When many people think of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), they think of hyperactive or easily distracted children. While it is true that ADHD is commonly diagnosed in early childhood; thousands of American adults are diagnosed with ADHD every year. This post will look at some of the facts and figures for the drug. It also covers ADHD symptoms and diagnosis. Finally, it looks at the rise in Adderall abuse by college students and discusses what it’s like to be addicted to the drug. Use this information to keep yourself and others from falling prey to this awful addiction.
Adult Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, It’s More Common Than You Think
- Boys are three times more likely than girls to be diagnosed with ADHD.
- Approximately 6.1 percent of American children are currently taking medication for ADHD.
- About 12.9 percent of men will be diagnosed with ADHD at some point in their lifetime.
- ADHD affects people of all races from all socioeconomic backgrounds.
- Age seven is the average age for a child to be diagnosed with ADHD.
- In the past eight years, there has been a 42 percent increase in the number of ADHD diagnoses.
The rising number of men, women, and children who are being diagnosed with ADHD is alarming. Medical experts are currently evaluating whether this increase is related to a better understanding of ADHD or if doctors are misdiagnosing and overmedicating young children to keep them less active and more compliant. The debate continues.
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The New ADHD Diagnosis
In the past,ADD and ADHDhave been considered two distinct disorders, commonly grouped together or referred to as “ADD/ADHD.” Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) is just what the name implies – a disorder that involves a deficit or inability to pay attention. The same is true with ADHD. The name speaks for itself – there is an attention deficit coupled with hyperactivity. Seems simple enough, right? Well, it is important to understand that the classification of ADD and ADHD has changed. The medical community is now taking these two attention deficit disorders and categorizing them under one umbrella – ADHD. The use of the ADD diagnosis is becoming outdated. To properly diagnosis ADHD, a medical expert will use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, commonly referred to as the “DSM-IV.” A psychiatrist or mental healthcare professional must follow the guidelines and criteria from the (DSM-IV) to evaluate the possible presence of ADHD. The DSM-IV has diagnostic criteria forthree subtypes of ADHD:
- Combined (both inattentive and hyperactive)
- Predominantly inattentive
- Predominantly hyperactive-impulsive
In years past, if an individual met the criteria for “ADHD predominantly inattentive,” he or she would have been diagnosed as “ADD.” Now, the individual is considered “ADHD predominantly inattentive.” If a person is diagnosed as hyperactive-impulsive, they have “ADHD predominantly hyperactive-impulsive.” If a person is inattentiveandhyperactive, the person is diagnosed with “ADHD combined.” It might seem a bit confusing.More information on ADHDis availableif you need further clarification on how the disorder is now diagnosed.
To gain a better understanding of how the three subtypes of ADHD are diagnosed, you must first understand the symptoms. Inattention (previously considered the symptoms for ADD):
- Fails to pay close attention to details
- Has difficulty paying attention for any length of time
- Has difficulty listening and following conversations
- Is quickly distracted from tasks
- Has difficulty following through on thoughts
- Often loses important and valuable items
- Avoids task that require extended periods of thought or attention
- Inability to sit still
- Often leaves situations unexpectedly and inappropriately
- Inability to remain quiet
- Is always “on the go” as if driven by a motor
- Excessive and repetitive talking
- Impulsive thoughts and actions
- Often interrupts and is unable to wait
- Experiences symptoms of both inattention and hyperactivity.
To be diagnosed with ADHD, someone must have demonstrated at least six symptoms from the complete list provided by the DSM-IV for more than six months.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) estimates there are nearly 9 million American adults with a dual-diagnosis. When someone has ADD or ADHDanda substance abuse problem, he or she is considered to have a “dual-diagnosis.” A dual-diagnosis happens when both a psychiatric disorder and an addiction are present. Many people who struggle with ADHD also struggle with an addiction to drugs, alcohol, or prescription drugs. Dual diagnosis means there are two co-existing disorders –ADHDandaddiction. This makes diagnosis and treatment of each disorder even more challenging for health care professionals. Many people with ADHD abusepopular and highly addictive drugsbecause they say the use of these chemicals helps ease the symptoms of their mental condition. Typically, ADHD cannot be successfully treated until the individual’s problem of addiction has been taken care of. This means someone with an addiction and ADHD must detox and receive treatment first before they can begin the process of effectively treating their ADHD.
