The Dark Side of ADD Meds

My three weeks of travel (Dallas to Jacksonville to Miami to Houston to NYC to Syracuse to Poughkeepsie) which included climate changes from balmy and humid to driving through a snowstorm in frigid 20-degree temperatures in a car with no working heat has finally caught up with me. I lost my voice completely after my last training on Friday, have been in bed since Friday evening, and I don't think I'll be able to write my planned reflection this week.

The NY Times published a heart-breaking piece on the tragic suicide of a young man who became addicted to ADD meds. The article suggests - and his poor parents believe - that he was misdiagnosed after he faked his way through the diagnostic test, and the doctors failed to conduct the full life-history evaluation that many practitioners recommend. He, like an alarming number of college students, started abusing ADD meds in college to boost concentration to enhance school performance.

The article paints a really tragic picture of a bright, promising life that went off the rails because of a drug that's meant to help those with who struggle with distraction and inability to control their attention. What the article doesn't do is question why people who actually don't have the kind if brain chemistry the meds were intended for feel the need to use them. What is it about our society, our education system, and our modern world that would cause someone who is "normal" to turn to drugs to be successful? More importantly, what does it say about the way our society has evolved that a significant percentage of our child and adult population are now being prescribed medications so they can be "normal"?

I've been planning to write something on an alternative way of framing ADD - not as a disorder, but rather as identification of individuals who have traits that were important and useful to society historically, but who increasingly have a hard time fitting into the fast-paced, regimented and demanding modern world we now live in.

Until I get to writing that piece, I really think anyone who has any interest in ADD, medication, and mental healthcare issues should read the Times article. And if you're someone who uses stimulants to boost performance in school or work, whether you have a diagnosis or not, think for a minute about what it says about our world that some people are medicating - and in some cases abusing medication - just to do what they think is expected of them.