This article, by Harry K, came from issue 12 of Now or Never!, available to buy here
Give Your Kids Speed - A Look at ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder)
This may be a strange question but do you actually like doing the washing up or cleaning the house? If you don’t you may have a problem. If you are also forgetful; find it difficult to start or finish a project (that’s me I’ve been putting off writing this for months) or avoid some tasks all together; get distracted (well yes mostly by the TV); are forgetful or don’t listen when being spoken to (me again especially if the TV is on) then I hate to break it to you but that problem is not being lazy or male but ADHD.
There are other symptoms but you only need to have six so if you can tick the above list you have just been diagnosed for Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder. If you don’t believe me you can always get a proper diagnosis done, in the UK we are lucky enough to be able to get a diagnosis over the phone in thirty minutes. But if you want to go to the GP they can go through the whole checklist, add up the ticks ask if it’s affecting you or, if you are a kid, if your behaviour is affecting your parents or the school and diagnose you instead. Don’t let the diagnosis worry you though, you are in good company, some estimates say one in every four people has it and if, like me, you are quite partial to speed then luckily the drugs for it (eg Ritalin) are chemically similar to speed and coke. However if you don’t like drugs, well tough really you are not going to get another option from your GP but then you shouldn’t be so straight edged, just take the damn drugs. They will work because they work on every body ADHD or not, it’s a bit like taking coffee to give you a short burst of concentration, but it can also give you heart disease, stroke and psychosis.
You might be feeling like I’ve rushed you into taking drugs, after all you only got diagnosed in paragraph one and here you are on Ritalin when all you’ve done is tick some symptoms. What about a blood test or something to prove you have got it? Well there we hit a problem, despite being the most studied disorder in recent times there is no chemical, biological, genetic or electrical brain scan test that has been found to show that you have ADHD. ADHD purely is that list of symptoms. If you check the boxes you have it if you don’t then take it to someone else who will probably tick the boxes on the list differently and you should be able to get the diagnosis you want.
So where did the list come from? Well there are two: one from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and one from the hugely influential American Psychiatry Authority called the DSM (Diagnostic Manual, also known as the Psychiatrists Bible), they are fairly similar. What happens is psychiatrists are brought together in committees to see if they have any new disorders that need to go in the book and they come up with the set lists for each disorder. On the face of it that seems a good idea as it could help stop bad diagnoses that were locking sane people up. Unfortunately there are two draw backs to making standard diagnosis lists – it reduces mental illness to a checklist and despite its pretence it isn’t actually that scientific. After all what is a mental disorder? Psychiatrists often don’t know any more than the rest of us: they pretty much are making it up as they go along.
It does not take much digging to find disorders that were added or taken off the list due to lobbying. For instance the first DSM had homosexuality as an illness – that was lobbied out of the manual. Lobbied into it by Vietnam veterans was Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. While both changes make sense to me they were obvious campaigns that changed supposedly ‘medical’ opinion. What is not so obvious is the affect of drug companies on the diagnosis in the manual because here is a worrying thing: All of the psychiatrists involved in compiling the diagnosis of ADHD in the DSM manual have had links to the drug companies who have ADHD drugs. And if you think you are safe with the WHO list – it was funded by Eli Lilly one of the drug companies.
CATCH 22 - ASKING FOR IT
The whole Diagnostic Checklist is a bit Catch 22: You are mad because you fit the list and the list is what mad people do, but diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) went one better.
Borderline Personality Disorder is a diagnosis for ‘unstable personalities’, people that don’t fit into other categories, are ‘troublesome’ or are difficult to treat.
A report in the American Journal of Psychiatry showed that BPD in females was used as an excuse by male psychiatrists as to why they had broken the boundaries and had sex with their female patients. Apparently it was the ‘neediness’ of the patients that caused the trained psychiatrists to have sex with them. It was not the psychiatrists’ fault because they ‘did not normally do this’.
In one case BPD in the patient was the reason a psychiatrist decided to give naked anatomy lessons leading to sex. Others met their patients at 2 in the morning for sessions that turned into sex sessions, had patients stay at their homes or gave them medication prescribed to others. All due to the ‘ability of patients with BPD to seduce and provoke therapists’ into boundary blurring, not the fault of the psychiatrists obviously.
It gets worse: If a patient complains of breach of conduct then that fits a particular part of the diagnosis - that they make up allegations. To top even that, Borderline Personality Disorder can be diagnosed after accusations have been made. So - sexual misconduct by the psychiatrist indicates the patient has BPD. Making allegations is proof of the diagnosis and as people with BPD are prone to accusations therefore proof the allegation is false.
There has always been something like ADHD around and there are probably genuine cases for whom the symptoms are serious (which covers me if you think you or your kids have ADHD – you are obviously the genuine ones). I also spoke to a health analyst who has been doing the same tests on children going into secondary school for the past twenty years and has noticed an increase in ‘male dominant’ conditions such as dyslexia and autism. ADHD is also a disorder mostly in males so a small increase in this would fit. The drug companies did not make ADHD up but in the last ten years diagnosed ADHD has gone from 4,000 cases to 400,000 so could they have pushed the diagnosis and boundaries out beyond the serious cases into the wider population, turning character traits into disorders? Does the pope shit?
