ADHD/ADD and Drug Abuse
December 20, 2001 12:33 PM   Subscribe

ADHD/ADD and Drug Abuse They found a link between children with common 'behavioral' disorders and drug abuse later in life. Well what do you expect when we teach kids that the best way to deal with a problem is to turn to drugs (ritalin).
posted by crackheadmatt (26 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The way I've always heard it explained, and tend to believe, is that this is a case of self-medication. Many people with these disorders medicate themselves, typically with stimulants, whether with caffeine or higher drugs.
posted by stoneegg21 at 1:01 PM on December 20, 2001

The best way to treat a medical condition is often with drugs. Overmedication of ritalin is a huge problem, but the idea that ADD is really a social disorder, not a medical one is, frankly bullshit.

I think stoneegg has it right. It's about self-medication. Plus, ADD does a number on one's self-esteem. Repeated failure early on in life is a sure-fire way to create a drug user.
posted by jpoulos at 1:20 PM on December 20, 2001

Sorry, I kept drifting off about halfway through the link, could you summarize it for me?
posted by ColdChef at 1:28 PM on December 20, 2001

i agree with stoneegg. the people i've known who choose to smoke a lot of pot are those who have been diagnosed with add. my sister, one of these people, told me once that she likes to toke it up because she can actually think clearly.

who am i to judge, anyway? i like to drink away the pain. she likes to smoke it away. whatever works, i say.
posted by sugarfish at 1:47 PM on December 20, 2001

"Well what do you expect when we teach kids that the best way to deal with a problem is to turn to drugs" + "crackheadmatt" = irony
posted by jpoulos at 2:25 PM on December 20, 2001

> The way I've always heard it explained, and tend to
> believe, is that this is a case of self-medication.

"Most men die of their remedies, not their diseases"
posted by jfuller at 2:37 PM on December 20, 2001

- only 54 kids in the study

- it went one way only: they were first identified as having "alcohol dependence" (where are the criteria for that?), then their background was checked to see if they had previous diagnoses for ADD [this means that, while they may establish that many "alcohol dependent" teens had ADD, it does not establish that ADD leads to alcohol dependency]

- The study was funded by the National Institute on Alcohol and Alcohol Abuse [rule of modern science: don't piss in the deep pockets]. That group tends to view most use as abuse. Granted, 14-year olds shouldn't be regular consumers of alcohol, but the NIAA's criteria for abuse are rather slanted. And their stance on illegal drugs is that all use is abuse (a very "right"-thinking stance filled with duplicity and fact-bending).

Apparently jpoulos is a good media consumer - having bought into the notion that "only losers use drugs."
posted by yesster at 2:42 PM on December 20, 2001

I'd buy it. I'm ADD and I love drugs. Whether or not I'm a loser, however, is a subjective matter ;)
posted by Hackworth at 2:49 PM on December 20, 2001

All of these social drugs seem to be a new form of commodified slavery. If you use ritalin, your ADD will go away! Huh? It is similar to men who don't want to go bald so they take mescalin, I mean they take propecia and rogaine. What...doesn't it seem that these attention disorders and depression are linked more to media culture and the decreasing amount of space people (and more specifically, kids) have to react to stimuli?
posted by nakedjon at 2:51 PM on December 20, 2001

"doesn't it seem that these attention disorders and depression are linked more to media culture and the decreasing amount of space people (and more specifically, kids) have to react to stimuli?"

I had problems with my attention span and ability to focus way before I got into computers and such, if that's what you mean. I wouldn't say it is in anyway linked to my exposure to "media culture".

And no, ritalin doesn't make it go away, it just makes it manageable.
posted by Hackworth at 3:01 PM on December 20, 2001 [1 favorite]

All goes back to poor toilet training.
posted by Postroad at 3:55 PM on December 20, 2001

As some one who has been on both sides of this issue (I was a ADHD child on ritilan and a teacher)....

I believe that ADD/ADHD is more of a social problem now. It is medical but it has became a handicap to our educational system. In teachers college (ASU) I was taught to write lessons to the bottom 1/3 of the class's abilities. Thus in a way excluding the bright kids, whom are very well represented in ADD?ADHD case studies. They get bored, bored kids do what bored kids do..entertain themselves.
Also, ADD/ADHD diagnosis is almost NON EXISTENT outside of the US and Canada.
posted by crackheadmatt at 4:12 PM on December 20, 2001

What was not mentioned in the FPP was that subjects had been diagnosed with either conduct disorders or ADHD or both. To me, that puts a slightly different spin on this whole thread.
Regardless, this is not big news. As stonegg et. al. have opined, using drugs is a form of self medication. I know I did it for years before I was diagnosed and treated. As far as meds go, I have been helped enormously by a combination of stimulant and anti-depressant medication.
Hey, at least I'm not autistic -- I only scored a 15 on that test.
posted by mattee at 4:44 PM on December 20, 2001

Perhaps we should resort to the "South Park" treatment...smacking ADD kids over the head with a stick?
posted by Oriole Adams at 4:45 PM on December 20, 2001

I don't like people who AREN'T A.D.D. Sorry, maybe this should be in another thread or something. :)
posted by Counselco at 5:38 PM on December 20, 2001

Yesster said just about everything I was going to say.

