Information about ADHD in the general public is based on myths, stigma and misinformation. After having researched this topic for 7 years now, I feel a need to clear up some of the ‘fake news’ out there …
What’s going on?
After having spent the past 7 years researching ADHD, from every angle, I’ve seen and heard a lot about ADHD, sadly most of it is misinformation, propaganda or just based on ignorance, and I’m tired of having the same dialogue with the same people, over and over again, without getting any closer to agreeing … on anything related to ADHD.
Why is that? How come ADHD stirs up all this commotion? What can we do, to remove ADHD from the realm of judgement and stigma, and into the realm of the mental health sciences and into the realm of compassion instead?
“To much sugar causes ADHD”
No, sugar turns into to Glucose when it enter the body and that is precisely what the brain needs to operate. Glucose is one of the few things that can cross the blood/brain barrier and enter into the bloodstream in the brain, replenishing the energy needs and getting the brain working optimally. There is no scientific evidence that supports these claims.
“Fish Oils will improve your ADHD”
No, Fish Oils are not a source of any positive impact on the brain. People with ADHD will benefit just as much (or little) as anyone else, from eating fish oils. There is no scientific evidence that supports these claims.
“Maternal ADHD causes ADHD in offspring”
No, yet again this is based on a misunderstanding of what ADHD really is, a specific neurodevelopmental disorder, which is rooted in biology, not psychology or sociology.
Those who claim this, base their “facts” on the Attachment Theory from John Bowlby and link the ADHD symptoms to those seen in children with Insecure Attachment, and even though it is correct that these symptoms are very much alike, ADHD is due to prenatal neurobiological deficits, whereas Insecure Attachment is caused by neglect from the primary caretaker.
The neuronal data supports that you can change the brain, due to neuroplasticity, so that it shows similar symptoms as ADHD. The root cause for ADHD and Insecure Attachment are not the same, even though the symptoms can be deceiving. There is no scientific evidence that supports these claims.
“ADHD is something that Big Pharma has created”
No, ADHD is described in the medical literature all the way back to Melchior Adam Weikard who published about this symptomalogy in 1775, which is way before Big Pharma even existed.
“ADHD is over diagnosed”
No, WHO’s estimate that 5% of the world’s population has ADHD. Prevalence, as this is called, has been set at 7% in the latest scientific findings, and the prevalence in the USA and in the EU are different, since DSM-5 are used to diagnose in the USA (and many other countries around the world), whereas the EU uses the WHO’s ICD-10/11. Since these diagnostic systems have different criteria for diagnosing ADHD, the number of newly diagnosed in the US is higher the in the EU.
In Denmark, where I’m from, the level of medicinal treatment of ADHD is only at 15% of all cases, and adults are treated more than children are, which is due to parents being aware of their own ADHD, when their child is diagnosed. More than 50% of all parents (and 25% of all grandparents) of a child with ADHD, have ADHD themselves, since 25% of the mothers and 30% of the fathers have ADHD in their DNA and therefore the offspring gets it genetically at conception.
“ADHD is over-treated with medication”
No, the truth is that ADHD is grossly under-treated with medication. The reason for the discrepancy between the US and the EU is that the EU have had a long tradition for psychosocial and pedagogical treatments of behavioural problems, whereas the US have realised long ago, that ADHD is not a behavioural disorder, but a neurodevelopmental disorder, which requires medication to manage the behavioural symptoms with neuro-chemistry (medication) since no behavioural treatment can change how the neuro-chemistry works in the brain.
Think of diabetes as the example of an illness which requires medication from the outside, to handle internal deficits in functioning, ADHD is exactly the same, just in the brain.ADDspeaker
“Bad parenting and laziness causes over-medication”
No, Since “Bad parenting” has no role in whether the child has ADHD or not, and anyone who ever met a parent with a child with ADHD can attest, parents of children with ADHD are actually working extremely hard on regulating the child’s behavior, without much luck, since society has made ADHD-medication into something bad and therefore the access to required ADHD-medication is being limited in large parts of the world, which then again causes children with ADHD to be needlessly symptomatic and parents to be over-stressed.
The only thing that can cause a child with ADHD to develop Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) is if the parent is suffering from depression and therefore do not have the energy to be consistent in their parenting, which then elevates the risk of social conflict in the family, and hence ODD.
“Neurofeedback can reduce ADHD symptoms”
No, Scientific evidence shows that Neurofeedback do not have any lasting effect on ADHD symptoms, since the neuro-plasticity relies on neuro-chemistry to form long lasting synapses, that mediate the lack of dopamine neurotransmitters in the brain, and this cannot be done using Neurofeedback. What is shown, however, is that combining medication with Neurofeedback can have (but not always) a positive effect on ADHD symptoms, over time.
But since Neurofeedback is sold as a commercial product for profit, buyer be ware, that most sellers offer 20h of “treatment” at high cost ($100/h) as a minimum treatment plan, and this do not guarantee any lasting effect, whatsoever. Neurofeedback do not hurt, but it is not a cure, by a long shot.
“ADHD can be divided into severity levels”
No, this is misguiding since ADHD is a context-dependant, mental disorder which presents different symptoms, based on differing contexts. This is the core reason for the diagnostic criteria of “at least 6 months” and “in more than one domain”, meaning that is has to be chronic and presenting symptoms in at least to domain (like school and home).
