Why successful people with ADHD refuse to take their medicine

Even high-profile psychiatrists with ADHD do not use the drugs they recommend for their patients

They sat on the media panel at the Maudsley Hospital — a journalist and historian, a BBC producer and a distinguished psychiatrist — thrashing out ways to make newspapers and television in Britain take adult ADHD seriously. It was the first conference the London psychiatric hospital had hosted on adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder — the downsides of which include inattention, disorganisation, and impulsiveness. Plans were hatched to letter-bomb journalists who suggest (as they do all too often) that it does not exist, or that it is an condition invented to justify drugging up naughty schoolchildren.

Philip Asherson, professor in molecular psychiatry at King’s College London, argued that what was really needed to remove the stigma about treating adults with drugs such as Ritalin, Concerta and Adderall was for one of the famous people who have outed themselves as sufferers — people like Olympic gymnast Louis Smith, judo gold medallist Ashley McKenzie or Will.i.am, the -singer and coach on the BBC talent show The Voice, to talk about how medication had helped them. The problem (although the professor didn’t say it outright) is that none of them seem to take any.

Professor Asherson, who has worked as a consultant for the company that makes Concerta, the first-line treatment for UK adults with ADHD, knows this better than anyone. In 2013 he scanned Smith’s brain for a Channel 5 documentary. Louis Smith: Living with ADHD was a breakthrough in his decade-long push to hammer through to the public that a condition still wrongly believed by many to affect only children more often than not continues into adulthood. But when Smith was asked about Ritalin (like Concerta, a preparation of the stimulant drug methylphenidate) he said he had hated it and refused to take it from the age of 13.

‘It wasn’t a nice tablet,’ he wrote in his auto-biography. ‘It made me feel a bit like a zombie… anything that makes you feel “zombified” surely can’t be good for you.’

It is striking that, while methylphenidate has been recommended by Nice guidelines as the first-line treatment for adult ADHD since 2008, just about every high-profile person who has gone public with a diagnosis seems hostile to it. ‘It reduced my energy and made me tired all the time,’ judo medallist Ashley McKenzie told the Daily Mirror. ‘It wasn’t a long-term solution.’ Will.i.am told the same paper: ‘Music is my therapy,’ ‘Music keeps me sane and keeps my mind on something.’ David Neeleman, a US airline founder who credits his own ADHD for his success, told specialist website Additude: ‘I’m afraid of taking drugs once, blowing a circuit, and then being like the rest of you.’

Even the pop star Justin Bieber, who told GQ in February that he had been on Adderall ‘for about a year’, didn’t seem happy about it. ‘I think I’m about to get off of it because I feel like it’s giving me anxiety,’ he said.

There is little doubt that the very real stigma attached to ADHD holds famous people back from revealing their diagnoses. Comedian Rory Bremner —who has tirelessly campaigned to raise awareness since realising that he has it — described at the Maudsley conference how he had raised the link between ADHD and celebrity with his agent, who also represents comics such as Eddie Izzard, Rowan Atkinson, Noel Fielding and Mark Gatiss.

‘I said, “How many of your clients do you think have ADHD?” She said, “Do you know what? I think… all of them.” ’ This doesn’t mean any of them actually have been or would be diagnosed with ADHD, but it may suggest that comedy is one of those fields where people with the condition can thrive.

The brains of people with ADHD appear, among other things, to have lower levels of the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine, so an experience needs to be more stimulating for it to draw and hold their attention. This makes for tough school years — one UK businessman remembers a teacher sellotaping him to his chair — and more chance of ending up in prison or being addicted to drugs. But if someone with ADHD has talent and gets the right breaks, their impulsiveness, out-of-the-box thinking and compulsion to seek out the surprising, dramatic and unconventional can power them to success. For Dr Ellen Littman, a US clinical psychologist who is soon to publish a book on gifted people with ADHD, it is not surprising that those who do make it largely forgo drugs. ‘Medication inhibits impulses, so it can make one less spontaneous,’ she explains. ‘I’ve had artists and athletes tell me that it’s not a worthwhile trade-off.’

The same, largely, goes for entrepreneurs: people with ADHD are six times more -likely to start their own business. Littman interviewed Ted Turner, the founder of CNN, who, she says, has ‘terrible ADD’ (as it used to be known). He told her that instead of using medication, he hires people. ‘He has a fleet of people who follow him around, and no matter how he treats them, they write down things that he says, they pick up things that he drops, they dress him while he’s walking, they turn his body if he’s supposed to go in a different direction.’

Turner is not at all unusual in this. Cameron Herold, a Canadian business coach who has ADHD, says none of his ‘entrepreneurial type’ business clients uses medication. ‘Of the 16 entrepreneurs that I coach, I can pretty safely say that 15 of 16 are ADD and zero use meds,’ he says. ‘I’m not a fan of medication. The entrepreneur is not supposed to be focused. Is medication trying to make us better or is it trying to make us just like everybody else? We don’t need more people like everybody else.’ Incidentally, not one of three high-profile psychiatrists in the US who say they have ADHD (Ned Hallowell, John Ratey, and Dale Archer) take medication, although the first two recommend it for their patients.

While many successful people have ADHD, the reverse is not at all true. Many with the trait struggle to hold down any job or get any qualifications. They don’t have the luxury of a personal assistant or a stimulating profession. For them, Herold concedes, medication may help. And Dr Tony Lloyd, acting CEO of the ADHD Foundation, the UK’s leading advocacy group, points out while entrepreneurs may choose not to take the medication, the same doesn’t go for barristers, a surprisingly large number of whom appear to have ADHD. ‘I know a few, incredibly successful people in their fields, who couldn’t get by without medication,’ he says. Unlike comedians, pop stars, or maverick entrepreneurs, lawyers need to appear professional.

This also applies to the only two well-known British people brave enough to admit taking the meds — Louise Mensch, the novelist, journalist and former Tory MP, and Trudie Styler, the actress, film producer and wife of rock star Sting. Both have demanding executive roles. Mensch has said on Twitter that her medication makes ADHD ‘eminently manageable’, while Styler says she uses the stimulant Adderall (but only when she has mounds of scripts to read). Dr Lloyd suspects that many more celebrities use ADHD medication than admit to it, and is working with Rory Bremner, now the ADHD Foundation’s patron, to coax more of them into coming forward.

