ADD/ADHD Friendly Education: ‘Medication seems to work: Why avoid it?’

With last week’s article I introduced a new series that will be focused on the needs of children with ADD/ADHD in the educational system. Over the course of the next few weeks we will discuss the various ways in which educators (in the broadest sense of the word) can help children with the condition to achieve their full potential while, at the same time, not neglecting the needs of other children in the classroom (or home) who do not have the same specialized needs. I realize that this might seem like an almost impossible ideal but I am convinced that by following the suggestions that I will make you will be able to craft an ‘ADD/ADHD friendly’ education.
I am sure that at least some teachers will respond to the things I have said above with a single word: Why? Why should we go to extra lengths to find alternatives to the way in which we presently deal with ADD/ADHD (i.e. medication) in the classroom? This is a fair question. Medication seems to be so effective in keeping the symptoms of ADD/ADHD in check that many feel like saying ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!’ The reality is, however, that the system is indeed seriously broken and actively harmful to children. It exerts, moreover, a powerful negative influence on the educational achievement of entire cohorts (not only those directly affected by ADD/ADHD) as they move through the educational system.
I realize that these are very bold claims but I am also convinced that they are well attested by research and by the experience of teachers and parents across the length and breadth of North America. Here are some of the compelling reasons why ADD/ADHD medication and the classroom should not mix:
1)    Impairment of brain function: The brain is by far the most complex organ in our bodies and ADD/ADHD medicines have powerful psycho-stimulant effects on it. They may act ‘positively’ in the sense that they will initially ‘dampen down’ some of the more obvious symptoms of the condition, but at what price? What will the long term effects on the proper function of the brain be if parts of it is impeded through the use of a chemical substance. This question is obviously a serious one and one of the main reasons that we counsel our children against the use of illegal drugs. Yet, many people see no problem with allowing their children to use legal medications that can have a similar impact on the brain.
2)    The ‘law of diminishing’ returns: At the initial stages of drug treatment relatively small doses are needed in order to suppress the symptoms of ADD/ADHD. It seems, however, that the body will soon ‘get used’ to the level that is administered, necessitating an increased dose. This ‘ramping up’ of dosages can lead to the administration of dangerously high levels with ever decreasing effectiveness.
3)    A ‘Band Aid’ solution: The flip-side of the previous point is that medication is simply a temporary ‘solution’. Medicines may win you a bit of peace and calm for a while but in many cases the condition will be back with a vengeance after a relatively short time. This at the price of pumping dangerous chemicals into the bloodstream.
4)    Risk of addiction: If you have been in education for a while you will almost certainly be aware of the fact that ADD/ADHD medication is now the ‘drug of choice’ on many school and university campuses. This should cause us to pause for reflection. If these drugs are essentially harmless why are they being trafficked? The simple truth is that many drugs are similar in their composition to some of the hard drugs being peddled on street corners. You wouldn’t want the kids in your class to have access to this stuff, why should a fancy label and million dollar ad campaigns change this fact?
5)    Various side effects: ADD/ADHD drugs have been implicated in a raft of serious mental and physical problems. The list reads like a horror script of things teachers and educators would never wish upon the children in their care. Depression, anger management issues, listlessness and even suicidal thoughts are all commonly observed in children who are medicated for ADD/ADHD. To make matters worse, ADD/ADHD drugs have also been implicated in several homicides including some high profile school shootings.
Upon reading all of this you probably think: ‘There must be a better way!?’ Indeed there is and this is exactly what this guide is all about. It is possible to address ADD/ADHD in ways that are natural and that address the underlying causes rather than merely trying to stick a Band-Aid on. Next week we will begin to look at some of the elements of the ‘3 Steps ADD’ approach before going on to apply this on the design of an ‘ADD/ADHD Friendly’ education.

