Adult ADHD is becoming recognized with greater frequency. Those who have been struggling with symptoms of undiagnosed ADHD throughout their life are often relieved to have discovered the reason for their difficulties. The symptoms can be a source of marital discord, difficulties at work and with social life. The symptoms in an adult are often different from that seen in children. Examples include: disorganization, chronic lateness and procrastination, angry outbursts, missing deadlines and important events, reckless driving, frequent traffic accidents, poor listening skills, restlessness and trouble relaxing, sleep disorders.
Diagnosing adult ADHD can be difficult because it mimics other conditions such as depression and substance abuse. To be diagnosed there must be evidence of compatible symptoms and behavior patterns appearing in childhood and before age 12. Other possible causes for the patient’s symptoms must be excluded. Screening questionnaires and computerized tests of attention can be very helpful in supporting the diagnosis.
Traditional Treatment For ADHD:
The standard treatment for ADHD is stimulant medication commonly known as methylphenidate (e.g. Ritilan, Concerta, Focalin), amphetamines (e.g. Adderall, Vyvanse) or methamphetamine (Desoxyn). In addition some form of behavioral therapy is recommended. For most patients with ADHD these medications are very effective in controlling the disorder. But there are significant drawbacks.
Recent studies have pointed to the many shortcomings of this approach. In addition to the potential dangers and significant side effects of these medications, the long term effectiveness of both the medications and behavioral therapy have been called into question. Side effects of stimulant medication include increased blood pressure and heart rate, increased blood sugar levels, reduced appetite resulting in uncontrolled weight loss, it is highly addictive with risks for abuse, stunted growth, and insomnia. Even the newer “non-stimulant” medications have their own set of risky side effects including suicidal thoughts, liver failure, mood swings and more. The FDA has recently issued safety warnings regarding this.
Indeed it has been reported that these medications are only effective for 70% – 80% of the patient population. And for those whom the medication does work the benefits tend to decrease over time. It is not uncommon for a given medication’s effectiveness to wear off within 2 years. If the medication is working the benefits disappear shortly after discontinuing it so there is no enduring benefit.
A very famous study examining the effectiveness of the gold standard treatment for ADHD known as the PATS study published in 2013 concluded “Development of more effective ADHD intervention strategies is needed … “.