Many of those cited as having the condition on internet lists — including businessmen, celebrity chefs, comedians and even the US presidential hopeful Donald Trump — have never come forward themselves.

Lloyd and Bremner are also working on a documentary for the BBC in which the comedian will take ADHD medication for the first time. Indeed, part of the reason he has not taken anything until now is because he wants to record the experience on film. Could Bremner himself end up being the poster-boy for medication Professor Asherson is looking for?

  • Wow. Why would there be any stigma against taking medication, when media outlets write things like this:

    “This also applies to the only two well-known British people brave enough to admit taking the meds.”

    Admit? And you used the word twice in one paragraph. You admit to a crime. You don’t admit to taking a legitimate medication for a legitimate neuromedical condition.

    I’ll let you in on a little secret: ADHD is not ADHD unless there is impairment in life. That is essential to the diagnosis. Impairment—in employment, education, relationships, driving, and myriad other aspects of self-regulation.

    If you don’t have impairment, you don’t have ADHD.

    So, let’s forget about the self-promoting charlatans like Hallowell and Archer, whose stock in trade is marketing the ADHD gifts.

    There’s a lot of money and attention in that particular niche, which is so much easier than the tedium of actually treating individual patients. Foolish businesses groups and even schools will pay top dollar for “motivational” speeches about “celebrating ADHD’s gifts.” And many of those gullible folks to whom these charlatans ply their wares are “in denial” of their own problems, convinced that everyone else is just not appreciating their gifts.

    Are there people with ADHD who are brilliant artists, scientists, musicians, writers, and all the rest? Of course. Will ADHD, ignored and not taken seriously, typically end up shooting most of them in the foot at some point? Undoubtedly.

    Look at Neeleman, booted right out of his out-of-the-box CEO position, for keeping passengers stranded on the tarmac beyond the time the FAA allows. His wife, mother to their umpteen children, begged him to take an Adderall once a year, on her birthday. He refused. His teenage daughter, a genetic inheritor of his ADHD, wept at age 17,the first day she took medication and could finally be “present” in the classroom. Ah, perhaps if he weren’t so busy overly compensating for his own ADHD, he would have noticed his daughter’s distress. No doubt other of his children suffered similarly.

    Justin Bieber wanting to get off medication because it “gives him anxiety”? Maybe a little more anxiety (aka, awareness) will help him to think twice before he pulls more shameful stunts. Or, if he truly has anxiety, he should be talking to his physician about addressing that. Stimulants can exacerbate pre-existing anxiety, but that isn’t a reason to stop. That is reason to refine treatment.

    Don’t get me started on the ADHD coaches that use the same “you’re so gifted!” marketing strategy to lure gullible clients.

    I know that humans don’t like to think hard, especially in negotiating gray areas. But believe it or not, the 30 million adults with some degree of ADHD in the U.S. alone are individuals, individuals who have varying degrees of a variable syndrome, along with all the other aspects of personality, socioeconomic status, intelligence, etc.

    Moreover, 75 percent of adults with ADHD have a co-existing condition (e.g. anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, personality disorders, substance-use disorders, etc.), and 50 percent have TWO co-existing conditions.

    The most solid studies thus far show that, in qualities such as intelligence and creativity, people with ADHD follow the same bell curve as everyone else. Because, get this, people with ADHD are not a separate species. ADHD traits are common traits in human distribution; it is their number and degree that makes the diagnosis.

    To reduce the esteemed scientist Phil Asherson, a beacon of light in an otherwise hidebound UK and European landscape when it comes to neuroscience, to a person looking for a “medication poster boy” simply betrays this columnist’s ignorance and lack of compassion for the grateful community his work has served.

    The subtle but clear implication that Asherson’s motivation might come from receiving pharma grants is straight out of the New York Times School of Online Clickbaittery. (FYI – Alan Schwarz didn’t win a Pulitzer for his anti-ADHD screeds, and, last I heard, he’s back on the sports desk, lest you get any fancy ideas.)

    I’m not surprised at the tone of this piece. Your NHS by and large refuses to treat Adult ADHD. The unhappy human fallout is familiar to me; I receive e-mail all the time from UK folks desperate for help. The story seems to be that if you can afford private pay, you might be able to find help, but you often have to travel great distances and, again, have money. One of the most common “side effects” of having ADHD is poor financial management, not to mention trouble finishing school and staying employed. Money is a problem.

    How easy then, for the science-illiterate newspapers to pile on with the anti-ADHD clickbait (always great for web traffic) and congratulate themselves for not being Big Pharma’s fool.

    The reality is, the Adult ADHD community is being neglected or even abused, diagnosed and treated for a variety of other conditions instead of the core condition where treatment might actually help.

    Meanwhile, the media’s mission to be watchdogs, in this case to question the NHS’s lack of commitment to Adult ADHD treatment, simply cannot be found. Disgraceful.

    • Nigel Denyer

      Couldn’t agree more with your reply. I would be quite surprised if a professional athlete took stimulant medication as it would give a positive drugs test, wouldn’t it? People with ADHD struggle to focus on the mundane, not surprising a celebrity/actor/musician/entrepreneur, following their dream, can focus on what stimulates them. Working in an office, staying safe on a building site, studying? Well managed treatment can be the difference between achieving or struggling.

      • Thank you, Nigel. Absolutely: well-managed treatment (whatever that means for any given individual) should be a right for folks with ADHD.

        This is as much a right, imho, as the endless array of contact lenses and eyeglasses for people with less-than-perfect vision. Newsflash: Recent studies have found an association of higher vision problems among children with ADHD. Vision is largely a function of the brain!”

        You know, that’s another misconception that this column perpetuates: That is, if the person with ADHD gets enough stimulation, everything’s great.

        Nothing could be further from the truth. It’s not “Lack of Stimulation Syndrome.” It’s more “Self-Regulation Difficulty Syndrome.”

        Many folks with ADHD have trouble even regulating their stimulation — they get too much (overstimulation) and too little. It’s almost impossible to find or stay in that sweet spot.

