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ADHD Medication: Not the Problem. Not the Solution

Originally published on Medium

 Photo by  JOSHUA COLEMAN

There’s been much discussion around the impacts of ADHD medication. Some worry that it is over-prescribed. Others worry that “neurotypical” people are abusing the medications. Both of these fears are well-founded. However, there needs to be more said about how medication works, and when it is beneficial.

First and foremost, medications do not take away the disruptions caused by ADHD. ADHD’s sleeping giant is the emotional and mental distress of living with it.

Medication works to improve executive functioning in the brain, which does help create stability. But the emotional and mental storms of ADHD still occur.

Medication can, in fact, be the biggest disrupter. Without proper management, poor treatment results. This can manifest either as abuse, or as a lack of success from using meds as the only intervention.

ADHD Medication and Addiction

As one with ADHD, medication has been a mixed bag for me. For almost 10 years after my diagnosis, I used personal strategies to manage my ADHD. I wanted to avoid medication, having come to the table with decades of drug recovery history. Managing a controlled substance was a big concern for me.

I realized I was attempting to correct the course of my ADHD in ways that activated my craving responses — using a variety of types of caffeine or energy boosting supplements. Eventually I found a psychiatrist for medication management. We’ve worked together for the past 5 years. This is the proper way to manage medications — the proper way to avoid addictive tendencies.

Managed Medication Works

 The smile of a man who manages his ADHD with medication and personal strategies for life.

The smile of a man who manages his ADHD with medication and personal strategies for life.

Medication helps me feel more stable than ever before in my life. I follow through regularly. I maintain a much higher balance in my business development process. I can manage many projects at the same time. Medication helps me be consistent and effective.

The stability that medication creates neurologically for me is a “no-brainer.” It is in my highest good as a person, husband, father, and expert professional to remain on my medication.

Even with Medication, Life Management is Still Mandatory

The media often says medication is a magic answer. It is not. Medication is only 15–20 percent of my total intervention strategy. The challenges of disruptions for those with ADHD do not go away. Emotional stress, mental stress, or poor self care continue to manifest while on medication.

Medication Does Not Work Without Other Interventions

Education and intervention are the only ways to create a more stable and happy life. Personalized strategies, balanced nutrition, sleep, and exercise need planning. So does the development of a relationship with mindfulness and meditation.

All people adjust personal neurochemistry throughout the day. Nutrition, exercise, sleep, and stress management all contribute to brain function. This reality is even more important for ADHD.

Understanding basic ADHD neurobiology is necessary. So is knowledge of the spectrum of western medication, and the basics of how supplements work. With ADHD, we need to make educated choices about how we are adjusting our neurochemistry. It is the only way we can maintain our professional and personal lives.

It’s important to know how to review personalized strategies on a regular basis. It is my goal to help those with ADHD, professionals who work with them, and those who love them to manage life with ADHD. Developing strategies to manage the diagnosis in a holistic way is the only way to succeed with ADHD.

My upcoming video series lays out a plan for developing personalized strategies. If you have, live with, or work with the effects of ADHD, I’d like to invite you to learn all you can about effective management.

Remember, Medication is Not the Problem OR the Solution.

It is only a part of the answer. In fact, the current conversation around medication is creating more of a problem. Navigating life with ADHD — the emotional and mental distress of ADHD — is the true problem. Education about the spectrum of interventions, and how needs change throughout one’s life, is the only solution.

James OchoaComment