric decisions.
All true statements, but none of these things has any bearing on whether ADHD is real or not.
2. For people with ADHD, taking stimulants does not make you “hopped up.” That’s what happens when you take stimulant medication and do not have ADHD (or have the wrong dose). Ritalin makes me calm and clear headed, unlike coffee, which makes me manic and jumpy (read: hopped up). Ritalin stimulates the executive function so all that other craziness settles down.
3. The fact that people without ADHD abuse stimulants has no bearing on the reality of the disorder. The premise of the story is that these people do not have it.
4. Everyone is not “a little ADHD.” That’s insulting. If you’re saying that, you’re saying that those of us with ADHD are just not trying hard enough, that we are moral failures for our disorder. We’ve been hearing that most of our lives. That’s long enough. Everyone responds to stimulus differently. Everyone. That means that plenty of people experience the world differently from you and me. I see a roller coaster and I think “fun!” Other people see the same roller coaster and think “death train of fear and vomiting.” Still others see “kiddie ride: boring.”
5. Medication is not “just a crutch.” It may be a crutch, but not “just.” And what’s wrong with crutches? Are you going to deny crutches to, say, a person with spinal bifida? (I know that he was deformed from birth, but if he just tried harder he could feel his legs.) Doesn’t everyone need support in doing difficult things? If you say this to me, you’re saying my choices are either to flounder around miserably or do my work but feel like it’s not “real” work, that it is somehow diminished because I took Ritalin first. Is my work any less real than someone who drinks Red Bull first? Or eats chocolate while working? Or takes smoke breaks?
The end. I feel better. Back to our regularly scheduled content. Here’s a funny picture.