        Then there’s the rest of life to regulate: sleep, diet, relationships, exercise, relationships, etc.

        As for professional athletes taking stimulant medication, professional baseball players with ADHD can take stimulant medication. Though there are always whingers. Here are two (dated) blog posts, but the issues remain generally the same:



        Thank you!

    • georgeegee

      “If you don’t have impairment, you don’t have ADHD.” Where the hell did that come from? If it came from somewhere legitimate, what are the parameters for impairment? This is just a massive dollop of weasel words.

      • If you weren’t so rude, I would take the time to answer your question. Otherwise, look up the diagnostic criteria yourself.

        • georgeegee

          Where the hell did that come from please? If it came from somewhere legitimate, what are the parameters for impairment please?

          • Joan Jager

            To receive a diagnosis of ADHD, children and adults must meet the criteria laid out in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

            Children must have six or more signs of the disorder for at least six months to a degree that’s inappropriate for their developmental level. Adults and adolescents who are 17 and older must exhibit five or more symptoms to receive the diagnosis.

            ***These symptoms must also clearly interfere with the person’s social life, schoolwork, or job. (Impairment)

            *In addition, they must occur in two or more settings (such as the home, school, work, or another place) and have been present since before age 12.

            You should find the parameters for impairment in these two Scales.

            The Impairment Rating Scale is a form that can be used by parents and teachers to indicate the impact of ADHD symptoms on important functional domains. (Fabiano et al., 2006)- http://ccf.fiu.edu/for-families/resources-for-parents/printable-information/impairment_rating_scales.pdf

            Barkley Functional Impairment Scale – “To diagnose a mental disorder or evaluate a disability claim, clinicians must assess functional impairment—not just the presence of symptoms. Meeting a key need, the (BFIS for Adults) is the first empirically based, norm-referenced tool designed to evaluate possible impairment in 15 major domains of psychosocial functioning in adults. http://www.guilford.com/books/Barkley-Functional-Impairment-Scale-BFIS-for-Adults/Russell-Barkley/9781609182199 (Sorry, this scale runs $145)

            Additional parameters for impairment
            ADHD Symptoms vs. Impairment: Revisited – “The specific outcome measures (and cut-points) were as follows: (1) ever retained in grade in school; (2) failed to graduate high school; (3) received special education in high school (by self-report); (4) fired from a job (2 or more times; by self-report); (5) few close friends (2 or less; by self-report); (6) trouble keeping friends (by self-report); (7) driver’s license ever suspended or revoked (by self-report); (8) excessive self-reported car crashes (3 or more); (9) excessive self-reported speeding cita- tions (5 or more); (10) excessive citations on official driving record (7 or more); (11) excessive arrest rate (3 or more; self-reported); (12) 1 or more felony arrests recorded on official crime record; (13) 1 or more misdemeanor arrests recorded on official crime record; (14) unusually low grade-point average on high school transcript (1.6 or lower–roughly C- to D+); (15) unusually low class ranking in high school on transcript (89th percentile or higher); [Note: class ranking is usually an inverse of the student’s placement in the class distribution and means that this many people in the class did as well or better than the student.] (16) employer- rated work performance of below average or poor (rating of 2 or lower on a 1 to 5 scale); (17) involvement in a teenage pregnancy as the father or mother; (18) sent to jail for any crime.” http://www.myadhd.com/ADHD_Report_14.2.html

          • georgeegee

            “To receive a diagnosis of ADHD, children and adults must meet the
            criteria laid out in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic
            and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.” Have you read the criteria? Is there something in there that is not normal behaviour? If so, please share.

          • georgeegee

            Here’s the criteria if you haven’t seen it lately. Looks like kids aren’t allowed to be kids anymore, what say you?

            Diagnostic Criteria for ADHD
            The official list of symptoms which
            healthcare professionals use to diagnose ADHD (diagnostic criteria
            DSM-IV or ICD-10) state that: – The child must display either
            inattention or hyperactivity-impulsivity (or both) and symptoms must
            have been present for at least 6 months.

            Inattention. Usually at least 6 symptoms are seen.

            Fails to pay close attention to details or makes careless errors in schoolwork, work or other activities
            Has trouble keeping attention on tasks or play
            Doesn’t appear to listen when being told something
            follows through on instructions nor completes chores, schoolwork, or
            jobs (not due to failure to understand or a deliberate attempt to
            Has trouble organising activities and tasks
            Dislikes or avoids tasks that involve sustained mental effort (homework, schoolwork)
            Loses materials needed for activities (assignments, books, pencils, tools, toys)
            Easily distracted by irrelevant information

            Hyperactivity-Impulsivity. Usually at least 6 symptoms are seen.
            Squirms in seat or fidgets
            Inappropriately leaves seat
            Inappropriately runs or climbs (in adolescents or adults, there may be only a subjective feeling of restlessness)
            Has trouble quietly playing or engaging in leisure activity
            Appears driven or “on the go”
            Talks excessively

            Answers questions before they have been completely asked
            Has trouble waiting his/her turn
            Interrupts others

          • Bunny Slippers

            Clearly Georgeegee can not wrap his/her head around the terms “impairment” and “degree that’s inappropriate”. Georgeegee: Please, now you’re simply embarrassing yourself – stop.

    • georgeegee

      Has the molecular-biologist in your family found his chemical imbalance?

      • Not that you deserve an answer. But the molecular-biologist in my family is hard at work on cancer treatments. Meanwhile, you’re harassing people on the Internet. hmmmm

        • georgeegee

          Great that he’s working on real medicine rather than plastic ‘medicine’. Accusing of harassing strangers on the internet – coming from an ex-editor of newspapers. Irony doesn’t do it justice.

          • Bunny Slippers

            One must first understand the proper use of the term “irony”.

  • georgeegee

    Gina Pera wrote a book – Is It You, Me, or Adult .A.D.D.? Dr Richard Saul also wrote a book – ADHD Does Not Exist. Gina is a former newspaper editor. Richard is a doctor. Yes, there’s a huge division of opinion. The question is, who am I more likely to listen to? A former newspaper editor, or a doctor? That’s a question that’s easy to answer.

