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ADHD & Medication

ADHD Medication is forever in the news; is controversial and has a "bad name". People say it makes them "Zombies"; no real difference; depressed; anxious etc. Yes, there may be instances of these feelings and abuse when taking ADHD medication, but that is exactly why:

  • it should be prescribed by a psychiatrist who will monitor the patient, his/her body build, metabolism, feedback, results etc., over a period of time!
  • it should be prescribed to only diagnosed ADHD patients. To give ADHD medication to non-ADHD people is not only contra-productive, but very dangerous. We hear from time to time students get Ritalin from doctors before exams to improve their concentration. That is in my opinion, unethical, dangerous and playing in the hands of those who are against ADHD medication.
  • not all are the same and not everyone reacts the same. That is why there is different products (Ritalin®, Strattera®, Concerta® and others). Even having the same active ingredient, the method of release will present different results.

What about diet, sugar and CBT?

Some advocates that these remedies be used rather than medication. I'm of the opinion that it should not be an either - or", but AND. Of course a good balanced diet, less sugar etc. will be beneficial and is important for quality of life and even other benefits (cardio conditions etc.). And yes, CBT and the learning of personal skills and traits in combating the negative effects of ADHD is equally important. But, to throw away medication completely is preventing you from an opportunity to improve your life. Do the diet; do CBT but also do medication. Research has shown that other methods have a success rate of up to 15% - 20% while the success rate of medication is 80%. Do you want to leave the 80% chance and only try the 20%?

Maybe its important to clarify this here: medication is NOT magic. It will not change you from ADHD to "non-ADHD". Some people start taking medication and then expects them to not being impulsive or hyper-active any more. Maybe even family members or colleagues might expect to see "normality". It doesn't take away the disorder, it just eases the energy and effort in planning, controlling your emotions, stop-and-think. You still need to work on improving organising skills, improving impulsive behaviour etc.,but at least the medication will make it more manageable and maybe even more possible.

My story: The biggest benefit for me personally, is the calming affect it has on my emotions...and therefore, to my family. I decided not to take medication after I was diagnosed as I realised that I've already managed to learn skills and tricks in handling impulsivity, hyper-activity, organising & planning, routine etc. I was however, oblivious (another ADHD trait - difficulty in seeing own shortcomings) to the emotional roller-coaster I've caused in my family. From zero to anger could happen in a blink of an eye; for the silliest reason....just to expect everyone to act normal 5 minutes later, 'cause its over (after I might have verbally abused people). After deciding to take medication because I owe it to myself and my family, that has changed completely. Even if I can't feel / see the difference on a daily basis, I KNOW it makes a difference to my family and for that reason, I will keep on taking medication for my ADHD. I'm taking Concerta®.


Common medication (in South Africa)

I'm not a pharmacist and I believe you need to work with your psychiatrist in finding the correct medication and dosage, and there are plenty of information available on Google. Suffice to say then that medication increases the levels of neurotransmitters (normally dopamine & noredranaline) in order to calm the effects of the imbalance of neurotransmitter levels. adhd medication

  • Ritalin® is a methylphenidate and come in different forms of releases (long acting, slow release etc). Depending on your needs, body and metabolism, the right one can assist in your daily activities.
  • Concerta® is an award-winning way of releasing different quantities of the same active ingredients as Ritalin®, in your blood stream.
  • Strattera® has a different active ingredient and is not a stimulant. Strattera® takes a few weeks to normalise in your blood levels and is not suitable for short term medication.


Some common medication myths (in my opinion)

  • Not sedatives – equalizes the playing field
  • Not magic! – You still need to develop skills.
  • One size does NOT fit all – with psychiatrists, find the correct medicine & dosage.
  • Addiction – yes, if you’re NOT ADHD. Addiction is normally to escape the world, not to become more focused on reality (which is why we take medication).
  • Curable – NO. Will assist in being more focused but will not cure
  • Not worth the trouble? Effective in more than 80% of people; enhance and normalise brain function
  • Don’t use at home / holidays. - Relationships of your loved ones, are affected the most

Benefits of taking ADHD medication

  • Self-esteem is not been broken down constantly because you act more sociably and read social cues more efficiently
  • Social abilities are improved for the same reasons
  • Academic abilities are improved and prevent academic failure which can have permanent future consequences.



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Thabo Pienaar

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