Towards an ADD/ADHD Friendly Education: Introduction


(I am often asked by parents and teachers about the best techniques and methods for an ‘ADD/ADHD Friendly’ education. My articles over the next few weeks will therefore focus on this subject. If you are not a teacher it does not mean that these articles are not for you. The principles that I will be sharing will draw upon years of experience of dealing with parents and children that are coping with ADD/ADHD and will work in many different circumstances. They can therefore also be applied to homeschooling situations and to the general home environment.)
It is the moment that every teacher dreads the most… You have done everything you could to prepare for this class. You made sure that everything you are about to say is engaging, that it will challenge students at different levels of ability, that it will achieve clear pedagogical goals…the whole nine yards. Yet one disruptive student is about to make all your hard work go up in smoke! It might be that some of the thoughts that run through your mind in times like these are not exactly fit for publication but I’m sure that the gist of what you are thinking almost always comes down to one thing: If only I can get him/her to sit still, pay attention and cooperate.
Thinking along these lines is only natural! You would, in fact, be almost superhuman if you are not possessed with an almost overwhelming desire to want to make things better – both for the child that is being ‘difficult’ and also for the rest of the class who are being disadvantaged by his/her behavior. It is, also, only natural to think that some of the children in your care might be dealing with ADD/ADHD and would therefore greatly benefit from diagnosis and treatment.
I have worked with parents of children affected by ADD/ADHD for long enough to recognize a typical chain of progression from the suspicion of ADD/ADHD to eventual treatment (through medication in the vast majority of cases). My purpose in sharing these thoughts on an ‘ADD/ADHD Friendly’ education is to help you as a teacher to avoid the last link of this chain – namely the administering of powerful (and very dangerous) psycho stimulant medication. I am convinced that ‘treatments’ offered by ‘big Pharma’ are really only beneficial to one group in society namely the pharmaceutical companies themselves. I will explain next week why I believe this to be the case. Suffice it to say for the moment that any approach to ADD/ADHD in the classroom that can avoid medication will be good both for the teacher and his/her charges. My purpose with the articles that I will post here over the next few weeks is to share some pointers on how such an education could be achieved.
One important principle that should be noted before we continue is that you should work very hard to resist the temptation to make an ADD/ADHD diagnosis yourself. ADD/ADHD is a very complex condition that is not, even after years of research, fully understood. Its diagnosis should therefore be left to those who have been properly trained to ‘make the call’. Applied to the classroom this means that we should recognize that there can be many reasons why a child might be distracted, disruptive, unfocussed or ‘dreamy’. ADD/ADHD is just one possible explanation! To almost instinctively label every ‘difficult’ child as having ADD/ADHD is therefore not only unfair but also potentially very dangerous (in the sense that serious underlying conditions can be missed due to a rushed and inaccurate ADD/ADHD diagnosis). I would therefore like to make a heartfelt appeal to you to make sure that you investigate all alternatives before referring a child to be tested for ADD/ADHD.
While we are on the subject of referring students it might be good to also touch on this very sensitive subject. It is, sadly, the case that many medical professionals can be ‘relied upon’ to come up with an ADD/ADHD diagnosis almost every time that a disruptive child is brought before them. This can be seen in the fact that some pediatricians maintain prescription rates (for ADD/ADHD drugs) that are, in some cases, several times the national average. I am sure that you will agree with me that sending a child to a professional where he/she is almost guaranteed to be diagnosed with ADD/ADHD does not serve his/her best interests and that it could possibly lead to serious problems down the line as this child is needlessly medicated with dangerous drugs. Bottom line: Resist, as far as possible, the temptation to refer a child straight away and, if you do decide to refer, please refer to a professional who can be trusted to take a holistic approach and who will pursue other avenues of investigation besides ADD/ADHD.
Why is all of this important? Simply because I believe that the dangerous medication of an entire generation (a result of sky-high diagnosis rates), is dangerous and actively harmful to the education system (and therefore by extension to you). I will explain next week why I am making this very bold claim. See you then!

The Effects of ADD/ADHD on Adults

Over the past few weeks we looked at some of the symptoms of adult ADD/ADHD. Taken on their own, these symptoms perhaps do not look all that dangerous. It is, however, when you stop to consider the combined impact of these symptoms and characteristics of adult ADD/ADHD on the lives of ordinary people that the real picture emerges. It is not an overstatement to say that the condition regularly wreaks havoc on the lives of those who are affected by it. It is therefore very important to get to the place where the condition is recognized and addressed in the best way possible.
Some of the most common effects of the condition on the lives of adults include the following.