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The Rise of Adderall Use in Colleges
Adderall is one of the most commonly abused drugs by college students. Many students use it as a “good grade pill”. In fact, one of the slang terms for the drug is “study buddy”. One recent survey found that 24% of college students admit using the drug. ADHD medications like Adderall are attractive to students. The academic environment is very stressful. Students are always trying to do their best. This takes a lot of energy. Also, it can be hard to motivate yourself to work, especially when you’re tired. College students take ADHD meds like amphetamines to get the energy and focus they need to keep studying. The idea that Adderall is helpful is very widespread. Netflix recently released a documentary about the drug. In the trailer, one of the people they interview says that the warning on the bottle should say that “side effects include being awesome at everything.” However, this only looks at the amount of work that someone can do. It doesn’t take the quality of that work into account. But workers are expected to produce more and more in the modern economy. Many people feel like their jobs depend on working as much as possible. This mindset makes the stimulant effects of Adderall attractive. It lets people stay awake and active longer. But this comes at the cost of their long-term health. But Adderall actually hurts performance for students without ADHD. It impairs working memory performance. That means students won’t do as well on exams as they would without the drug. Also, the drug is very habit forming. Students think about how much work they did on the drug. Their brain was pumping dopamine while they did that work. That makes them remember the work in a good light. This leads to a situation where students feel like they can’t study without the drug. After all, they didn’t feel motivated before they took Adderall. Without the drug, work can seem like an even more daunting task. Students also don’t take the effects of the drug wearing off. Some people call this the Adderall crash. The brain isn’t getting the dopamine it had been. Therefore, it feels unrewarded. Also, staying awake on amphetamines spends a lot of energy. The results vary from person to person. But they include drowsiness, anxiety, depression, and more.
The Drug is Everywhere
Another reason so many college students take Adderall is that it’s easy to get. Many students have an Adderall prescription. That’s because it’s one of the primary medications used to treat ADHD. This fact combines with the reality of a 42% increase in ADHD diagnosis between 2003 and 2011. As a result, more people get the drug than ever before. That means it’s more widely available. In fact, the problem is so bad that some peoplefake ADHDto get a prescription. This only increases the amount of the drug that’s available on campuses across the country. There are other drugs available to treat ADHD. However, most of these drugs are different types of stimulants. That includes Ritalin, Concerta, and Mydayis. That means people can develop an amphetamine addiction even if they aren’t taking Adderall.
Understanding Adderall Addiction
Adderall is a prescription drug. That gives people the false impression that it’s safe. However, you can certainly get addicted to Adderall. Amphetamines are actually one of the more addictive drugs available today. That’s because Adderall is an amphetamine. It belongs to the same family of drugs as meth. They are both different types of amphetamines. That’s why many people just refer to them generically as “speed”. Amphetamines are stimulants. They work for people with ADHD by making their brain produce dopamine at a faster rate. This faster rate creates a regular rhythm. It’s thought that this is how stimulants help people with ADHD focus. They provide the brain a steady rhythm. That prevents neurons from firing out of sync. While dopamine production is what makes the drug work for people with ADHD, it’s also what makes the drug addictive. Dopamine is the chemical your brain releases to reward you. Usually it releases dopamine in response to specific things. This reward system evolved over millions of years. The brain rewards itself for doing things that aid survival and passing on your DNA. But Adderall changes this calculation. Dopamine production comes from a pill instead of from actions. That means your brain’s reward centers are being directly activated. That makes it harder for the brain to produce dopamine without the drug. This leads to physical and psychological dependency. That means that your brain craves the drug chemically. It wants the surge of dopamine that Adderall provides. It also means that you begin to think that you can’t function without amphetamines. That’s because you don’t get the same feeling of satisfaction while working as you do while on the drug.
