Is ADHD Real or is it a Myth? Part Two
Taken from ‘The ADHD Handbook: what every parent needs to know to get the best for their child’ by Stuart Passmore
It is completely understandable that people are totally confused about ADHD or even doubt the existence of ADHD as a real behavioural disorder. There appears to be a number of solid arguments against the existence of ADHD including the contention it is simply a term used to describe normal childhood behaviour that has now been labelled as deviant and non-conformative behaviour. Others maintain that ADHD is nothing more than an elaborate scheme devised by powerful drug companies to make bigger profits through the sale of their medication. With all the different opinions we constantly hear through various media outlets many people question the reality of ADHD. So lets take a look at some of the more popular myths.
You can read Part One here
Myth: The medications they use for ADHD are dangerous
There is just one point that is very important to consider when dealing with this myth. It is true that some children may experience side-effects while taking ADHD medication, but it is equally true that people react differently to different drugs. Some people even have a reaction to or experience side-effects from non-prescription medications such as paracetamol or aspirin. There are a lot of factors a psychiatrist or paediatrician must take into account before placing a child on medication for ADHD. In the hands of a competent practitioner the child will be monitored carefully and if required the dose can or will be adjusted or the medication itself can be changed.
Myth: Giving stimulant medication to children puts the child at risk of becoming a drug user or an addict later in life.
Yes, it is true that medication for ADHD is a controlled substance and in most countries is restricted and requires a prescription to allow the patient access to the medication. However, according to the professional research that has studied this issue, at it currently stands, there is no evidence to suggest there is a relationship between children being prescribed medication for ADHD and later substance use and/or abuse. While stimulant medication can have abuse potential, stimulants are not addicting if they are used as directed by your paediatrician. This means that children and adults can stop taking the medication with little difficulty if taken as prescribed. Stimulants can become addictive if taken for the wrong reason. For instance, if taken in excessive amounts to get a high because of the mood elevating effects or to stay awake. Using stimulants for these purposes increases the risk of addiction. It is for these reasons that stimulant medication is not recommended for individuals who have a history of drug abuse.
Researchers have also examined the results of longitudinal studies for substance abuse potential. Longitudinal studies typically involve a research project that has been designed to involve and follow a group of participants over a number of years. The researchers will continue to follow the participants and collect all relevant data to their research design at certain time intervals such as when the child turns eight, ten and twelve years old and so on. The research has found that ADHD medications – as used in accordance with Paediatric direction – did not cause later drug addiction in children with ADHD only.
Myth: If ADHD does exist it disappears in adolescence and is very rare in adulthood.
This myth has been around for quite some time, and for a number of years even a lot of professionals were unsure if adults could really have ADHD. This was because it was thought that by the time the individual reached adolescence, they had all but outgrown the disorder. However, today it is readily recognised that the evidence from longitudinal studies finding ADHD exists into adulthood cannot be ignored. One longitudinal study asked whether or not the symptoms of ADHD would decline with age, so the investigators followed a large group of children with the disorder over a four year period. The results indicated that about 72 percent of the children still displayed enough ADHD symptoms to have received a diagnosis at 20 years of age. The researchers concluded that ‘our results also indicate that a majority of subjects continue to struggle with a substantial number of ADHD symptoms and high levels of dysfunction….by the age of 20’.
Next week Stuart Passmore will be addressing the link between ADHD, parenting and diet.