April 2005 - Volume II - Issue IV ADHD - Addictive Tendencies

Statement: My intent in this newsletter is to express as quickly as possible my own beliefs and opinions on matters. I have no problems with people who disagree with my opinion and have even been swayed to rethink my position from time to time.

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Many persons with ADHD struggle with tendencies toward Addictive Behaviors. These can range from Drugs, Alcohol, Gambling, Sexual addiction, Risk Taking, Over Spending, Relationships, Eating Disorders to Co-Dependency.

Often Times these persons were not diagnosed with ADHD until later in life. (Many people with these addictions remain undiagnosed for ADHD). These addictive behaviors may have started out as coping mechanisms to deal with under achievement, self doubt, poor self esteem and depression.

As children they may have been labeled with terms such as lazy, unmotivated or disruptive. Many of their parents and teachers saw them as under achieving who were not meeting their obvious intelligent capabilities. They may have shown their parents, teachers and even themselves that they were capable of focusing and paying attention to areas that interested them. Then seeming to struggle in areas that were difficult or for which they lacked interest.

Since everyone has areas in which they lack interest and force themselves to work through the problem, these people often view those with ADHD as lacking willpower, unmotivated and lazy. What they fail to understand is that those with ADHD would love to be able to adapt like “normal” people. The neurological transmitters in the brains of those with ADHD just do not operate as efficiently as they do in others.

In addition, many people criticize parents who put their children on medication. They feel that giving medication is a crutch that is used and even abused to deal with the childs “character flaw”. There is a common tendency for people to struggle with medications being used to help people with brain disorders. These same people seemingly have no problems with the drugs and medications used to treat other bodily disorders such as diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, heart problems and the like. Many parents are also reluctant to have their children “labeled” with a “disorder” like ADHD. Apparently they fail to realize that their children are already being labeled by their peers, teachers and others due to their conduct or failings.

Another common concern is a belief that medicating children with drugs will result in them being more susceptible to drug or alcohol abuse as teens and adults. All recent scientific studies on this however have shown the opposite to be true. Children and teens who are prescribed ADHD medications are less likely to develop drug and alcohol and other addictive behaviors as they grow older.

Addictive behaviors usually begin by the “thrill” feelings that the drugs, alcohol, gambling, spending, sex and other things give us. These feelings are usually short lived. Medications do not cure ADHD but rather help with symptoms. It is much like wearing glasses helps us see better and taking them off returns us to our previous poor eyesight. After awhile the responses we get from these stimulants and activities decrease the “thrill” element. We then continues to the addictive behavior as a way to cope with low self esteem, depression and other underlying problems. The consequences of our continuing use or abuse of is not the same as putting on and taking off necessary glasses. Instead the underlying problems originating in the brain are exasperated because of the dysfunctional aspect of addiction such as impairment in functioning, dependency, money problems, violations of laws and relationship problems.

In summary I want to assure those of us who use medications to treat our ADHD or our childrens ADHD that properly diagnosed and treated use of medication closely monitored in my opinion errors in the favor of a advantages on a risk/reward ratio. Proper treatment of children, teens and adults with ADHD can improve their lives and is just as important as the quick and aggressive treatment of any medical disorder.

The earlier a person with ADHD can experience improvement in self esteem, confidence, reduction in conflicts with teachers and parents and depression the less likely they will succumb to perils of other addictive substances and behaviors as they grow older.

Thanks and talk to you next month.
Patrick Hurley

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Author's Bio: 

17 Years as a Deouty Sheriff (lieutenant) 5 years as adult probation officer, Diagnosed 9 years ago with ADHD. Facilitator for ADHD support groups for 8 years. ADHD life skills coach for two years