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One Man’s Struggle with ADHD and Substance Abuse
My name is Jacob. I have ADHD (combined). What that basically means is that I can’t pay attention and I want to move around all the time. I am 41-years-old. I am now convinced I have suffered from this condition all of my life, but I went undiagnosed as a child. I think if I would have learned coping skills earlier in life, I wouldn’t struggle as much as I do with my ADHD.It is difficult to explain how ADHD affects me personally, but I believe it is important to try and share at least some insight into my diagnosis. I want to be an advocate for those of us who struggle with attention deficit issues or hyperactivity problems. Many people think we’re weird. The fact is, we’re just super excited and easily distracted people who want to be loved and understood.Chances are, you know someone with ADHD – whether it’s someone you love and care about or someone you know in the workplace. Understanding this illness can help you learn how to manage relationships with people who have ADHD. (I’ve been told we can be a confusing and sometimes difficult bunch).For me, my ADHD affects me in a number of ways. Inside, I feel like I just want to go, go, go. I want to talk, I want to move, I want to jump up and down! I feel like I have so much energy, but the world requires me to sit still, behave, and use my “inside voice.” It often takes everything I have to remain seated at my computer at work and get a task accomplished. It’s like the world is in slow motion and I am going a hundred miles an hour.In terms of my distractibility, people think I am rude. I interrupt people and obviously drift off to some other place during conversations. I usually don’t realize I have spaced out or that I have missed important information because I am “somewhere else.”For many years, I used meth to quiet my brain. It’s strange that such a powerful upper would calm me down instead of amp me up even more, but it didn’t. It made me feel normal. Well, I am no different than anyone else….. I ended up addicted to meth. I lost everything, including my freedom. I hit bottom and quit three years ago.Now, I manage my ADHD with medication and therapy. I am now working onthe power of positive thinkingto help with my ADHD. I have learned to be free from drugs and alcohol, but I have also learned to beemotionally sober.Today, life is good. Sure, I feel like randomly doing jumping jacks in my apartment as I type this out, but what else is new? Can you relate to Jacob’s story? Do you have a dual-diagnosis of ADHD and addiction? Please share your experience here:
Adults with ADHD may find it difficult to focus and prioritize, leading to missed deadlines and forgotten meetings or social plans. The inability to control impulses can range from impatience waiting in line or driving in traffic to mood swings and outbursts of anger.Why is it so hard to live with ADHD? ›
ADHD can make you forgetful and distracted. You're also likely to have trouble with time management because of your problems with focus. All of these symptoms can lead to missed due dates for work, school, and personal projects.What it's like to have ADHD as a grown woman? ›
Women with ADHD face the same feelings of being overwhelmed and exhausted as men with ADHD commonly feel. Psychological distress, feelings of inadequacy, low self-esteem, and chronic stress are common. Often, women with ADHD feel that their lives are out of control or in chaos, and daily tasks may seem impossibly huge.What ADHD feels like for adults? ›
People with ADHD will have at least two or three of the following challenges: difficulty staying on task, paying attention, daydreaming or tuning out, organizational issues, and hyper-focus, which causes us to lose track of time. ADHD-ers are often highly sensitive and empathic.What is an ADHD meltdown? ›
ADHD meltdowns are sudden outbursts of frustration and anger that seem to come out of nowhere. If your child is struggling to control their emotions, there are ways to help them. For children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), impulsivity can present in many ways.Does ADHD worsen with age? ›
ADHD does not get worse with age if a person receives treatment for their symptoms after receiving a diagnosis. If a doctor diagnoses a person as an adult, their symptoms will begin to improve when they start their treatment plan, which could involve a combination of medication and therapy.How does an ADHD brain think? ›
The mind of a person with ADHD is full of the minutiae of life (“Where are my keys?” “Where did I park the car?”), so there is little room left for new thoughts and memories. Something has to be discarded or forgotten to make room for new information. Often the information individuals with ADHD need is in their memory…How do you motivate an adult with ADHD? ›
- Set smaller goals. ...
- Create a task list. ...
- Involve others. ...
- Create rewards. ...
- Take the pressure off. ...
- Change the routine. ...
- Visualize the result. ...
- Identify your productive time.