It's a sample of 54. It's not a national probability sample, nor even a random sample, but a convenience sample, taken from a different study, completely unrepresentative of the general population.

There is no way in hell they can come to the conclusions reported in this article with a research design like that. Don't know whether this is the fault of the researchers, or whether it was the way the news article was written up (reporters tend to leave out all of the cautionary language social scientists put in their journal articles).

But I would take this worth a grain of salt in terms of actually changing anyone's thinking on the topic. Might be worth it to undertake a real study on the links between ADHD and alcoholism, though.
posted by Chanther at 6:24 PM on December 20, 2001

matt, there's always a gradation of talent, and the fact that teachers are being instructed to teach to the lowest common denominator is an entirely separate problem, IMO. It doesn't make ADD into a social issue rather than a medical one.

And should I be concerned that I got a 33 on that test?
posted by transient at 6:25 PM on December 20, 2001

Apparently jpoulos is a good media consumer - having bought into the notion that "only losers use drugs."

That's pretty cheap, yesster. You know what I mean. It's pretty obvious that those who face failure early on are more likely to turn to substances later on. Stoneegg's "self-medication" etc etc
posted by jpoulos at 7:31 PM on December 20, 2001

Oh please, even an 8 year old knows the difference between a legal drug for a diagnosed illness and a recreational substance.

Could you please remind me of the difference?
posted by rushmc at 7:32 PM on December 20, 2001

"only losers use drugs."
"only users lose drugs"
or as Freud once said:
"sometimes crack is just crack"
posted by Mack Twain at 7:56 PM on December 20, 2001

Well what do you expect when we teach kids that the best way to deal with a problem is to turn to drugs (ritalin).

God, I wish that when I was a child, someone would have told me that my inability to pay attention in school could be corrected by taking a little pill. As a solution to a major problem in someone's life, it may seem too easy, but the truth is that for people who truly are ADHD, it works. As an ADHD child and adult, I've medicated myself with lots of drugs, legal and illegal, in a quest to find something that would make me less scatter-brained, as pot and alcohol do, and at the same time allow me to actually stay awake and get things done in a clear-headed manner. Right now I'm on Adderall, the best I've found so far (for me). But I have also had positive, if limited, results with Ritalin, Cylert and Dexedrine. Of course there is a link between ADHD people and drug abuse...we're just trying to find something that makes us feel "normal." And we know that such a state is possible, because we get little glimpses of it when we get drunk, or stoned, or coked up. Thank God for the recognition of ADHD. Thank God for Ritalin and everything that comes with it. Those drugs have changed my life in a monumentally positive way.
posted by bingo at 8:21 PM on December 20, 2001

You'll have to pry my cold, dead hands from my caffeine.
posted by SpecialK at 8:52 PM on December 20, 2001

bingo -- You're spot on. I'm an ADD college student, and life with the disorder is hell if you're at all motivated to do something that requires a lot of concentration -- academic study, in my case. The most popular (that is, those that are effective for the most patients) medications are simply stimulants: Adderal was a diet pill before it was an ADD medication. Before you start using this as evidence for why drugs such as Ritalin and Adderal are terrible, remember that caffeine is a stimulant as well, but is simply less powerful. The name of the game is moderation. I, for one, have made a promise to myself to never touch speed in any form, because I know that if I were confronted with a stimulant that powerful yet dangerous that it might work too well, and I'd be hooked onto something self-destructive. Ritalin is a lot less destructive, which is why I use it. (although I'm considering switching to Adderal.)

The question of whether or not 4 year olds (the youngest I've heard that have been diagnosed) should be on a stimulant as powerful as Ritalin is another question, what with the speediness and the mood swings that accompany it. (IMHO, a 4 year old is neither diagnosable as ADD, since 4 year olds have little need to concentrate anyway, nor emotionally capable of dealing with the inevitable Ritalin "crash.")
posted by tweebiscuit at 10:47 PM on December 20, 2001

twee -- just a tiny note: Ritalin, Dexedrine, and Adderall are all "speed." Dexedrine and Adderall are made from amphetamines. Methylphenidate, or Ritalin, is slightly less potent.

I'm ADD and I take Adderall these days. Non-ADDers would bounce off walls on this stuff.
posted by swerve at 3:27 AM on December 21, 2001

swerve -- that's what I was saying. Sorry, I should have been more specific -- I mean to avoid illeagal speed, which I suspect will simply be too powerful. Ritalin, Adderall, et al are only legal because of their moderate effect.

And actually, the "speediness" that such medications cause should really affect everyone equally. There's a reason that Ritalin sells for two dollars a pill on the black market at my college -- it'll help anyone concentrate. Hell, that's why people do speed in the first place!
posted by tweebiscuit at 6:37 AM on December 21, 2001

twee -- I seem to have a huge tolerance for speedy drugs. Back in the dark days of my teenage years, I tried cocaine a couple of times. It put me in a mild, pleasant good mood, not unlike a couple of cups of coffee. The other kids were euphoric. It was a very strange experience.

It made sense in hindsight when I tried Ritalin and Dexedrine years later and got very few of the speedy side effects. I've felt more hyper on caffeine than on amphetamine. But in any case, being able to focus: priceless.
posted by swerve at 4:35 PM on December 21, 2001

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