    • Meg Rivers-Wright

      One of the eye-openers of being a middle aged individual for me is realizing that doctors don’t always know more than I do. Having seen a handful of doctors for my ADHD, I find that I know more about the condition than most of those doctors, and I am neither a doctor nor a former newspaper editor, but an educated person who spends a lot of time reading about those things which are in my best interest to know more about. I find that the more I read, and the more I look for good, hard evidence that supports what folks claim, the better I am able to ascertain what is opinion, and what is fact. Go to the data, not the opinion.

      • georgeegee

        “I look for good, hard evidence that supports what folks claim…” Have you got any good, hard evidence re ADHD being caused by a chemical imbalance? And when I say evidence, I don’t mean the plethora of studies that are full of weasel words and conjecture. I mean evidence like an x-ray or a blood test that is incontrovertible because it’s empirical. That’s great that you’ve done lots of reading and that you’re more educated than a doctor on the subject. That hopefully means you’ve got the evidence that will dispel the huge division of medical opinion. If it’s OK to ask, what’s the treament?

        • Meg Rivers-Wright

          Could you give me a couple examples of what you mean by “weasel words and conjecture” before I spend time cutting and pasting links to all the good material I’ve read? I’m not sure if you’re genuinely interested in seeing the research or just interested in pointing out the flaws in my argument.

      • Meg Rivers-Wright

        Could you give me a couple examples of what you mean by “weasel words abd conjecture” before I spend time cutting and pasting links to all the good material I’ve read? I’m not sure if you’re genuinely interested in seeing the research or just interested in pointing out the flaws in my argument.

      • Meg, my experience has taught me the same. If we’re looking at another example that’s perhaps less controversial, I’ve also had Lyme disease. What an eye-opener that was. There are some conditions where many doctors’ understanding lags way behind. Especially if they graduated before these issues came to the forefront (as is the case with Lyme and ADHD both) and haven’t taken the time to get up to speed (not to mention seek reliable sources).

        With Lyme and ADHD both, I’ve had to do my own research and guide the treatment process myself. Just because someone has an M.D. after their name doesn’t mean they’re an expert in every medical condition.

        And yes, these are legitimate medical conditions.

        • georgeegee

          How do you get up to speed on ADHD when it’s never been scientifically proven? Do you mean get up to speed on unscientific opinions?

          • Nope, I’m not much for unscientific opinions. But there’s a wealth of information out there from experts (including doctors and scientists) who have been studying this stuff for many years.

            It sounds like you feel much research in the fields of neuroscience/psychiatry is actually just slant and conjecture. It also sounds like you feel ADHD should not be included in the DSM. I can’t help you there.

            This is the same mentality I encounter from the most vehement climate change deniers: such anger, and such conviction that the rest of the world is being swallowed up by a vast conspiracy. I’ve learned there isn’t much room for discourse once the rational brain gets left behind.

            My goal in life is to learn as much as possible about my body and brain, with the intent of creating a good life for myself. When I can, I share what I’ve learned and try to help others. I’ll continue doing that somewhere else, as it seems you’re more interested in escalating conflict and drawing attention to your comments than having a real discussion. Hopefully others will stop wasting their time as well.

          • georgeegee

            You say there’s a wealth of information out there from experts. I think you’ve been beautifully blinded by their non-science. Look at the diagnostic criteria for ADHD and find something in there that is not normal behaviour. It’s magnificent marketing that has got you drooling.

    • Thank you for mentioning my book!

      The foreword of my book was written by the preeminent research scientist in the field of ADHD, Russell Barkley, PhD. A long list of endorsements came from other top researchers and clinicians in the field.

      Richard Saul graduated from medical school in 1964 and apparently didn’t keep up. His idea of “sources”in his book include Lenscrafters. Nuff said.


      • georgeegee

        Written just like a good editor.

      • Bunny Slippers

        I congratulate you on being published. It is quite a feat of determination, skill, and an orderly collection of thoughts approved by another. That being said, being published does not translate as the content being “irrefutable”. If it is evidence-based or peer-reviewed study results in a scientific journal, then the published work is even closer – but always still open to be disproven. Let’s consider the difference between educated-opinions and scientific study results under close review and transparent supervision by doctorates in the subject matter.

  • People were saying until recently that dyslexia does not exist. It is dated and ignorant to state there is no such thing at ADHD. Worse, it is harmful as sufferers will not be given the knowledge or tools to manage their condition, and like dyslexics of old, face a life of under achievement, low self esteem and all the misery that follows.

    • georgeegee

      It is ignorant to accept the following as some kind of excuse for poor behaviour. It is ignorant to think that ADHD is real, especially when you read through the diagnostic criteria. Many people who subscribe to the ADHD fraud don’t like to hear this, but I understand that, as it is likely to take away the excuse they’ve been using for their behaviour. That said, here’s the diagnostic criteria taken from one of the ADHD sites:

      Diagnostic Criteria for ADHD
      The official list of symptoms which healthcare professionals use to diagnose ADHD (diagnostic criteria DSM-IV or ICD-10) state that: – The child must display either inattention or hyperactivity-impulsivity (or both) and symptoms must have been present for at least 6 months.

      Inattention. Usually at least 6 symptoms are seen.

      Fails to pay close attention to details or makes careless errors in schoolwork, work or other activities
      Has trouble keeping attention on tasks or play
      Doesn’t appear to listen when being told something
      Neither follows through on instructions nor completes chores, schoolwork, or jobs (not due to failure to understand or a deliberate attempt to disobey)
      Has trouble organising activities and tasks
      Dislikes or avoids tasks that involve sustained mental effort (homework, schoolwork)
      Loses materials needed for activities (assignments, books, pencils, tools, toys)
      Easily distracted by irrelevant information

      Hyperactivity-Impulsivity. Usually at least 6 symptoms are seen.
      Squirms in seat or fidgets
      Inappropriately leaves seat
      Inappropriately runs or climbs (in adolescents or adults, there may be only a subjective feeling of restlessness)
      Has trouble quietly playing or engaging in leisure activity
      Appears driven or “on the go”
      Talks excessively

      Answers questions before they have been completely asked
      Has trouble waiting his/her turn
      Interrupts others

      • Jeff Newton

        Well Georgeegee, you sound like a troll, just trying to insight an
        argument, but on the off chance you are not and just hugely misguided
        and arrogant, please allow me to put you straight on a few things.