  • Labeling: People who are dealing with adults with ADD/ADHD obviously do not know what is going on inside their brains! This means that they can very easily misunderstand and judge them. It is not uncommon for adults with ADD/ADHD to be labeled as lazy, unmotivated, stupid or even willfully obstinate. This kind of labeling can obviously have a devastating effect on the self-esteem of those targeted by it, even to the extent that they begin to believe some or all of it themselves!  It is therefore not uncommon to find that adults with ADD/ADHD suffer from low self-esteem.
  • Relationship Strain and Breakdown: The impulsivity, forgetfulness and even the hyper focus of adult ADD/ADHD can severely strain relationships. If the non-ADD/ADHD partner is not aware of the existence of the condition he/she will almost certainly interpret certain behaviors as insensitive, reckless or even calculated to cause harm and distress. This is obviously compounded if the adult with ADD/ADHD does not himself/herself recognize the existence of the condition and therefore does not know how to manage it within the context of a relationship. It is, in light of this, hardly surprising that many adults with ADD/ADHD struggle to maintain healthy long-term relationships.
  • Professional and Financial Problems: There are certainly some jobs (which we will look at later on) in which adults with ADD/ADHD tend to thrive. There are, however, many others (most notably routine office jobs) which they find very difficult to cope with and therefore to hold down. Major contributing factors to this would be impulsivity (it is obviously a very necessary skill to know when to ‘hold your tongue‘ within an office environment), difficulty to focus on uninteresting or uninspiring tasks and general  disorganization. Many adults with ADD/ADHD try to deal with these issues by firmly resolving at the start of each job to radically reform themselves. If, however, the underlying causes and patterns are not addressed these efforts at reform tend to be very short lived; with predictable consequences for job security. It does not take a genius to work out what the financial impact of drifting in and out of jobs (as many adults with ADD/ADHD do) can have on long-term financial security. Sadly the financial stress that many adults with ADD/ADHD suffer from is compounded even further by their lack of organizational abilities being transferred to the management of their cheque-books.
  • Mental Health Problems: All of the issues mentioned above can combine to tip the adult with ADD/ADHD into serious mental health problems. Some of the most common among these are compulsive eating, substance abuse, stress and low self-esteem.

It should be clear from the above that the perception fuelled by Hollywood that adult ADD/ADHD is something to laugh at (think of how many times on television you see somebody comment that ‘She is bit ADD’) is way off the mark. This is a serious condition that deserves serious attention.
It should also be noted that what is mentioned above is only half of the picture. Adult ADD/ADHD is not and should not be seen as an unmitigated disaster. There are many positives associated with the condition including the ability to interact in innovative and creative ways with the things life throws up. (I will focus on some of the positive aspects of adult ADD/ADHD in one of the following articles).
Recognizing that they have ADD/ADHD is sometimes a massive relief for adults with the condition. They have been going through life, vaguely aware that ‘something is wrong’, but have never quite been able to put a finger on it. Giving the condition name means that they can do something to proactively address its impact on their lives. If you suspect therefore that you may have the condition I would urge you to give serious attention not only to identify its existence but also to address it in ways that will significantly enhance the quality of your life and that will allow you to fully capitalize on the positive aspects that are associated with the condition. The ‘3 Steps’ program was engineered to help you to do exactly this. It is a natural, proven and easy to follow lifestyle that will push you beyond merely trying to survive to a place where you can thrive!

The Importance of Parental Attachment for ADD ADHD Children

Dr Mate explains the importance of the parental relationship with ADD ADHD children.

“3 Steps To Conquering ADD” rejects the idea that ADD ADHD children simply need to be medicated. It is not that simple. There are many actions that can be taken that do not involve “pill popping”

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about Hold on to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers.

DR. GABOR MATÈ: Amy, in 1998, there was a book that was the New York Times’ Best Book of the Year and it nearly won the Pulitzer Prize. It was called The Nurture Assumption, and in it this researcher argues parents don’t make any difference anymore, to the extent that Newsweek actually had a cover article that year entitled “Do Parents Matter?”. Now, if you want to get the full stupidity of that question, you have to imagine a veterinarian magazine asking, “Does a mother calf make a difference?” or “Does the mother bear matter?” But the research showed that children are being more influenced now- in their tastes, in their attitudes, in their behaviors- by peers than by parents. This poor researcher concluded that this is somehow natural. And what she mistook was the norm in North America- she actually thought that was natural and healthy. In fact, it isn’t.

