A.D.D. this…

This post is dedicated to memory of Dr. Donald Getz, who while lecturing in San Diego in 2006  stated “I never understood the term Attention Deficit Disorder anyway.  How in the hell can you have a disorder of your deficit?”

By now most of us have heard, the visual symptoms of a struggling child can mirror those of A.D.D.  No big news there. For some reason though, visual symptoms take a plunge on the priority list of remedies, and medication ascends to the front of the line.  I’d like to know why.  As much as I am tempted to give an extremely biased opinion on the lobbying efforts of pharmaceutical companies and their corruption of western medicine, especially after reading a fantastic blog posting by Dr. Press, I’d like to share a somewhat personal story.

For the last 6 months, I have been dating a wonderful young lady who aspires to become an Occupational Therapist.  After struggling in high school and into her sophomore year in college, Meghan was recommended to the “Disabilities and Special Services Center” at her university, when her Interpersonal Communications teacher told her that he suspected she had A.D.D.  Not knowing the difference, Meghan made an appointment with a Junior Counselor (in Meghan’s words this person was still in college and studying some form of Behavioral Science) and completed an “evaluation” which apparently lasted a grand total of 12 minutes.  There was no standardized testing, there was no normative data, there was nothing more than a discussion of symptoms and known allergies to medication.  Meghan’s next step was a trip to her PCP (at the recommendation of this counselor) to repeat the process – a discussion of symptoms and known drug allergies.  Three hours later she was in line at the pharmacy.  Wellbutrin for dinner.

Three weeks later Meghan was back at her doctors office.  Now, not only can she not concentrate, but she is having illogical and borderline suicidal thoughts. No problem though, said her doctor as he switched to Aderrall, which “cured” her A.D.D. symptoms, and also landed her in the Emergency Room 10 days later with a rapid heart beat and palpitations.  At the time, she was 23.  Meghan’s story goes on, and ultimately ends with her taking herself off the 8th different medication option she was prescribed, after she woke up at 8am Sunday morning believing it was Saturday.  In reality, she had missed Saturday completely.  The medication she took before bed on Friday night caused her to sleep 34 hours straight.

When I met Meghan she was 29, and basically had decided that she “was not smart enough” to pursue her dream of becoming an O.T.  When I asked her why, she said that her main college counselor (different from the one she originally met) told her that if none of the medications were able to help her, that a Master’s Program was probably beyond her ability. I bit my tongue…

Meghan’s story is not unlike many others I’ve heard, or heard of.  Sad but true.

A few questions here – not rhetorical – I’m looking for the answers:

  • What course of study to educators complete in college or otherwise that qualifies them to screen for or even “diagnose” A.D.D.?
  • If ADD/ADHD are truly spectrum disorders as some have suggested, is medication really prudent?
  • Has anyone bothered to explain that Adderall, or other A.D.D. meds, are NOT an anti-biotic and do not cure A.D.D.?  They simply change the symptoms.
  • When an elementary school child is medicated, isn’t this sometimes for the benefit of the adults in their life that may not have the patience or even the skills to manage the child?
  • What is the difference between normal childhood shenanigans and “A.D.D.” behavior?
  • What ever happened to differential diagnosis?

Ok, enough of the soapbox…

Happy to report that after dating a few months, I revisited the topic with Meghan, this time with my therapist hat on.  She had a full visual workup and has been in VT for 2 months – and no, I am not her therapist.  She is currently studying for the MCAT, and has enrolled in OT school in the fall.

I understand that this opinion may seem strong to some, and I sincerely apologize if I have offended anyone. Sometimes though, we must question the system…


Posted on February 7, 2013, in From My Perspective.... Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Dear Robert,
    I am happy that Meghan met you and that she is doing so much better. In his 70’s my dad was given one of these drugs!!!! and he became disoriented, had hallucinations, and became OCD-like. His speech became garbled and there were times I couldn’t understand him.The dr. would see him for less than 5 minutes and write a new prescription. It didn’t do any good for me to say anything, as the rest of the family is totally wed to the dr-as-god theory.
    I am aware that there are many who benefit from these drugs, but like you I feel they are not always given or used appropriately.


    • Robert Nurisio COVT

      Thanks Linda. By the time I turned 12, my father suffered his second nervous breakdown in three years, and had spent two weeks in the hospital on a few different occasions. Since that time, he has been medicated for anxiety, hypertension, and depression and has done quite well. In fact, today is my parent’s 45th wedding anniversary!
      I understand that these medications have a time and a place, and have certainly seen their benefits within my own family. My frustration, like yours and many others we know, is the idea that medicating a child is the preferred solution to working on developmental skills and behavioral patterns in a therapeutic setting. Nothing like curing the headache by cutting off the head.


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