        Firstly, ADHD is not a disease, it’s a neurological condition that means unlike a disease you can’t do a simple test for it as one would check the insulin levels to diagnose diabetes for example.

        Therefore a rating scale similar to the DSM-IV is necessary (and yes unfortunately that means behaviour can be faked, but as 3 – 5% of the adult population have this condition do you genuinely think it likely that we are all just naughty or faking or acting out?), but in order for it to be pathological and not – as you oh so helpfully and constructively put it – “poor behaviour”, the pattern of symptoms need to be numerous enough and in experienced in more that one area of life. “Poor behaviour” is stopped when it doesn’t suit a child, while it’s pathological when even the child sees it’s harming himself, but can’t stop the behaviour.

        As well as the DSM-IV rating scale, there is a raft of co-morbidities that go along with the standard symptoms, for example dyslexia and dyspraxia, which would help separate a “naughty” child from a suffer

        If “poor behaviour” is impairing someone’s life to extent they have trouble holding down a job or maintaining a committed relationship don’t you think that person might think about changing that behaviour if they could? But they can’t because no amount of will power or determination will allow them to overcome their impaired executive function (I refer here to the latest and most effective model for understanding the condition) to allow them to get from their current state to their goal.

        Six months ago at the age of 45, I was diagnosed, with ADHD, I can assure you I could not, try as I might, just stop my “poor behaviour”. However I’m one of the luck ones, I have managed to get a BSc and an MSC degree with distinctions, thanks to a higher than average IQ and my symptoms not being too crippling. Yet I struggled my whole life mainly as a result of coming into contact with teachers who (like yourself maybe) seemed to be suffering from some as yet undiscovered Humanity Deficit Uncompassionate Disorder (HDUD)

        Medication, smart phone alarm reminders, to do list, good diet and exercise has helped me see the error of my ways, where 3 years of having psychotherapists tell me I need to take responsibility for myself failed. I hope that one day I’ll be able to come off the medication and be good person. Or failing that, that Medicine discovers a drug that will treat HDUD which is sadly, far from being a *silent* epidemic on this primitive planet (I hope you are seeing my less than subtle satire here).

        • Jeff, thank you for your civil and thoughtful response. I just wanted to chime in that medication doesn’t affect our value as people. You can still be a good, successful, compassionate person while taking medication. I don’t think coming off a medication — or refusing it in the first place — represents success or superiority.

          Quite the contrary, perhaps you have learned, as I have, that medication opens the door to creating the good behaviors and habits we’ve yearned for all our lives. And in turn, being able to stick to better diet, exercise, and organization habits really allows us to thrive. Medication is only a piece of the puzzle. Perhaps the first step, and an important one, but it’s not as though it’s a cure-all. There’s still much work to be done. It sounds like you’re creating a much better life for yourself thanks to learning about your brain.

          • Jeff Newton

            Hi Jaclyn, Thanks for taking the time to reply.

            Don’t worry, *I* don’t think I’m an inferior person (morally or otherwise) for having ADHD or choosing to take medication. My comment was an attempt at satirising the gross fallacy in Georgeegee’s argument ( sorry, I’m didn’t seem to get comic wit along with my ADHD). My point is that ADHD is a real neurological condition, not an excuse for “poor behaviour” and the proof is that it lasts into adulthood even for people who have successful lives and have no need or wish (consciously or unconsciously) to have the symptoms and ever even renew they had it as a child.
            With a neurological condition one is on the ends of a spectrum of behaviour that many so called “normal” people can identify in themselves as sometime the might do or have don’t as a child, they know they can control these behaviours and they might even feel that these behaviours are born of unwholesome motives (in themselves as “normal” people”) the problem comes when, they perhaps through lack of imaginative, compassion or dare I say some sort of undiagnosed neurological condition that makes the unable to see things form others point of view 😛 they make the fallacious assumption that *everyone* who behaves in this way is [insert pejorative adjective of your choice here].

            In other words the argument put forward by Georgeegee follows this logic “All horses run fast, some men run fast, therefore some men are horses”.

          • Bunny Slippers

            He was being sarcastic, love.

          • Mike Paul

            I’m interested in what is the definition of good behaviour. Often it seems to me to be an arbitary set of rules that may serve dome short term purpose but can actually cause long term harm. The idea that someone should sit still for hours on end to achieve done task. From a human health point of view this is clearly wrong but from a desired behaviour point of view has massive traction both with children and adults.

        • Bunny Slippers

          Lovely response. Thank you so very much for saying what I’ve been feeling toward my critics for 4 decades. I adore the HDUD diagnosis – I plan to keep it in my pocket for future use, if only silently as I walk through this world. One last – I too, hope one day to come off medication (been on for only a week, a miracle of relief) one day to finally get that ‘boostrap’ thing so many advise right once and for all.

      • TigerLover

        Just because you don’t have the disorder doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. You haven’t walked through my shoes every day and dealt with all of my struggles.

        1. I do make many mistakes when testing or even doing simple things. I can know the answer and circle the wrong thing, or I can completely miss a very important word.
        2. I have trouble focusing on subjects that don’t stimulate me. I either go into hyperfocus and study my chemistry homework for 12+ hours without meds or I can’t even get myself to make stupid flash cards for my Spanish class.
        3. I admit I am a fairly good listener, but honestly sometimes when people are talking to me I have a million other thoughts running through my mind.
        4. I have a very hard time completing tasks. One minute I have the energy to clean my entire apartment, and when I am so close to being done I just give up. Or I often start new hobbies and never actually finish doing them.
        5. I can’t organize to save my life. I keep thinking buying a planner is going to help me. I write down the first weeks worth of tasks and never open it again. Plus no matter what, my freaking keys and phone somehow are always lost. I actually ended up washing my boyfriends phone by accident, along with my debit card about 5 times.
        6. I avoid homework like the plague. I find many of the assignments to be a waste of my time and procrastinate them until the last minute.
        7. I already talked about how I lose everything constantly. The amount of times I have freaked out that I couldn’t find my phone when on the phone with someone is ridiculous.
        8. I do get easily distracted by irrelevant things, like that tapping someone is doing with their pencil, or the sound of a clock cant get out of my head.
        9. I am very forgetful, sometimes I refuse to take my medication because I can’t remember if I took it or not.
        10. I can’t sit still in a chair to save my life, and for some reason I am always cursed with the squeaky chair.
        11. I do appear on the go or driven by something. I don’t know what but sometimes I look at all the things I did and question what was wrong with me or how I managed to do it all.
        12. I do talk a lot, but its because something that fascinates me always pops up in my head.
        13. I do know when to bite my tongue and not answer questions before they have been completely asked out loud, but I do try to answer them before in my head.
        14. I am an extremely impatient person and i’m sure one day its going to cause my stress levels to go up the roof.

