My previous article, ADHD is Real, goes over a bit of the history of the disorder, common misperceptions, and some of its symptoms - particularly those that do not relate to inattentiveness or hyperactivity. Originally I wanted to cover everything in one article, but it was getting too long. So in this article I present the second half of my argument, involving ADHD treatments, and addressing people who claim the disorder is a myth.
Again I’d like to acknowledge that I myself am not a medical professional - I am simply someone who has seen ADHD affects the lives of family and friends, and am concerned by some of the attitudes and views being propagated about the condition. No article is a replacement for a real medical diagnosis, and I welcome any comments and corrections.
ADHD Drugs and Their Side Effects
One of the biggest aspects of the ADHD “controversy” is the use of medications to treat the disorder, especially in children. I completely understand the reluctance and lack of desire to treat your kids using drugs in lieu of other treatments. However, it should be noted that the side effects of these medications, while often unpleasant, are rarely if ever serious or life threatening. (Just out of curiosity, I did a web search for “ritalin deaths”. Naturally it was difficult to find any mainstream sources backing up these claims - nearly every source was a fringe website). Common side effects of ADHD treatments include - trouble sleeping, nausea, loss of appetite, and some irritability and mood changes.
Some people may encounter somewhat more serious issues, such as blood pressure issues and more severe mood problems. However this is the exception rather than the rule. Doctors also will not just hand you any old pill after a short diagnosis - diagnosing ADHD is a long complex process, involving multiple interviews with yourself and those close to you, and a close look at your personal history and other factors. If you are experiencing serious problems with your medication, most doctors will work with you to find a suitable alternative. For the vast majority of people ADHD drugs are not habit inducing, and will leave your system and bloodstream within a few days. Finally, while medication is one of the most effective ways to treat the disorder, there are still a sizable amount of people who choose other treatments, such as cognitive behavioral therapy.
The Face of the Opposition
It is an unfortunate reality that the views of many fringe psychologists and alternative therapists are given equal, or more, weight as those of experienced scientists and researchers when it comes to this disorder. Whenever you come across someone - in person, or in an interview given on a website or on TV - there are several things you have to consider. First - what are their credentials? Remember, as stated in the ADHD Consensus Statement, there is no ADHD controversy among mainstream medical professionals. Various organizations, psychologists, and researchers from many different backgrounds (not necessarily aligned with the pharmaceutical industry) have long ago concluded that ADHD is a valid neurogenetic disorder.
Does the person arguing against the disorder have a real, legitimate background in medicine or psychology? Or are they practicing some form of alternate treatment or therapy - such as neuro-linguistic programming, or life coaching? Many deniers claim that pharmaceutical companies just want to profit off your children. While it’s true that corporations aren’t saints, and that we shouldn’t believe absolutely everything they say, keep in mind that many alternative therapists have their own special interests at stake as well. They too have a vested interest in convincing you that the other treatments available are toxic and dangerous, and that you should try their method instead. Worse yet, most of these alternative therapies have no basis in mainstream medical thought, and very little, if any scientific research backing up their claims.
You may occasionally come across a licensed psychologist who is convinced that the condition is a myth. In that case - check the quality of their arguments, and what research they are citing. I have seen several instances of deniers outright dodging questions and using faulty or dated research to back up their claims. Pay attention to whether or not they are actually addressing the issues at hand, whether or not they seem to have a genuine understanding of neuroscience or psychology, and most importantly, see if any of their claims seem exaggerated or sensationalist. If someone is not actually addressing your points, and instead is harping on about the Big Pharma Conspiracy, chances are they do not know what they are talking about.
While I hope I’ve covered the important points regarding the validity of ADHD as a disorder, no article is a replacement for professional sources or treatment. Look into mainstream medical sites and the research of respected professionals and researchers in the field - such as Russell Barkley. Get as much information as you can to get a realistic, balanced view of what the condition is, what it isn’t, and the pros and cons of the pharmaceutical industry. While it’s true that companies are out for profit, just because that’s the case does not mean they are inventing fairy tales. The body of research, scientific evidence, and organizations and individuals who agree on the validity of this disorder is just too large for that to be the case.
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