Since the current view on severity levels of ADHD is based on how many symptoms are presented, irrespective of context, this do no give a coherent picture of the totality of the impairment that the person with ADHD experiences, in varying contexts.
This is why the upcoming ICD-11 (2020) have removed severity levels from the diagnostic criteria, as they have recognised that it is not possible to accurately asses the level of impairment, based on symptoms without taking context into account.
“ADHD is just ‘bad behavior’ and based on selfishness”
No. ADHD is a specific neuro-developmental disorder that originates in neurobiology, 70% is genetics and 30% is due to neurobiological factors during the pregnancy. You are born with ADHD, regardless of origin, and this causes a 30% delay in age-appropriate maturity of self-control and impulse control, attention, concentration, focus, emotional self-control and emotional self-regulation.
All this is caused by the Motor Control Systems in the brain being developed before the Inhibitory Systems, which presents the symptoms of lack of inhibition, verbally and non-verbally, which has been labeled as “hyperactive/impulsive and inattentive behavior”, all generally understood as self-controlled behavior, but which in fact is rooted in neuroanatomical deficits in the ability to restrict the neuronal excitability in the synapses, due to a lack of maturity in the physical growth of the brain. So therefore it is just a stigmatising to claim that ADHD is something that one chooses, as if you claimed that a blind person simply chooses not the be able to see.
“ADHD medication is addictive and makes future drug addicts out of children”
No. Although it is true that some ADHD-medication contains amphetamine, which is most known as an illegal street drug used by addicts, it is not used as an narcotic in ADHD medication. Amphetamine has the property of increasing the production of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which is vastly used in many critical systems in the brain and which is naturally occurring in most mammals.
ADHD causes a abnormal low level of dopamine production the brain, and this again reduces the functioning of the brain’s reward system, which in turn is what control our Inhibitory Systems and our behavior. ADHD medication, used by people with ADHD, due not cause any euphorias since it simply increase the level of dopamine in the brain, to levels that are almost the naturally occurring levels, of people without ADHD.
If a person without ADHD takes ADHD-medication, this will bring their dopamine level above 100% of the naturally occurring levels, which is why this causes euphorias for people without ADHD. Scientific evidence have proven that people with ADHD that have been in medical treatment for an extended periode in childhood, are less likely to develop addictions, than those with ADHD who have not been medically treated in childhood.
Latest studies have proven that prolonged and continuous medicinal treatment of ADHD with ADHD-medication can repair the delayed developed parts of the brain and in 15% of all cases of long-term treatment, the brain have created enough neuronal networks to remove the ADHD symptoms, and normalising the functionality of the brain, said in other words: cure the ADHD for good.
“ADHD can be developed later in life”
No. ADHD is a euro-developmental disorder, which means that it is present before birth and throughout the lifetime. It is not possible to acquire a developmental disorder later in life, since the brain have developed long ago and it is physically impossible to revert the maturity of the brain to an earlier stage of development. What is confusing people is that some other disorders can show ADHD-like symptoms, which is misunderstood as ADHD, but where the root cause is not ADHD, but either brain damage or psychosocial factors, e.g. neglect in early childhood. But it is critical to understand that people who believe that they have developed ADHD in adulthood is not seeing the full picture. Studies have proven that people who develop ADHD in adulthood, have had it since birth, but have had mediating factors (like high intelligence, supporting psychosocial environments or other coping strategies) which have masked the symptoms during child, adolescence and adulthood, and the reason for suddenly becoming visible, is due to the reduce ability to “mask” their symptoms, typically due to stress, depression, anxiety and other lifestyle-related factors. So science rejects that ADHD can be acquired, it is something one is born with.
“Why does the media say otherwise?”
Well, the media needs to make money, and bad news sells more than good news. If you search the scientific literature, you can find more than 35,000 scientific articles on ADHD, that all support the statements I’ve made here, but the media (and people who are hardcore deniers of the truth due to religion or other beliefs) have no interest in the truth only in the attention that negative stories about ADHD can give them, so that they can make more money for them and their cause.
“No one know the long-term side-effects of ADHD-medication”
Not true. We have more than 60 years of data which documents the long-term effect of using ADHD-medication, taken from the Rx-databases in the US, but some scientists have an agenda against medication and have therefore created a narrative on this data not being “kosher” enough for them to use. This is bias-based and completely against any scientific method as defined by science in any field.
We know the long-term effects of ADHD-medication, and the science actually supports that the earlier one begins with medicinal treatment, the greater the probability becomes that you are among those 15% that actually repair the brain, due to neuro-plasticity, and thereby remove the symptoms of ADHD, completely, restoring normal functioning in the brain, removing the impairments of having ADHD.
I’m right, and you are not! – That is not a viable argument, in my book, so to those of you who disagree with the facts presented here, I urge you to provide any scientific – peer-reviewed – evidence to the contrary, and lets have a debate based on facts, not beliefs or feelings – cause I’m getting really tired of hearing ignorant people, repeat Scientology’s propaganda, without any personal reflection on why they have chosen to target a mental disorder and those who suffers from it, if not simply to make more money by luring people in despair into their “religion”, for profits alone?