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How effective is medication for ADD?

Medication is an important issue to consider. People who have mild to even moderate ADD may be able to treat the disorder through natural means. People with more severe forms of ADD often need medication. It is usually not the first thing to do, but when necessary and if prescribed properly it can make a huge positive difference.
Sometimes other biological therapies like supplements, neurofeedback and exercise can replace the need for medication. Sometimes medication can be lifesaving. Optimal brain function is the goal, not whether to be on or off medication.
Whenever medication is started or considered it’s essential to have clear goals in mind for its use. Some examples of ADD medication treatment goals include:
  • increasing attention span and learning
  • decreasing distractibility
  • decreasing restlessness or high activity levels
  • decreasing impulsiveness and increasing thoughtfulness
  • decreasing irritability
  • increasing motivation
  • overall, improving functioning at school, at work, at home, in relationships and within yourself.
Medication needs to be targeted to each individual ADD type. The wrong medication can make things worse. Ineffective treatment is not innocuous. When treatments fail individuals and families get discouraged. The discouragement leads to discontinuation of treatment. The earlier treatment is effective, the more people are willing to follow through with treatment.
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In both children and adults, medication can be highly effective in reducing attention deficit disorder (ADD) symptoms. I have witnessed startling transformations in ADD adults treated with medication. I've seen adults go from emotional to clear and focused, from scatterbrains to controlled forces to be reckoned with.

However, these dramatic transformations raise deep philosophical and psychological questions. I have observed that, in some cases, as individuals became less eccentric and began to conform more to societal values, they gave up various passions. For example, on medication they might spend less time and energy on causes such as political activism or caring for animals. In many cases, the people around these individuals were glad to see them give up unusual interests.

I find some of these changes disturbing. It is impressive to see a person transformed by medication, to see a person become like another -- indeed a different -- person. What is worrisome is that as these individuals become more like other people, they also seem to become less like themselves. In short, I wonder whether fitting societal expectations and ideals more neatly is necessarily an improvement. Depending on their level of ambition, people with unconventional interests and odd yearnings can be anything from endearing oddballs to unstoppable visionaries. Just as the perfectly apt phrase can be a cliche, so too can perfect social conformity be dehumanizing. To have the ring of being an original, something typically has to be "a little off."

Most experts agree that ADD medications are universal performance enhancers -- anyone should expect to receive benefits from taking them. Many try the medications, see that they work, and feel certain that they must then have ADD. This may explain, in part, the increase in adult ADD diagnosis, as both doctors and patients may think like this. However, the argument that stimulant medications have specific effects for people with ADD is debatable, with conflicting evidence on both sides. Regardless, this strategy of seeing if the medication "works" is confounded by the medication's power as a universal performance enhancer.
The Gift of Adult ADD: How to Transform Your Challenges and Build on Your Strengths

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The Gift of Adult ADD: How to Transform Your Challenges and Build on Your Strengths

If you have attention deficit disorder (ADD), you may act impulsively, daydream, and have trouble focusing, but clinical studies suggest that these same symptoms may make you exceptionally creative,...

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.