Young Adults Opting out of ADHD Treatment
> 12/18/2006 3:44:34 PM

Millions of members of the so-called "ADD Generation," or those who came of age during the explosion of ADHD diagnoses and medications occurring over the last fifteen years, are now reaching adulthood. Along with the natural changes and responsiblities of age, many have elected to discontine medication and other forms of treatment for the condition. Challenging the idea that ADHD is a lifelong affliction and that those diagnosed with it will be unable to function properly without medication, many young people entering college, family and the workforce believe that they can make it without the medicine, and look to prove that to themselves and their doubters.

At the age at which most children are diagnosed with ADHD, the responsibility for treatment lies with parents and practitioners. As they age, many patients come to question the nature of their disorder and the drugs they take for it. Have these substances moved beyond treating a condition and changed them as people? Some report that, while making school work more manageable and toning down hyperactive behavior, the drugs also held them in a sort of suspended animation, blunting their emotions and social interactions and making them see their disorder as a sign of personal weakness.

Those who wean themselves from the medicine are actually in the vast majority- as many as 9 in 10 stop by the age of 21. Since the widespread use of ADHD drugs is relatively new, very little data exists on long-term success rates for patients. Many doctors estimate that two out of three children will continue to have problems with the disorder throughout their adult lives, and 3% of new diagnoses are among adults. One independent study performed over a thirteen year period found that, of 147 subjects tracked from the age of 7, those medicated for ADHD had less measurable success in the areas of education, finance and employment. The authors of the study believe that, in contrast to the beliefs of a sizable segment of the public, ADHD is actually not diagnosed often enough. The research, however, is not going to convince the American people on its own. There simply isn't enough conclusive evidence to prove whether or not ADHD persists through adulthood, bringing about the very same symptoms regardless of age.

On the other side of the issue, a growing number of high school and college students now turn to ADHD drugs like Ritalin to help them manage their workload, using it to intensify focus and sustain attention for all-night study sessions. For this reason alone, many believe that the drugs should be further regulated and prescribed very carefully. While medications should never find their way into the hands of those to whom they are not prescribed, we do know that the medicines benefit at least some of the children who take them. The drugs are helpful in many cases, and side effects need to be carefully measured so that potential patients can weigh the pros and cons of treatment. We can only watch as this "ADD generation" makes its way into the world, applauding their successes and using their experiences to determine how best to treat the children of the future.  

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