        • Eric Chavez

          Just find the right stimulation bro. trust me you will be above average.

      • Bunny Slippers

        Thank you for your reply. While I cannot speak about children with ADHD/ADD, I can speak about myself as an un-diagnosed-child and now 50+ year old adult woman diagnosed recently. The life I have lived up until last week was one of immense struggle, futility, misdiagnosis’, and extreme, progressive negative judgment from all those around me – for over 4 decades. It is my experience that people claiming that ADHD/ADD does not exist, do not have it or simply are in denial about symptoms they’re experiencing. It is only through failure for over 4 decades in spite of extreme efforts to succeed long-term with futile results did I finally concede to being professionally tested by a licensed specialist. Now, perhaps I may enjoy the successes so the rest of the world seem to enjoy with half the effort put in to their lives as I have mine. Please, simply state that you do not have it and therefore cannot comment. The criteria you listed are experienced by all humans on this earth, it is ADHD/ADD when one has had over 85 jobs, more than 100 sex partners, dropped out of high school more than twice, and has a history of studying more than twice of the hours than class mates with barely passing grades as an adult over 40 years of age in college. Oh, and the ‘rewards’ for all this work? Extreme progressive anxiety, cyclic depression, and judgment as “abnormal” from spouses, family, friends, employers, and trolls online claiming this condition does not exist (passive/aggressive control tactics).

        • Jeff Newton

          Beautifully and movingly put. You’re comment is an inspiration to me. And I’m glad my comment was of some help to you too.

          When I wrote that over six months ago, I was misled by an overpriced private psychiatrist into believing a rating scale could constitute a diagnosis and that is why I said it can be faked. I know better now and I’m waiting for a proper specalist assessment in the NHS, which I think sounds like what you have described and I assume will equally impossible to fake.
          I too spend years trying to teach myself meditation to help with what I thought was just a scatter-brain and I too found it helpful when I was able to keep it up regularly, but as you will know, that kind of willpower doesn’t last and it’s a relief to know now that it’s not due to a moral failing on my part.

          I wish you the very best of luck on your journey.

  • Jacobi

    In my experience, most people with ADHD and other such psychiatric problems, with the exception of a small number, say 1%. would benefit more from another treatment, known as BWSDS, that is, “a boot where the sun doesn’t shine” plus maybe a little bit of exposure to those who do have real problems to worry about, say the hungry in parts of Africa!

    • Seriously? You thought it was worth taking your time to write that?

      • Jacobi

        Seriously, I did.
        And by the way as someone who has a little experience in this area, whoever said that dyslexia, or whatever it was previously called before say 1990, did not exist? If you are a dyslexic, do not confuse that condition with those all in the minds ramblings which would respond well to the BWSDS treatment plus exposure to real problems.

        • Jeff Newton

          I refer you to my previous comment. below ( https://disqus.com/home/discussion/spectatorhealth/why_successful_people_with_adhd_refuse_to_take_their_medicine/newest/#comment-2668528580 )

          And BTW, I have dyslexia as one off my co-morbidities with ADHD. In 1977 (it was called dyslexia then I believe) I was the tender age of 6 and my teacher tried your BWSDS “therapy” on my dyslexia. She put me outside of the class in a cold corridor because I couldn’t read very well (so obviously I was being naughty and needed discipline) “When my mother found out (she was told by my friend, because I thought I must have thought this was normal behaviour) She went to talk to the teacher and when she suggested my problems with reading might be dyslexia, the teacher replied “Parent’s like to tell themselves their child has dyslexia, because they don’t like to admit there child is dumb”!
          So which is it stupidity or laziness? My dyslexia wasn’t picked up for my whole school career. I finally got diagnosed when I took myself for a test at university. In the meantime I had about 20 years of misery.
          But of course that was the ’70s when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, now it seems they have to hid out on the internet, with the other bigots. I see very little difference between my teacher and you.

          Your comment “by the way as someone who has a little experience in this area” feels ominous, I shutter to think about the damage you might have done to some poor child’s self-esteem.

          • Jacobi

            Dyslexia was identified as from 1896. It is a specific condition caused by brain dysfunction
            related to phonetic difficulties and should in no way be confused with the variety of Ill-defined quasi-psychiatric conditions which as the recent New Scientist editorial pointed out is a field notoriously unreliable when it comes to the reproduction of so-called
            “scientific” research. I made that perfectly clear in my original comment

            It actually is associated with certain advantages so don’t be too discouraged.

            A bigot, incidently isone who disregards reason . You will find that in any dictionary and you can’t blame tour ignorance of that on Dyslexia.