Research shows that people with ADHD (among others) report higher frequencies of boredom. Contrary to what your ten-year-old says, boredom won't kill you, but it can gnaw away at your life satisfaction and can also lead to other problematic behaviors and situations.What is a good job for a woman with ADHD? ›
Fast-paced jobs that may be a good fit if you have ADHD:
- emergency responder (firefighter, EMT)
- retail worker.
- service employee.
ADHD Job #1: Teacher
Many adults with ADHD find joy in professions that allow them to work directly with children — in careers such as teaching or child care. These jobs rely on your dynamic personality and thoughtful creativity, though they may put your patience to the test.
People living with ADHD may have a variety of skills and abilities beyond those of their neurotypical counterparts. These may include hyperfocus, resilience, creativity, conversational skills, spontaneity, and abundant energy.How do ADHD people act in relationships? ›
Symptoms of ADHD that can cause relationship problems
If you have ADHD, you may zone out during conversations, which can make your partner feel ignored and devalued. You may also miss important details or mindlessly agree to something you don't remember later, which can be frustrating to your loved one.
If a person with ADHD does not receive help, they may have difficulty staying focused and maintaining relationships with other people. They may also experience frustration, low self-esteem, and certain other mental health conditions.Does ADHD make you feel lonely? ›
Depression and other comorbid conditions that are common with ADHD, such as anxiety and addiction, all increase the chances of feeling lonely. Now that we know why ADHDers feel lonely, it's important to develop strategies to overcome that feeling. Feeling lonely has serious health repercussions.Do ADHD adults have empathy? ›
As we've discussed, unfortunately, many people with ADHD tend to have a lack of empathy. This can be addressed, though, through identifying and communicating about each other's feelings.What does ADHD anger look like? ›
Anger is not on the official list of ADHD symptoms . However, many adults with ADHD struggle with anger, especially impulsive, angry outbursts . Triggers can include frustration, impatience, and even low self-esteem. A number of prevention tips may help adults with ADHD manage anger as a symptom.What does an ADHD episode look like? ›
With ADHD, a child or teen may have rapid or impulsive speech, physical restlessness, trouble focusing, irritability, and, sometimes, defiant or oppositional behavior.How do people with ADHD perceive the world? ›
Individuals with ADHD have little self-awareness. While they can often read other people well, it's hard for the average person with ADHD to know, from moment to moment, how they themselves are doing. Neurotypicals misinterpret this as being callous, narcissistic, uncaring, or socially inept.Can you see ADHD on a brain scan? ›
Can brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) diagnose ADHD? Unfortunately, but unequivocally, no. No brain imaging modality — MRI, SPECT scan, T.O.V.A, or other — can accurately diagnose attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD or ADD).
Becoming easily overwhelmed and distracted can sometimes be hallmark symptoms of ADHD. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition, people with ADHD might experience symptoms like: restlessness. difficulty focusing.How do you stimulate an ADHD brain? ›
High-risk activities — driving fast, motorcycle riding, and waterskiing — motivate ADHD brains to focus. Some extreme activities, like daring ski jumps, sky-diving, or taking fast-acting street drugs, elicit a dopamine spike, the brain's most intense reward.Do ADHD people procrastinate? ›
Procrastination is a common behavior in people with ADHD. While everyone procrastinates sometimes, evidence indicates that people with ADHD may be more likely to procrastination often or on a daily basis.How do you stay disciplined with ADHD? ›
Some ideas for strategies include deep breathing, visualising one's lips staying closed, walking away, paraphrasing the other person's statement before responding. Practicing meditation and mindfulness may also improve the ability to pause. Get to know how their unique brain works, their strengths and their challenges.Why is boredom so painful for ADHD? ›
People with ADHD have less diffusion of dopamine in the brain's synapses than do people without ADHD, so they do not get the same degree of satisfaction from doing ordinary tasks. That lack of satisfaction is felt as boredom, and it saps a person's motivation to continue.Do ADHD people get bored in relationships? ›
Some people with ADD/ADHD also have trouble maintaining everyday relationships. They often quickly become bored with their romantic partner. When the rush of new love wears off, boredom sets in, they end the relationship and seek out someone new.How do you beat ADHD boredom? ›
- handling fidget toys.