So our book Hold on to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers is not just about showing why it is true that children are being more influenced more by other kids these days than by their parents, but also just what an aberration that is, and what a distortion it is of normal human development. Because normal human development demands- as normal mammalian development demands- the presence of nurturing parents. Even birds. Birds do not develop properly unless the mother and father bird are there. Bears, cats, rats, mice, although most of all human beings, because human beings are the least mature and most dependent for the longest period of time.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the importance of attachment?

DR. GABOR MATÈ: Attachment is the drive to be close to somebody and attachment is a power force in human relationships. In fact, it is the most powerful force there is. Even as adults we are in attachment relationships. When people we want to be close to are lost to us or they are threatened somehow, we did very disoriented and upset. Now, for children and babies and adolescents, that is an absolute necessity, because the more immature you are, the more you need your attachments. It is like a force of gravity that pulls two bodies together. Now, when the attachment goes in the wrong direction- instead of to the adults, but to the peer group- childhood development is completely distorted, development is stopped in its tracks, and parenting and teaching become extremely difficult.

AMY GOODMAN: You co-wrote this book and you both found in your experience, Hold Onto Your Kids, that your kids were becoming increasingly secretive and unreachable.

GABOR MATÉ: Well, that’s the thing. You see now, if your spouse or partner- adult spouse or partner- came home from work and didn’t give you the time of day, and got on the phone and talked with other people all the time, and spent all their time on email talking to other people, your friends wouldn’t say that you have a behavioral problem, you should try tough love. They would say that you have a have a relationship problem. But when children act in these ways, we think we have a behavior problem, and we try to control the behaviors. In fact, what they’re showing us is that- as my children showed me- I had a relationship problem with them. They hadn’t connected enough with me and too connected to their peer group. So that’s why they wanted to spend all of their time with their peer group. And now we’ve given kids the technology to do that. So that the terrible downside of the Internet is that now kids are spending time with each other-

AMY GOODMAN: Not even and the presence of each other!

DR. GABOR MATÈ: That’s exactly the point. Because, you see, that’s an attachment dynamic. One of the basic ways that people attach to each other is to want to be with the people that you want to connect with. So that when kids spend time with each other, it’s not a behavior problem, but a sign that their relationships have been skewed toward the peer group. And that’s why it’s so difficult to peel them off their computers, because their desperation is to connect with the people they are trying to attach to. And that’s no longer us, as the adults, as the parents in their lives.

AMY GOODMAN: So, how do you change this dynamic?

DR. GABOR MATÈ: Well, first we have to recognize it’s manifestations. So, we have to recognize that whenever the child does not look adults in the eye anymore, when the child wants to always be on Skype or the cellphone, or twittering or emailing, or MSM messenger. We recognize that when the child becomes oppositional to adults, we tend to think that is a normal childhood phenomenon. It’s normal only to a certain degree.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, they have to rebel in order to separate later.

DR. GABOR MATÈ: No. They have to separate, but they don’t have to rebel. In other words, separation, individuation, is a normal human developmental stage. You have to become a separate, individual person. But it doesn’t mean you have to reject and be hostile to the values of the adults. As a matter of fact, in traditional societies, children would become adults by been initiated into the adult group by elders. Like the Jewish Bar Mitzvah ceremony. Or the initiation rituals of tribal cultures around the world. Now kids are initiated by other kids. And now you have the gang phenomena. So that the teenage gang phenomena is actually a misplaced initiation and orientation ritual, where kids are now rebelling against adult values. But it’s not because they’re bad kids, but because they have become disconnected from adults.

AMY GOODMAN: You write in your book about the phenomenon of peer-orientation and the legacy of it, why we must hold on. We only have a few minutes right now, but can you talk about both? Especially how parents break this cycle. And not only parents, but elders in the community.

