I have to comment on a recent article in The San Francisco Chronicle, “Student Abuse of ADHD Drugs a Fairness Issue,” by Daisy Whitney, March 16, 2012.
It is true that prescription stimulant drugs are abused by those who are not diagnosed with ADHD. My college age daughter with ADHD has had her drugs stolen. And is aware of many who sell them despite the fact that they can only get a thirty day supply at a time since this category of medication is controlled. Many college kids don’t take their meds every day. They pick and choose when it is that they need to be on task and focused. Many don’t like how the meds can make them feel and will gladly take a break from them when possible. Many are not aware that this is considered to be drug dealing and is a crime.
Having said that, it seems that Ms. Whitney has a scewed picture as to what these medications do for those who so desperately need them. She states that there is evidence that “ADHD meds taken for an academic boost doesn’t have the desired effect. Those who took such meds without a prescription had lower GPAs, skipped more classes, and spent more time socializing.” Well, that is not surprising. These stimulants are for a medical diagnosis that is neurobiological in nature. They act on the frontal lobe that is actually understimulated, the opposite problem that many would think in ADHD. The frontal lobe is the area that can have everything to do with impulsivity, hyperactivity, attention, and executive functioning deficits. Without a diagnosis of ADHD, of course the medication would do nothing.
As far as the effects of lower GPAs and not attending to classes and study, I wonder if variables like manner in which stimulants were ingested and variables like alcohol abuse and other abuse were controlled that would explain this behavior.
How quick we are to make such a general assumption. Despite her statement of this study, she disregards it later as she speaks about unfairness of taking these drugs: “What if their grades are pulled down because others, who are using meds for a performance boost, are doing better in school?” Wasn’t this refuted? And for good reason?
The author does seem to agree that ADHD is a valid medical diagnosis and that there are parameters that must be followed. But again, the concern is how she explains the medication effects. The author links stimulants to “diagnosed learning disabilities.”
They are never prescribed for this reason, although learning disabilities do many times co-exist with ADHD. More important, this article only perpetuates the fact that if a diagnosed individual with ADHD takes medication, they have put the rest of the world in an unfair position. They are not “academically enhancing.”
They serve to stimulate the frontal lobe by increasing the effectiveness and amount of neurotransmitters that are needed to function effectively in the areas of on task behavior and impulsivity. Children with ADHD are smart and gifted and certainly do not need medication to “enhance their intellect.” Nor do the medications accomplish that function.
It is a travesty that stimulant medication has been compared to steroids in baseball. That is like comparing someone who needs insulin for diabetes to someone addicted to cocaine: the one is for treatment of a medical condition while the other is an abusive action to the body that is considered to be illegal.
The author states that there is a “broader societal impact to ADHD drug abuse that is rarely discussed. It’s the issue of accountability.” Yes, Ms. Whitney, accountability. When are reporters, authors, and all of media going to be more accountable when speaking of a long standing, very researched neurobiological disorder that necessitates treatment for academic and social success.
Please be accountable..and give children and adults who have ADHD the fair chance to live in a world where they can be accepted and successful.
Karen K Lowry, R.N.,M.S.N.,ADHD Coach for Adults, Teens, and Children,
Author of The Seventh Inning Sit: A Journey of ADHD