Drug companies are also funding support groups to push the boundaries from below. These can be quite powerful voices, sometimes a diagnosis for you or your child can be a way of feeling you actually belong. It can be like finding religion – it may be nonsense and not based on anything substantial but it’s comforting. A diagnosis is also great if you expect kids or the rest of us to be perfect and conform to a set of social norms you should not deviate from. This does not just apply to ADHD, for instance another disorder is Oppositional Defiant Disorder which you have if you are defiant, disobedient, hostile towards authority figures or annoy people. Which is probably most of this paper’s readership. Again it has to be remembered that these disorders are the list of symptoms. There is nothing more to it than that. The check list of symptoms is set, you match a certain number (for ODD its 4) on the list and so you have ODD, kindly take the tablets.
One ADHD support group, ADDISS, although initially set up by the govt. now gets funding from drug companies to promote ADHD in schools. Schools are also encouraged to ‘evaluate any child who has school difficulties (or…) trouble with teachers’. As the Chief Exec of Shire (who make an ADHD drug) was caught saying: ‘the market is ripe and moving in the right direction.’
The market though is not growing fast enough, after all ADHD is a children’s condition right? – Not when the adult market is that much bigger. So if you did not fit the list above (hey maybe you like doing the washing up) try these for size: Are you often late; drift off in meetings; avoid work; forget appointments; tackle trainers/teachers if they are wrong; not very organised in personal life; or at work; always got something on your mind? Ok now you definitely have Adult ADHD.
If you are some sort of freak and want to tackle your newly diagnosed ADHD without taking drugs you could have your work cut out finding any help. There is nothing on the NHS apart from drugs and only a couple of independent centres in the UK. One, the Cactus Clinic, has an 80% success rate using better nutrition and self control training – a mixture of Jamie Oliver and Supernanny.
This also ties in with studies looking at why you might have ADHD. A 2002 report showed ‘behaviour and experience can alter brain structure’. Brains have been found to alter and ‘rewire’ in skilled musicians, taxi drivers and war veterans and so changing brain activity. For children this can happen much quicker. Up to the age of seven their brains constantly rewire as it finds the best way of dealing with its environment. A bit like the Jesuit quote of ‘give me the boy till 7 and I’ll give you the man’.
ADHD can just be learnt behaviour: if flaring up or blanking people gets you out of answering questions you don’t know or doing something you don’t want to then it obviously works and can become your set response. It is interesting that families with beliefs that ‘misbehaviour is malicious’ are more often associated with getting their children diagnosed with ADHD. Other studies (by Galler & Ramsey) show that early malnutrition has ‘significant association’ with ADHD symptoms. This is not the only place to show the big impact of what you eat has on things like aggression and impulsiveness. A UK trial on the effects of good nutrition in a max security prison gave a drop of 37% in violence.
PORRIDGE AND VITAMINS
A trial took place in the mid 90’s at Aylesbury max security prison where some prisoners were given vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids (eg Omega 3) and others were given a placebo. There was a drop in violent offences by 37% in those on the vitamins etc and no drop in those on the placebo.
Can you really eat so poorly that nutrition changes will have this much affect on the brain? Well this is the diet of one of the young offenders before prison:
Breakfast – nothing (asleep)
Mid morning – nothing (asleep)
Lunch – 5 cups milky coffee each with 2 ½ sugars
Mid afternoon – 5 cups milky sweet coffee
Tea – chips, egg, ketchup, 2 slices white bread 5 cups milky tea with sugar
Eve – 5 cups milky sweet coffee
Plus 20 fags, 4 beers, sweets and cake
Add chocolate and swap the fags for spliffs and that is worryingly like my diet when I left home. Plus don’t forget it’s only the B6 in the occasional lentil soup that keeps the editors brain safe from his intake of twenty high strength lagers a day
So what happened when the prison trial stopped? The government has sat on the report for the past ten years, the violence returned to its original level and the room being used at the prison to give out the vitamins etc was turned back into a restraint room.
Another solution to ADHD is to live with it. It could be better to enjoy living as you rather than dulling it out. An over active friend of mine who was like the ‘I’ll nick it’ character from The Fast Show has told me how glad he was to get involved in protest actions as it put his energy and experience to a good use and when he gets nicked now at least he feels like it’s for a good reason. Drugs would have just knocked that out of him.
And although I actually do think that drugs can sometimes be useful in mental health as in other areas, would you give the following person a drug like Ritalin or Prozac to save them from themselves?
This guy grew up the youngest of ten kids from his dad’s 2nd marriage and when he was 7 tried to kill his older brother with a knife for bullying him; he suffered agitation and nightmares and ran away from home before being sent to a strict boarding school when his dad died and his mum could not cope; as an adult he continued his excessive and compulsive behaviour, leaving his wife and three kids and turning to hard drugs. It’s possible Prozac or Ritalin could have helped him but they certainly might have saved us all from overlong poems like The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner and the hippy Kubla Khan because these were the symptoms shown by Samual Taylor Colleridge. So if you want to save your kids from opium and poetry get them on Ritalin now.