            As for depression, very rare in people who have real problems such as war, decease and

          • I will never understand peoples’ refusal to accept that others might have a condition that impacts upon their ability to function effectively. I’m not looking for an excuse for why I behave the way I do, I’m looking to understand why I do the things that have made my life such a struggle, so that I can find a way to fulfil my potential. I am still waiting to see a specialist in order to get an official diagnosis for ADD, having been referred by my doctor. I’m 42. I’ve been an underachiever all my life despite being intelligent. I’ve been poor all my adult life because I spend what little money I have without thinking ahead and I always think I have more than I have – until it runs out. I hated school. I was bullied by my peers and disliked by the majority of my teachers. I had problems forming friendships. I was a regular in detention, mainly for failing to do homework and later on for repeatedly getting caught smoking in the school toilets and then for bunking off school. Now I was scared of my father. He was a bully and not a very pleasant man. Every time the school contacted him about something I’d done or not done, I’d get a kicking. Do you think it’s normal for a child to continually repeat behaviour that results in perpetual fear and violence? To summarise the rest of my childhood – self-harm and solvent abuse. Teens and twenties – depression and drug abuse with intermittent bouts of getting my s**t together and finding work with career prospects and then messing it up. Fast forward to now. I’m at university reading an undergraduate Masters. During my access course I was found to have dyscalculia and some seven months ago, it was brought to my attention that I might have ADD. That was a revelation as I had an eye-opening chat with two friends who both had ADHD and I could relate! I wouldn’t call what I’ve listed symptoms but they are consequences. Take a step into my head. I’ll be in the library and I can’t study because people are talking. Their conversations, even in whisper, are louder than what I’m trying to read. The more I try to concentrate on the task in hand, the more my brain tunes in to external stimuli. I’ve learned a lot about the dating habits of eighteen year olds from my time spent in the university library. Pity I’m not studying that! I dread three hour practicals because I get to the point whereby I can’t read the handout. My attention span has collapsed and I’ll get stuck in a constant loop of reading the same sentence over and over again because by the time I’ve got to the end, I’ve forgotten the beginning. Reading a book is another challenge. I’ll think I’m reading because I’ll get to the end of the chapter, but then I won’t know what I’ve read. It took me a while to realise this is because as I’m reading, my mind will wander off and although I’m seeing the text, reading the words, I’m simultaneously running through a scenario in my head where money is no object and I’m rebuilding my bike from the frame upwards. I have to use a program to block distracting websites during the day because I lack the self-control necessary to avoid these when I need to be using the computer for uni work. These are just some examples. There are many others that affect my relationships with people, with money, with my physical health and my self-esteem. I used to think I had a subconscious self-destruct button because I seemed to sabotage every opportunity that I’ve ever created, no matter how hard I’d worked for it. What a blessed relief to realise that I might have a condition. That the symptoms of this condition can be alleviated with medication. I can now ask for support from my lecturers and for allowances to be made, like being allowed to take a break whenever I need during long practicals and sitting exams in a room on my own. My director of studies prioritises my coursework for me because if I get too many assignments at the same time, I get overwhelmed and don’t know which to do first, my brain goes into shut-down mode and I can no longer compartmentalise my thoughts. It’s one big mish-mash of mess which results in me panicking at her door because the deadline is in three days and I haven’t started anything. She ‘crisis manages’ me and gives me coursework in manageable chunks. Thanks to her support, my grades are averaging an upper second. I feel like life has just opened up in front of me and I still have a chance of a future so please don’t tell me I have a ‘quasi-psychiatric condition’. There is something wrong with the way my brain processes stimuli, because you cannot tell me the above is normal, and I’m sure with technological advances and more research, diagnosis will be possible through quantifiable means. If you got this far, I thank you for your patience. It just disheartens me when folk question the validity of a condition solely on the basis that the mechanics of it are not yet fully understood. .

          • Jacobi

            All the symptoms you describe are experienced by what I shall call, if you will excuse it
            “normal?” people when they are stressed , but you clearly experience them constantly and that must be bad.

            You have taken the usual route of going to a college or university of some sort and
            placing yourself in the hands of professionals who will be only too happy to continue to look after you as has ineffectively been done for some time now. All very difficult I agree.

            The option of joining a good charity and going of to Angola or Benin or some such has
            probably passed.

            All I can suggest is that when you do finish your course, go out into the big bad world,
            even some of the dodgy parts of it and see what life is like there?

            Good luck!

          • Have you always been this patronising or is it something that has flourished in the wake of your sanctimoniousness? That’s a rhetorical question, by the way, so don’t waste your time responding.

          • Jeff Newton

            I wish you best of luck to you with your journey. I can identify very closely with a lot of what you’ve written here. Thank you for writing it too. People need to learn the harm they might do to the life of a person with ADHD if they ignore or deny it.

            I’m also really glad you know others with the condition. I have found going to a support group has made me realise that your and my experience is far from uncommon. Otherwise, I might have been deluded into believing mine were “first world problems” by the likes of Jacobi!

          • Thanks, Jeff. I also found chatting to people who don’t have ADD quite an eye-opener. It’s good to gauge differences. Things I’ve gone my whole life thinking were normal, and that it was just me who couldn’t deal with them.. or that I was lazy, stupid and self-destructive, then finding out that no, people don’t have a background noise of random thoughts racing through their heads during their waking hours that they have to battle through to isolate the conscious ones, and the almost compulsive procrastination. I was a cycle courier in London for four years and I enjoyed being on the bike with my random thoughts. I rarely had to concentrate on anything else as getting through the traffic was fluidic, ‘in the moment’ and exhilarating and didn’t require thinking about. it just seemed to happen. I miss it but the stress was starting to get to me. It was the people I had to deal with on a day-to-day basis rather than the job. There’s a lot of animosity towards bike messengers (ha.. and yeah, stress and ADD – worlds apart!).

          • Bunny Slippers

            Thanks for your share. People with comparatively calm minds have an absolute inability to understand or believe what others who don’t have that privilege are struggling through every second of every day. Sounds like the world really must be flat and we all need to just stop this nonsense. Right this very minute! *wink*

          • Jeff Newton

            – You make an inflammatory comments without backing it up with a reason agreement
            – When asked to explain yourself you don’t take the opportunity, disregarding all the reasoned argument posted here
            – I first refer you to my reasoned argument posted earlier and suggest that you are “one who disregards reason”
            – You disregard my reasoned argument (if you even read it) and cite an *editorial* from the NEW SCIENTIST – the gee whiz isn’t science cool kids NEW SCIENTIST! to demonstrate your regard for reason! May I remind you that the editorial piece is trying to discount decades of double blind experiments written up in peer reviewed journals. For example Russell A Barkley’s excellent work on the executive function inhibition model of ADHD which has been cited nearly 4000 times. It’s also worth mentioning that I have used Dr. Barkley’s research to almost instantly overcome a “self sabotaging” behaviour that didn’t respond to 40 years of being “KICKED WHERE THE SUN DOESN’T SHINE”

            And YOU accuse ME of not knowing what bigot means!