DR. GABOR MATÈ: Well, first of all, what the problem reflects is the loss of the community and the neighborhood. We have to recreate that. So, the schools have to become not just places of pedagogy, but places of emotional connection. The teachers should be in the emotional connection game before they attempt to be in the pedagogy game.

Kindergartens: studies in the States have shown that children in the kindergartens have higher stress hormone levels than those kids at home. Except in those day cares where there is a decent adult-to-child relationship. Parents should not encourage sleep-overs and play-dates all the time. Kids have already spent all their time with together all week in the absence of the parents, because both parents have to work, especially in this economy.

AMY GOODMAN: But isn’t it good, isn’t it different when the kids are at home, so that the parents are there and they can see the friends, they can interact with the friends?

DR. GABOR MATÈ: Yeah, there’s nothing wrong with the kids having friends. It’s a question of do they do it under parental leadership or do they do it in separation from the parents?

Then we have to learn how to teach kids discipline without punishing them. Because punishment drives the kid further away from the parent. In North America, the whole way that we raise kids, the context is wrong and the methods that people are taught are wrong. And no wonder then, that we’re having such a huge problem with our children and adolescents.

Original Article – http://www.democracynow.org/seo/2010/11/24/dr_gabor_mat_on_adhd_bullying

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Recognizing ADD/ADHD in Adults (Part 2)


We are continuing with our look at Adult ADD/ADHD. You may recall that with last week’s article I began to focus on some of the ways in which the condition can be recognized in adults.  I focused on four possible signs that someone might have the condition. They are: 1) A history of childhood ADD/ADHD 2) Difficulty concentrating and lack of focus 3) Forgetfulness and disorganization 4) Hyper focus. With this week’s article I would like to continue along these lines by focusing on some other signs that you should be on the lookout for. I would like to emphasize once again that the presence of any (or even all!) of these signs does not mean that ADD/ADHD is definitely present. It just means that you might need to seriously consider the possibility.
Sign 5: Impulsivity. This is perhaps one of the signs of ADD/ADHD that adults with the condition find the most troublesome. Adults with ADD/ADHD often struggle to control their behavior and responses. This means that they will often speak out of turn and when they do they will make comments that might not be entirely appropriate. Many an adult with ADD/ADHD have deeply regretted comments that were blurted out without properly thinking them through. Impulsivity also shows up in hasty decision-making without necessarily weighing all the alternatives or consequences. All of these factors mean that impulsive adults have trouble to react in socially appropriate ways and have a reputation for recklessness. While this may make them exciting people to be with, it can also translate into serious problems in the work environment. In fact, most adults with ADD/ADHD who struggle to hold down a job would identify their impulsivity as one of the major factors in their lack of career stability.
Sign 6: Hyperactivity. Adults with ADD/ADHD often feel like they are always on the run, as if they are being driven by some kind of hidden engine. Such people find it very difficult to sit still and will constantly be on the move. They talk excitedly in excessively and have a reputation for trying to do several things at the same time. In many cases, however, the symptoms may be a bit more subtle, especially as some people do manage to control the worst aspects of their hyperactivity. In such cases the hyperactivity will take the form of inner restlessness and agitation as well as their minds racing at 100 miles an hour. It should be noted that although hyperactivity is present in very many adult ADD/ADHD cases that it is not an indispensable part of an ADD/ADHD diagnosis. It is clear that some people do have the condition without displaying some of the classic hyperactive behaviors described above.
Sign 7: Lack of emotional control. Whereas it is often the case that childhood ADD/ADHD is easily observable through disruptive behavior or other patterns arising from inattention, the same is not always true of adult ADD/ADHD. It can very often be a hidden condition due to the fact that some symptoms will surface primarily on an emotional level. Many adults with ADD/ADHD find it very hard to manage their feelings, especially when it comes to dealing with emotions like anger and frustration. This can translate into a very short fuse and regular angry outbursts. Other emotional effects that are commonly reported are feelings of restlessness and agitation (many people report that they can never truly feel ‘at peace’ with themselves), a nagging sense of underachievement, radical mood swings, hypersensitivity to criticism, low self-esteem and feelings of inadequacy. Emotional problems such as these can obviously also be caused by a variety of other circumstances and conditions it is, however, important to also explore the possibility of ADD/ADHD if you recognize yourself in any of the descriptions above.
Stating some of the signs of ADD/ADHD like this does not convey the very negative consequences that it can have on the life of an adult if it is not recognized and addressed. The fact is that adult ADD/ADHD is serious. It should never be seen as simply a minor ‘holdover’ from childhood but should be dealt with in the best way possible. People who do not have the condition sometimes find it difficult to appreciate this fact, even going so far as seeing adult ADD/ADHD as an excuse for laziness or disorganization. The best way to address this misperception is to focus on the very real consequences and effects of the condition on real human beings. It is to this aspect of the condition that we shall shift our focus with next week’s article. See you then!

