According to “ADHD is a problem” (2010), “ADHD is the most commonly diagnosed behavioral disorder of childhood. It affects about 3% – 5% of school aged children. ” In 2010 the World Health Organization (WHO) conducted a study that estimated that 3% to 4% of adults have ADHD. Of these it is estimated that between 8 and 10 million are undiagnosed, with millions more not receiving treatment (Van Pelt, 2010).
Paul Lichtenstein of Sweden’s Karolinska Institute stated “It’s said that roughly 30 to 40 per cent of long-serving criminals have ADHD. ” (Kelland, 2012).
These statistics illustrate how severely ADHD can affect subject’s lives. Many are concerned about the side effects that come with taking stimulant medications used to treat ADHD. ADHD medications do indeed have side effects; however, the advantages of treatment generally outweigh the disadvantages of negative side effects. This can be seen by examining the symptoms associated with ADHD, and comparing them to the side effects of stimulant medication.
Also examining the various ways in which the side effects can be dealt with.
There are many symptoms linked with ADHD, these symptoms fall into three categories and can be used to diagnose this disorder. The first category is inattentiveness, or lack of attention, symptoms in this category, as implied, deal with the subject’s inability to focus. Examples of these symptoms are:
The second category is hyperactivity; these symptoms can be seen in the actions of the subject. Examples of these symptoms are:
The third category of symptoms is impulsivity, or impulsive behavior, these symptoms seem to be combinations of the first two categories. Examples of these symptoms are:
Observation of combinations of these symptoms can lead to the diagnosis of ADHD. There are several different prescription medications used to treat ADHD in both children and adults. Prescription medications used for this treatment are generally stimulants, and are controlled substances. The five stimulant medications used for this treatment are:
There is a nonstimulant medication available called Atomoxetine, commonly called Strattera (“ADHD is a problem”, 2012). Stimulant medications used for ADHD cause increased levels of neurotransmitters, specifically Dopamine, and Norepinephrine within the prefrontal cortex (Arnsten, 2006).
The levels of these two neurotransmitters are thought to be lower in children and adults with ADHD. The stimulant medications used for treatment of ADHD increase the production of these two neurotransmitters in order to reach normal levels within the subjects brain chemistry (Santa Maria, 12/30/11). It has been found that the best results from treatment included behavioral therapy, such as having a set schedule, eating a well balanced diet, limiting distractions in study and work areas, and getting enough sleep (“ADHD is a problem”, 2012).
Behavior therapy combined with medication seems to provide the best results, allowing the subject to build upon the effects of the medication, and create a routine. There are many possible side effects included with these medications, some of these are rarer than others, while others still have positive effects. Many of the side effects that come with stimulant treatment are common and mild. One such side effect is trouble sleeping, the stimulant aspects of the drugs can make it hard to fall asleep. Loss of appetite is another common side effect.
The stimulant medication tends to reduce appetite, and can cause weight loss. Weight loss is one side effect that people tend to like, however weight loss tends to be modest and the effects diminish over time (“If you have adult ADHD”, 2012). Dry mouth is another very common side effect. These first three side effects seem to be almost ensured when taking ADHD medication. Other side effects that, while still common and generally mild, are not guaranteed consist of headaches, nausea, dizziness, irritability and mood changes, and occasionally tics.
The medications do not cause tics, instead they can sometimes bring underlying tics out, for example a tic from childhood may return (“If you have adult ADHD”, 2012). There are more severe side effects associated with the use of ADHD stimulant treatment, however these are much more rare, or case sensitive. For example, stimulant medication increases blood pressure and heart rate, which is not a major concern in most cases. However, if people have underlying heart problems this increase can cause problems. Another side effect of ADHD medications that is a rarity is psychiatric problems.
These issues may involve auditory hallucinations, paranoia, and mania, though it must be noted that only about 1in 1000 people or . 001% is affected in this way, and most often stems from preexisting psychiatric conditions (“If you have adult ADHD”, 2012). Drug abuse is another concern when treating ADHD, as stimulants such as Ritalin, and Adderall have the potential to be abused. However it must be noted also that untreated ADHD poses an increased risk of substance abuse (“If you have adult ADHD”, 2012). There are positive effects of the drugs that have been noted as well.
One of the most encouraging comes from a study involving 25,000 ADHD subjects. This study found that the patients using the medication committed about a third less crimes. “Past international studies show up to two-thirds of young offenders and half the adult prison population screen positively for childhood ADHD, and many may still have symptoms as adults,” (Kelland, 2012, ). Seena Fazel a forensic psychiatrist at Oxford University, in Britain, stated that “medication led to a 32 percent reduction in crime rates in men, and a 41 percent reduction in crime rates in women,” (Kelland, 2012, ).
Fazel’s colleague Paul Lichtenstein, of Karolinska Institute in Sweden, added that roughly 30 to 40 percent of long serving criminals have ADHD, and that the chances of recidivism (recommitting crimes) could be reduced by 30% by taking medication (Kelland, 2012, ). Most side effects associated with ADHD medications are not only minor, but also controllable. There are many ways in which subjects can effectively control or cope with emerging side effects. Trouble sleeping and loss of appetite are two of the most common side effects, and they are two of the most easily controlled as well.
By adjusting the time which a subject takes their medication to avoid overlapping into meal time or sleep time, these two side effects can be effectively controlled. Chances for side effects such as headache and nausea emerging can be reduced similarly, since these side effects tend to stem from not eating enough, or sleeping enough, while on the medication. Some subjects complain of dizziness or irritability or mood swings, these side effects can best be dealt with by consulting one’s doctor, possibly changing dosage, or in some cases changing medications.
Other side effects may not be eliminated, however there are methods to cope with them. One such minor side effect is dry mouth, subjects can drink more water or keep lozenges with them to counter this side effect. There are many ways to control or cope with the day-to-day side effects associated with ADHD medications, the key is finding what works best for you. Other more severe side effects known to be linked with ADHD medications, such as psychiatric problems or cardiovascular problems, affect a very small number of subjects and may be managed by changing medication dosage, or changing medication.
All side effects that subjects experience should be brought to the attention of their doctor, so that together they can choose the best way to deal with them. In a worst case scenario untreated ADHD can result in elevated criminal activities, in a less severe example an untreated subject may have difficulty holding a job or dealing with day-to-day responsibilities. The side effects of not taking stimulant medications to treat ADHD are as real as the side effects that come with the drugs themselves.
However the side effects that come with taking these medications can in most cases be controlled or coped with. Doctors have continued to prescribe meds like Adderall, Ritalin and Dexedrine because – quite simply – they work better than anything else. ” Study reveals, (2006). As stated stimulant medication can overcome the symptoms associated with ADHD, which in turn can lead to a more prosperous life at work, school, and home.