- listening to short story audiobooks or podcasts.
- playing games with yourself to motivate you to get through a tedious or boring task, such as competitions to see how much you can do in an hour.
Yes. Whether you view attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) as neurological — affecting how the brain concentrates or thinks — or consider ADHD as a disability that impacts working, there is no question that the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) covers individuals with ADHD.Can ADHD drive car? ›
While additional years of experience can help to improve driving habits, adults with ADHD must constantly be aware of how symptoms can affect their driving. Adults with ADHD tend to be at greater risk for having accidents, receiving traffic tickets, and driving without a license or on a suspended license.How can ADHD be an advantage? ›
They include: Curiosity - a willingness to explore what life has to offerr. Hyperfocus - when the ADHD brain is sufficiently stimulated, they can laser-focus for long periods of time. Creative thinking - divergent, non-linear thinking which synthesises two or more otherwise-disparate concepts together.
ADHD is not a disorder. In fact, if directed, harnessed, and utilized, it can be a superpower and give you the ability to achieve great success. The brain chemistry that produces negative effects, also produces positive effects.Do people with ADHD change jobs frequently? ›
People with ADHD change jobs frequently — often impulsively — and are more likely to be fired, to miss work, and to have troubled relationships with co-workers. It doesn't have to be that way: Adults with ADHD frequently excel in the workplace, once they adapt to their disability and develop coping skills.What jobs should people with ADHD do? ›
- Graphic Designer: Creativity, innovation and enthusiasm combine to make people with ADHD fantastic graphic designers. ...
- Teacher: ...
- Computer Technician: ...
ADHD brains have low levels of a neurotransmitter called norepinephrine. Norepinephrine is linked arm-in-arm with dopamine. Dopamine is the thing that helps control the brain's reward and pleasure center. The ADHD brain has impaired activity in four functional regions of the brain.What should people with ADHD not do? ›
- Don't Dismiss the Condition.
- Don't Suggest That ADHD Is Overdiagnosed.
- Don't Criticize ADHD Symptoms.
- Don't Blame Parenting or Discipline.
- Don't Discriminate.
- Avoid Making Comparisons.
High-functioning ADHD could mean: you experience severe symptoms but have developed “work arounds” to carry on with daily tasks and responsibilities. your symptoms are mild, and you're able to function with minimal impairment. symptoms are greatly impairing in some areas but you're highly functional in others.What it's like to be married to someone with ADHD? ›
Partners diagnosed with ADHD share many of the same frustrations as their non-ADHD counterparts. They feel misunderstood and unloved. They get angry when their partners criticize them a lot. They worry when their relationship breaks down because of their disorganization and distractibility.Is selfishness a symptom of ADHD? ›
Self-centered behavior is common with ADHD.
Because of this, they are not able to access other people's needs or desires, making interaction difficult. One sign of this is interrupting during a conversation or butting in on conversations they were not a part of.
Due to differences in the ADHD brain, you can shift focus even more quickly, causing you to seem to lose interest in your partner or your relationship suddenly. During the early stages of a relationship, the partner affected by ADHD can focus intensely on the romance and the new partner.Do adults with ADHD feel remorse? ›
Many adults with ADHD carry around feelings of sadness, remorse or disappointment over something that happened in their lives or something that they did. This regret often acts as a form of self-sabotage: it's a way to put yourself down that prevents you from living more fully in the present.
The brain's frontal lobes, which are involved in ADHD, continue to mature until we reach age 35. In practical terms, this means that people with ADHD can expect some lessening of their symptoms over time. Many will not match the emotional maturity of a 21-year-old until their late 30's.What is the life expectancy of ADHD? ›
He found that children diagnosed with ADHD in childhood had a reduction on average of nearly 10 years in their healthy remaining life expectancy and over 8 years reduction in total remaining life.Why do people with ADHD not have many friends? ›
ADHD is linked with the development of low self-esteem. 4 Low self-esteem can make it even more challenging to meet new people and make friends. You might not have the confidence to put yourself out there. Maybe you don't think anyone would want to be your friend, which can hold you back from making connections.Do people with ADHD want to be alone? ›
Individuals with adult ADHD may appear as one of two extremes: withdrawn and antisocial, preferring to spend their time alone; or overly social and unable to easily endure even brief periods of solitude. Neither of these extremes allows much room for flexibility in daily living.Do people with ADHD struggle to live alone? ›
Many people with ADHD spend too much time living in their own heads and not enough time forming and nurturing friendships. If you're feeling lonely, you're not alone — or without help. Many people with ADHD that I run into have no friends.What are the 3 main symptoms of ADHD? ›
- Inattention: Short attention span for age (difficulty sustaining attention) Difficulty listening to others. ...