Recognizing ADD/ADHD in Adults (Part 1)

In this, the second part of our series dealing with the incidence and treatment of adult ADD/ADHD, we will focus specifically on how the condition can be recognized in adults. This is obviously quite a difficult area since most adults don’t find themselves in highly regulated classroom environments where attention problems are almost bound to ‘show up’ if they exist. There are, however, certain signs that we should all be aware of in evaluating our own struggles to pay attention and focus. I will discuss these signs over the next two weeks. Please be aware that the presence of any of these factors does not mean that you are definitely dealing with ADD/ADHD. They should, however, serve as warning lights to alert you to seriously consider the possibility of its presence.

Sign 1: Childhood learning and attention problems. In the vast majority of cases the diagnosis of adult ADD/ADHD can be described as the discovery of a pre-existing condition rather than the identification of a more recent problem. To put it another way, if you have ADD/ADHD as an adult you most probably also had it as a child. Your first step, in attempting to identify adult ADD/ADHD, should therefore be to cast a critical look back over your childhood years. Could it be that you had particular problems with paying attention? That you were often described as a very fidgety child? Did activities that required sustained focus cause you major problems? You may even now deal with the consequences of some or all of these factors due to the fact that you were not able to excel academically, or in other areas, as you hoped you would. It should again be emphasized that noting these traits in your past does not automatically identify you as having ADD/ADHD. You should, however, ask some serious questions if they were indeed features of your past.
Sign 2: Difficulty concentrating and lack of focus. What is true for the childhood years will probably also be true for adulthood. You should therefore not only look back but also take a critical look at your current ability to concentrate and to stay focused. Adults with ADD/ADHD often find it extremely difficult to ‘stay on track’ while busy with their daily tasks. They find that they are extremely easily distracted, that they ‘bounce’ from activity to activity and that they are very easily bored. These types of symptoms are often very difficult to spot because people tend to think that that is ‘just the way they are’. The fact is, however, that where ADD/ADHD is actually identified in such cases, the lack of attention can very easily be dealt with, with massive increases in efficiency and productivity as a result.
Sign 3: Forgetfulness and Disorganization. All ‘scatterbrains’ do not have ADD/ADHD but extreme forgetfulness is certainly one of the major warning signs when it comes to adult ADD/ADHD. If you find that you:

  • are constantly late
  • underestimate how long tasks will take to complete
  • frequently lose objects of value
  • your workspaces are extremely cluttered

It might be worth investigating the possible reasons for the fact that your life is constantly hovering on the edge of chaos.
Sign 4: Hyper-Focus. It may seem paradoxical to associate focus with ADD/ADHD. Hyper-focus is, however, one of the most common signs of adult ADD/ADHD. This involves the ability pay sharply focused attention to a task or assignment that is of particular interest. This focus is often to the exclusion of everything else. The hypothesis is that hyper-focus evolved as a coping mechanism for those dealing with ADD/ADHD since it allows them to filter out the distractions than would normally frustrate their efforts to pay close attention to anything. Hyper-focus can obviously be a very positive thing if it is channeled in the right direction. There is, in fact, strong evidence that many of the creative geniuses of the past were able to get themselves ‘into the zone’ and concentrate fully on the task at hand. If it is, however, not channeled in the right direction it can actively harm relationships as complete isolation from what is going on around you is bound to irritate other people if used in the wrong contexts.
I want to emphasize, once again, that many of these signs often don’t register in our consciousness since we think that their presence is simply a reflection of our personalities. It might be a good idea therefore to ask someone close to you to give you honest feedback on these areas as a way of trying to determine whether the presence of these signs are so overwhelming that further investigation is required. Next week we will continue to discuss some of the more common signs of the presence of adult ADD/ADHD. See you then!

