Friday, March 27, 2009

Now you listen here, MSNBC.

I have ADHD. I was diagnosed at three years old, long before anyone in the media had ever heard of it. I know several things for a fact:

1) ADHD is a real disease that affects about 2% of the population. We've gone absolutely crazy in the last ten to fifteen years diagnosing kids inappropriately with it left and right, which has left those of us who actually do have ADHD in a rather difficult position - defending ourselves from those who say it's not a real disease while fighting the tide of inappropriate and reckless diagnoses.

2) ADHD causes inattention, disorganization, impulsivity, recklessness, procrastination, distraction, hyperactivity, forgetfulness, and...oh look, a chicken. These are real symptoms that cause real problems in daily life. For kids, it can make sitting in a classroom an exercise in torture, and make learning really difficult, even if the kid is really intelligent. For an adult, like me, it can make for an extremely difficult workday - especially in a job like mine that requires the ability to organize tasks, manage large amounts of paperwork, complete complex tasks, and stay focused for hours at a time.

3) These symptoms do not go away. They do not fade, you do not grow out of them. They change in character as one's personality develops. Hyperactivity that may cause a child to run around screaming and being disruptive can evolve into fidgeting and social awkwardness as an adult. Still, the symptoms are there, they're real, and they are caused by chemical deficiencies in the brain.

4) ADHD medications, like Ritalin, can mitigate the symptoms of ADHD. The stimulant effect of Ritalin and the other ADHD medications help to kind of kick start the brain and focus it, reducing distraction, impulsivity, and the other symptoms that can make life with ADHD so difficult. These medications work for more than two years. I've taken ADHD medications my entire life, and they have always helped me. Right now, I take Concerta. Without it, I would not be able to function at work. Period. With it, I can focus, I can organize, I can do what needs to be done. That's real. That's measurable. And that's been the case all of my life.

5) ADHD medications do not necessarily stunt growth. I'm nearly six feet tall, and I've been taking ADHD medications my entire life. Do I know whether I would have been taller had I not taken Ritalin as a child? No. Do I feel like my growth was stunted? I don't know, but I'm not worried about it.

This study stinks. It stinks of the kind of anti-psychiatry propaganda spewed forth by the Scientologists and their ilk. Psychiatric medications work, for lots and lots of people with lots and lots of different conditions. They work because they fix, or mitigate, or otherwise deal with, the chemical imbalances in the brain caused by whatever psychiatric disorder someone might have. They work for people with ADHD. They work for people with bipolar disorder. They work for people with depression. They work for people with schizophrenia. They work.

So, MSNBC, and whoever published this "study," go do some more homework. You'll find that there are lots and lots of people out there with ADHD, like myself, who have found great benefit from medications, and who continue to find great benefit from medications, and who have taken them for much, much longer than two years. Meanwhile, ...oh look, a chicken!