            May I suggest you take a break and find an adult ADHD support group to attend. Please spend and hour or so *listening* to people who are genuinely trying to help themselves and struggling. Please resist any urge to apply your treatment, they may not be in as good a place as myself. Then if you still feel we are mostly just [insert your favourite pejorative term here] then please feel free to return to your trolling activities. You are no doubt beyond the help of reason or compassion.

            BTW, war veterans with PTSD are often suffer depression along with it, but *disregarding* that, take a moment to think about how ruthless it is to say something like that to someone with depression and then start to think about what motivated you to write such bile.

          • Jacobi

            I do not make inflammatory comments. Only reasoned ones based on wide evidence
            not just that posted here.

            I am not aware, having looked through the your remarks that you have asked me specifically to explain .

            The editorial in the New Scientist is an honest and indeed courageous assessment, given
            the editors position, of a wide range of scientific papers. The judgement on psychiatric papers is particularly damning

            I referred to a definition of bigot in a well known dictionary. I accused no one.

            However I see you are reaching the “slide” stage after which reasoned exchange of views
            is not worth while.

            I suppose this is why sites such as this are rarely challenged by objective commenters, oh
            and of course by courageous editors of scientific journals!

            Best of luck.


          • Jeff Newton

            *Sigh* The posts I referred to where not just mine. There is some excellent reasoned comments by the Gina Pera for example here.
            I’m sorry you didn’t recognise the reasoned argument in my last post. Russell A Barkley really is very rigours and highly respected as leading the field of research.

            I’ll tell you what. I’ll make you a deal. I’ll read the editorial in the New Scientist and have a good long think about how I and stop being such a cry baby and buck my ideas up, if you go and actually meet in the fresh with your bare face hanging out some ADHD sufferer and have a good long think about why you feel the need to be so callous to the mentally disabled (or people that like to think they are mentally disabled rather than face real world?).

            Come on, what do you say?

            Do we have a deal buddy?

          • Ruby Hughes

            Why are you so angry? ADD is very real and debilitating to me and your words are truly arrogant and twattish (no, you won’t find that in the dictionary so no need to correct me you ignorant idiot)

  • Tyler Winn

    If you have a career where your impulses don’t ruin you then great. Must be nice. My impulsiveness completely has destroyed my dreams. I can’t focus correctly, I can even think of making the proper decisions in the moment and completely do something else with no control.

  • Geoff Limerick

    Hey Guys, over the years I have worked alongside a number of ADHD people and I have found them to be incredibly talented and refreshing to work with. The ADHD person accomplishes, in double-quick time, things that us ‘normal’ people could not easily achieve. Yes, it’s true that they can very be bold and impulsive, and don’t possess the patience to sit for hours through ‘BS’ corporate meetings.
    I have reached the conclusion that ADHD persons are are blessing to the world and that having ADHD is a gift rather than a curse. We just need to find teachers who have the skill and endurance to ensure that ADHD children obtain the unique education they deserve, so that they are able to fulfill their potential for the benefit of the world at large.
    By the way, Concerta does help children with their studies at school. You just need to experiment with it in order to find the optimal tablet strength. It’s a question of finding a reasonable balance between demonstrable benefits versus the side effects. In adult life, the ADHD person should try to to manage their life-situation without medication.

  • Gemma Rainey

    The interesting thing I find about all this is that Prof Phil Asherson works for the company that makes Concerta! And now here he is on a TV program on BBC’s Horizon that persuades Rory Bremner to start taking the ADHD drug. They don’t mention on the documentary that the Prof may have a conflict of interest.

    While watching, I was almost convinced it could help me too, as I was diagnosed with ADHD in 2005 and have trouble executing all the many things I want to achieve. But now I see that the documentary and this article are far from impartial, so I think I will take the advice of the entrepreneurs and find a way to focus without medication.

    But in response to Georgeegee and the usual ignorant Rent-a-DailyMail-Commenters, if you watch the TV documentary, you will hear from four different doctors how the brain is structurally different, and different in brain function to a non-ADHD brain.

  • Thanks for share informative article! ADD and ADHD does’t have to stand in the way of having successful life. In fact, there are some very well known imaginative, innovative and creative people who have the diagnosis. I think I have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) as well as Narcolepsy or something like that when my mind doesn’t work properly. I’m getting restless. I take Adderall, too. It is an effective drug to increase attention span, reduce frustration and to control behavior problems.

  • Gordon Liu

    This article is fully retarded. I have ADD, maybe I should just hire 10 people to follow me around like Ted Turner. What did he do before he had the means to hire 10 people? How did he rise to success with terrible ADD? Did he goto school?

    And Will I Am? You don’t need medicine to become a pop artist. You need it to grind out 10 hour days like normal people.

    It’s so easy to say you don’t need meds when your livelihood no longer depends on your ability to focus. So the tiny fraction of ADDers who no longer need money to survive, should be an example to the swarths of people in the middle class who depend on their ability to focus to survive?

    If only I had quit my medicine, I would be a multimillionaire by now. Who would have thought.

    For me, I intend to take meds until I no longer have to. I keep working hard towards the day when I am not dependent on my ability to focus “normally” to make a living. Really that equates to financial freedom. I can’t wait until that day arrives, and if it doesn’t, I will be stuck taking these medications my whole life. When I stopped taking my meds for 6 mos last year, I was at least 30% less productive and easily distracted. There is no way I can achieve the success I seek without medication, but I can’t wait to quit.

    This article is fully retarded.

  • Genie

    My work colleague uses this as an excuse for his inappropriate and sexist language and constantly talking over me and interrupting others. He also has threatened people, and no one reports him. Its so unfair that he gets to say and do whatever he wants. We work in a very politically correct environment that should be reprimanding him. He uses the excuse of prejudice against his ethnicity for why women don’t like him. I’ve tried to tell him why but he refuses to listen. I’m starting to avoid him. He depresses me. I have to take meds for another condition, but he won’t take his. I can’t be his friend anymore, but merely an acquaintance