At Last! Major Pharmaceutical Company Rapped Over the Knuckles Because of Overblown Claims

This week we were given a rare insight into the way in which the big drug companies attempt to tug at our heartstrings in order to get us to open our wallets. It came from perhaps the most unexpected source namely the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It sent a letter to Shire Pharmaceuticals questioning the way in which its new ADD/ADHD product Intuniv is being marketed. Shire is desperately trying to get anxious parents to sign up to this product as it tries to recover revenue lost due to the generic version of Aderrall reaching the market in mid April of this year. In the process they made some pretty amazing claims for Intuniv and the message was clear, if you really have the best interest of your child at heart you should ‘switch’ to it!
Somehow the FDA was not impressed with the overblown rhetoric contained in the marketing material for this product (including the Waiting Room Brochure, Brochure Holder, and Parents’ Guide). It lists its problems with these materials under the devastating heading: “Overstatement of efficacy”! Let’s look at some of the claims and taglines that the FDA had a problem with:
• “Does your child’s ADD/ADHD treatment get to what matters?
Reveal the kid within: A difference the whole family can see”
• “The symptoms of ADD/ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder) can hide who your child really is and disrupt family life. If you can separate the kid from the symptoms, you and your family may see more of the great kid inside. That’s where INTUNIV comes in. Revealing a difference the whole family can see”
The promotional materials also include the exhortation to “Imagine the moments ahead” as a tagline throughout its marketing material.
The company claims, furthermore, that Intuniv can be effective in helping parents to deal with:
• “Bedtime blowups”
• “Toothbrushing tantrums”
• “Homework hassles”
• “Dinnertime defiance”
• “Sibling struggles”
• “Excessive energy”
• “Mall meltdowns”
Instead of these ghastly scenarios it offers:
• “Manageable mornings”
• “Assignments accomplished”
• “Drama-free dinnertime”
In response to all of this overblown hype the FDA’s letter states: The overall impression conveyed by the above claims and presentations is that treatment with Intuniv will improve individual behavioral problems in children with ADD/ADHD that “the whole family can see.” FDA is not aware of substantial evidence or substantial clinical experience to support this implication.
Getting a letter like this, especially from an organization which, to put it mildly, does not have a sterling record of holding big pharmaceutical companies to account, must have been devastating for Shire Pharmaceuticals as they attempt to replace their revenue base. We should, however, not shed too many tears for them. These overblown claims simply show once again what I’ve been saying all along namely that big multinational drug oligarchies are simply chasing after the bottom line. On one level we cannot blame them; the desire to maximize revenue is ingrained in most companies. On another level, however, their complicity in the drugging of a significant proportion of an entire generation is deeply troubling.
The example of Intuniv shows the almost desperate lengths to which some of these companies will go to secure positive ADD/ADHD diagnoses so that people can take up their preferred ‘solution’ to it. The FDA highlights parts of the marketing material that actively encourages parents to look for ADD/ADHD symptoms before encouraging them to ask for their specific product as a ‘remedy’: “Tell your child’s doctor about temper outbursts, fidgeting, and irritability You may not think of these as symptoms of ADD/ADHD”  This is followed by a graphic of children playing a board game together nicely as their parents smile at them, in conjunction with the claims, “Ask the doctor if once-a-day INTUNIV could make a difference for your child” and “Parents and teachers reported that INTUNIV improved symptoms”
This case should not surprise us. We’ve had the same kind of overblown claims for years and years and for a variety of different products. In most cases the FDA looked the other way. It is only now (perhaps due to the greater public awareness of the dangers of ADD/ADHD medication) that they feel forced to comment on particularly egregious examples of false advertising. My advice is, as it has always been, to avoid ADD/ADHD medication at all costs. They are dangerous, addictive and have horrible side effects. So why do people use them? Simply because the drug companies tell them that they are so effective and that they are the only things that can turn the lives of their children around. This is, however, exactly what we would expect them to say even if it is not exactly true. The rare times when companies are ‘caught out’ playing this game should alert us to the fact that there is probably much more of this going on, undetected and unremarked upon. Let the buyer beware and preferably keep away as far as possible! The ‘Three Steps’ will teach you to do just this!
For the full text of the FDA’s letter to Shire Pharmaceuticals see:
http://pharmalive.com/News/index.cfm?articleid=715054&categoryid=30
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Shocking New Study: ADHD Ridiculously Easy to Fake!