- Impulsivity: Often interrupts others. ...
- Hyperactivity: Seems to be in constant motion; runs or climbs, at times with no apparent goal except motion.
People in the ADHD world experience life more intensely, more passionately than neurotypicals. They have a low threshold for outside sensory experience because the day-to-day experience of their five senses and their thoughts is always on high volume.How does ADHD affect emotions in adults? ›
People who have ADHD frequently experience emotions so deeply that they become overwhelmed or “flooded.” They may feel joy, anger, pain, or confusion in a given situation—and the intensity may precede impulsive behaviors they regret later.How do adults with ADHD live? ›
- Get Organized. If you often spend your day trying to figure out where to start but wind up getting very little done by dinnertime, a new organizational approach might be in order. ...
- Follow a Routine. ...
- Make Big Tasks More Manageable. ...
- Minimize Distractions. ...
- Respect Your Limits.
If a person with ADHD does not receive help, they may have difficulty staying focused and maintaining relationships with other people. They may also experience frustration, low self-esteem, and certain other mental health conditions.
Stress is thought to be one of the leading triggers of ADHD episodes in adults, and it can also cause ADHD-like symptoms in those who don't have the condition. This happens because sustained anxiety decreases working memory performance, making it harder to retain new information and pay attention.Is ADHD on the autism spectrum? ›
Autism spectrum disorder and ADHD are related in several ways. ADHD is not on the autism spectrum, but they have some of the same symptoms. And having one of these conditions increases the chances of having the other. Experts have changed the way they think about how autism and ADHD are related.What are positives of ADHD? ›
These may include hyperfocus, resilience, creativity, conversational skills, spontaneity, and abundant energy. Many people view these benefits as “superpowers” because those with ADHD can hone them to their advantage. People with ADHD have a unique perspective that others may find interesting and valuable.What are adults with ADHD good at? ›
Creativity and Spontaneity
People with ADHD have exceptionally creative and versatile personalities. Their ability to “think outside the box” is one of their greatest strengths.
Symptoms of ADHD that can cause relationship problems
If you have ADHD, you may zone out during conversations, which can make your partner feel ignored and devalued. You may also miss important details or mindlessly agree to something you don't remember later, which can be frustrating to your loved one.
As we've discussed, unfortunately, many people with ADHD tend to have a lack of empathy. This can be addressed, though, through identifying and communicating about each other's feelings.Is lack of empathy a symptom of ADHD? ›
Impaired empathy often destroys relationships where ADHD symptoms go unrecognized or unaddressed. But deficits in empathy cut both ways in ADHD-challenged relationships. Typically, both partners become more mutually empathic, once they both start learning about the causes and varied manifestations of ADHD.Why do ADHD people overreact? ›
“Challenges with processing emotions start in the brain itself. Sometimes the working memory impairments of ADHD allow a momentary emotion to become too strong, flooding the brain with one intense emotion.” Thomas Brown, Ph. D., explains why (and how) ADHD sparks such intense anger, frustration, and hurt.What helps ADHD in adults without medication? ›
How do you treat ADHD without medication? For adults with ADHD, cognitive behavioral therapies help to reduce distractibility and improve organizational skills. Also, teaching relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, and guided imagery is helpful.Does caffeine help ADHD? ›
A few studies have looked at how caffeine can affect ADHD symptoms, but the results have been mixed. Even though caffeine is a stimulant, it's not generally recommended as a treatment for ADHD because it hasn't proved to be as effective as prescription medications.