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Elizabeth Hartney, PhD

Are Drugs the Best Treatment for ADHD?

By November 17, 2012

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ADHD is a real disorder. By that, I mean that people with ADHD, whether children or adults, have brains that function differently, and different ways of processing information, that make it harder for them to perform well in some aspects of modern life. But are drugs the answer?

Some experts doubt that ADHD exists -- they claim that people with ADHD are not ill, they simply don't conform to society's expectations of them. While I would agree that non-conformity does not constitute a disorder, the inability to conform does constitute a disorder, because it interferes with being able to live your life the way you want to.

Drugs like Ritalin are an easy fix in this situation. They "normalize" the brain by making it behave more like the brains of most other people, allowing people with ADHD to focus more easily. But Ritalin is addictive, and there are other ways to get the brain to function like other people's brains, including neurotherapy, which is a long term, not a short term solution to the problem of ADHD.

And perhaps more concerningly, there are increasing reports of schoolchildren and college students becoming drug dealers, as Ritalin is all too easy to sell to friends and make a quick buck. With this incentive, it is easy for kids to fake ADHD. And with reports of researchers and doctors receiving financial kickbacks for promoting drugs as the first line of ADHD treatment, the whole thing starts to look like a drug racket.

If Ritalin was the only option, it might make sense. But it isn't. And there is definitely a lot of truth in the arguments against ADHD being seen as a disorder at all. Just because someone is different doesn't mean they are ill.

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