College campuses in North America are in the grip of a drug epidemic. The nature of this epidemic is probably radically different from what you might expect. It does not, in most cases, involve hard drugs traded on street corners. Its focus is, instead, on medicines that can be bought perfectly legally over-the-counter at the nearest drugstore. This does not mean, however, that these drugs are any less dangerous than what is traded on the street. I am, of course, referring to the trade in drugs normally prescribed for the treatment of ADD/ADHD.
It is easy to see why college students are attracted to these kinds of drugs. There are plenty of stories of how they can help them to improve their concentration and even to pull all-nighters before important exams. There is obviously also the issue that there is much less of a social stigma attached to getting your ‘high’ from prescription medicine than from illegal Class-A drugs. What many students fail to realize, however, is that prescription drugs can be just as addictive and can have the same disastrous effects as the illegal varieties. It should also be noted that improper use of prescription medicines (especially trading them) also falls foul of the law.
Many parents derive a great deal of comfort from the last point. They are convinced that their children would never stoop so low as to buy prescription medicines from their friends. This might be a naive assumption in some cases, but let us assume that it is true for most students. Does this mean that there is nothing to worry about and that students who are unwilling to get medication under the table would automatically be protected?
This is, sadly, certainly not the case. Why so? Simply because ADD/ADHD is ridiculously easy to fake. If someone can make the right noises and push the right buttons, he/she can very easily go to the campus medical centre and emerge with a prescription for an ADD/ADHD drug half an hour later. The ease with which descriptions for dangerous psycho-stimulant medication can be obtained was highlighted once again in an article in the latest issue of the journal Psychological Assessment. The article entitled Detection of Feigned ADD/ADHD in College Students assesses the effectiveness of the normal methods of diagnosing ADD/ADHD (i.e. self-evaluation checklists etc) in distinguishing between students who actually have the condition and those who are simply faking it. The results are startling. In a very strong statement the researchers state that self-evaluation checklists are of ‘no value’ in detecting those who are simply feigning the condition. The reason for this is clear. Even people with just a very basic knowledge of ADD/ADHD will know what to say in order to get the desired piece of paper.
The implications of the study are certainly troubling. It leaves us with the impression of a medical system that is happy to prescribe dangerous mind-altering drugs to anyone who took the time to Google the symptoms of ADD/ADHD before going to an appointment! Considering that ADD/ADHD drugs are so sought-after on college campuses there must be a lot of this kind of activity going on, with campus medical centers doling out these drugs virtually on demand.
We are so often told that ADD/ADHD is a recognized psychological condition that can be identified through standardized diagnostic procedures. It turns out, however, that these procedures are anything but rigorous and are open to a wide variety of interpretations. An exact science it is not! You should therefore be very reluctant to simply accept an ADD/ADHD diagnosis at face value. Especially since the diagnostic process can also be predetermined from the ‘other side’, namely that of the medical professional. There is an old saying that if you only have a hammer everything looks like a nail. If it is therefore the case that you believe that only medication will solve the inattention and difficult behavior of the person in front of you then you will look for any indication that he/she might have ADD/ADHD. You will be ‘guided’ in this process by the fact that the instruments that are normally used for diagnosing the condition are so inexact and open to interpretation that you can simply read your own conclusions into them.
Allow me to end with two words of warning. Firstly to those who are considering the use of ADD/ADHD medication to help them get through college: Don’t! These drugs are dangerous and addictive and have horrible side effects. Secondly to those who are facing an ADD/ADHD diagnosis, please don’t accept this as the last word. ADD/ADHD diagnosis is not an exact science (as this article once again confirmed) and you should therefore make sure that you get other opinions and investigate alternative explanations. Reading some of the material presented here on ‘3 Steps ADD’ will certainly help you to weed out other probable causes. Please take the time to do so!