First of all, I just need to address how ridiculous it is to conflate ADHD symptom relapse after medication cessation with dependency and addiction. ADHD is a developmental disorder with biological origins in the pre-frontal cortex. Some people’s brains eventually catch up developmentally by adolescence or adulthood, some never do. Medications control symptoms by helping the brain function like normal brains function. Like other developmental disorders, there is no cure for ADHD, and medications are not going to make the brain normalize. They are an aid, like insulin is for diabetics or glasses are for people with myopia.
If you quit taking a medication that controls symptoms caused by inefficient biological processes, those symptoms will return, which is what is happening in the anecdotes mentioned in this article. This has nothing to do with dependency. Research shows that ADHD medication is not habit forming when taken as directed. In fact, medication treatment before adolescence significantly reduces the risk of drug abuse and addiction in people with ADHD.
Can you imagine someone complaining about the dependency and addiction potential of insulin because high blood sugar resumes with cessation in diabetic patients? That’s how ignorant this argument is.
Besides that, this article is overloaded with myths and unsubstantiated assumptions about ADHD diagnoses, treatment, and outcomes.
Russell Barkley, PHD, has devoted his career to studying ADHD since the 1970’s, has authored many studies that are used by organizations cited in this article, and has actually read all of the research and medical literature written on ADHD since the 1700’s (yes, 1700's). He has addressed the myths perpetuated by the media, including all the myths in this article, over and over again:
“If you were to average across all of these figures, it appears to be that somewhere between about 1.5 percent and about 2.5 percent of school-age children are taking medication right now for ADHD. Now, you have to look at that figure in the context of how much ADHD is there. It’s the only way you can answer the question of over-medication, and that is, what’s the reference point? We know that approximately 5 percent to 7 percent of school-age children have this disorder. If we use the conservative figure of 5 percent, and we know that about 2.5 percent of individuals may be taking medication, there’s your answer. We don’t have over-medication. Only about half of all ADHD children are ever taking medication for their disorder. “
“There is controversy about ADHD, I believe, partly because we are using a medication to treat the disorder, and people find that to be of concern. But there’s also concern because ADHD is a disorder that appears to violate a very deeply held assumption that laypeople have about children’s behavior. All of us were brought up believing, almost unconsciously, that children’s misbehavior is largely due to the way they’re raised by their parents and the way they’re educated by their teachers. If you wind up with a child who is out of control and disruptive and not obeying, that that has to be a problem with child rearing.
We can thank Freudian thinking and Watson’s behaviorism, and other ideas that are part of our common knowledge, for making us believe that behavior problems are learned. Well, along comes this disorder that produces tremendous disruption in children’s behavior, but it has nothing to do with learning, and it isn’t the result of bad parenting. And therefore it violates these very deeply held ideas about bad children and their misbehavior.
And as long as you have this conflict between science telling you that the disorder is largely genetic and biological, and the public believing that it arises from social causes, you’re going to continue to have tremendous controversy in the mind of the public.
Now, there is no controversy among practicing scientists who have devoted their careers to this disorder. No scientific meetings mention any controversies about the disorder, about its validity as a disorder, about the usefulness of using stimulant medications like Ritalin for it. There simply is no controversy. The science speaks for itself. And the science is overwhelming that the answer to these questions is in the affirmative: it’s a real disorder; it’s valid; and it can be managed, in many cases, by using stimulant medication in combination with other treatments.”
“Saying that we’re not sure about the safety and the long-term use of the stimulant medication is nice to say. But the fact is that we know more about the stimulant medications than just about any other medication that’s given to children in medicine. . . . All of the research we have indicates that these drugs are some of the safest that we employ in the field of psychiatry and psychology. That’s not to say that we know everything about them. But we know a lot more than we know about cough medicines and Tylenol and aspirins and other things that children swill whenever they come down with a common cold. Nobody asks those questions about those over-the-counter medications, yet we know substantially less about them.”