Jewish Journal


January 24, 2013

A’s, ADD, and Adderall



By M. Alexander

Last week, Michael Welch, my esteemed colleague and blog-writing rival, wrote about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.  He claimed that people wear the label of OCD like a crown, but that the actual disorder is something much more sinister than the desire for cleanliness.

In my line of work, speaking to adolescents, I notice that another disorder is equally over diagnosed—Attention Deficit Disorder.  Those who have a difficult time paying attention in school are given Adderall when they’re eight years old.  The parents who demand straight A’s from their middle-schooler rush them to a psychiatrist when they get a C in seventh grade Spanish.  Parents all think that their kid should be getting A’s, that their child should be able to sit in a classroom for eight hours a day and not get distracted—if this is difficult, it must be the work of a psychological imbalance.  

I am not saying that ADD doesn’t exist and I am not asserting that nobody should be medicated for it. It is sometimes necessary and incredibly beneficial.  But it is astounding how many kids are given medication at such a young age, how many of my friends continue to use ADD as an excuse for their inability to pay attention during meetings.  Let’s be real—paying attention is hard, meetings are boring, and not every kid is meant to get a 4.0 GPA.  Your kid might not end up being a brain surgeon, and it’s not because he has a disorder, it’s because he’s just not that good at science.  

Maybe we should focus our attention on helping kids pay attention instead of running to pill-peddlers every time things aren’t going perfectly.  Here’s a common scenario:  kid gets put on Adderall, kid can’t sleep, kid gets put on medication for his insomnia, kid sleeps too much, kid gets put on anti-depressants, kid gets numb, kid starts smoking weed.  Now, we have a 16 year old who takes amphetamines to go to school, sedatives to go to sleep, anti-depressants to live, and marijuana to feel.  And you wonder why so many young people check into Beit T’Shuvah.

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