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Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.
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Parents of Children with ADHD

Allan N. Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. Updated: Dec 18th 2008

 On December 17 2008 a very distraught and frustrated mother of a 32 year old son with Adult ADHD wrote this cautionary comment to other parents in response to a selection on ADHD. The original article can be found by clicking on the following URL:

The comment written by the mother follows:

"Any parent with a child with adhd please be careful while they are young. My son was dx at the age of 6 and was placed on ritlan in high doses, he was kicked out of school in kindergarden and they refused to allow him in school unless he was on medication.

He is now 32, his adhd never improved, the experts now say its because of the medication. As they get older some go to street drugs because they are looking for that normal feeling again they had with the medication when they were younger. Some become worse, develop drug induced bipolar disorder which causes them a life time of hell and hard to get good help for because they can not keep a job or insurance.

Fight for your kids while they  are young, and make sure they followed up into their adulthood for their sake and yours."

While this woman's pain is understandle it is important to correct some misperceptions and point out some major issues with the diagnoses of ADHD and Bipolar disorder.

1. Very recent research has strongly shown that the medications used to help children with ADHD do not cause drug abuse during adulthood.

2. In my experience working with adults with ADHD, there is a high incidence of drug or alcohol abuse. This is true even in the cases where the adult was never diagnosed with ADHD during childhood and, therefore, never took ritalin or the other medications used for the disorder. It is not clear why there is such a high use of drugs among this population unless it is an attempt at self medication.

3. Psychologists and psychiatrists often have great difficulty in the differential diagnosis between ADHD and Bipolar Disorder. For one, it is common for those with ADHD to experience depression probably because they experience low self esteem because it is so difficult to succeed in school and elsewhere.

4. In the treatment of children and adults with ADHD there are important and successful behavioral interventions to help these children control their impulses and ability to focus on tasks. Medication should never be the sole means of treatment for children or adults with this disorder.

5. When all is said and done, meaning that both behavioral and medical interventions are being used for ADHD, a lot depends upon motivation to improve, especially when dealing with adults. As with everything else in life, there are those people who will do everything to improve their functioning and there are those who have difficulty admitting they have a problem to fix. Remember, there are plenty of people who turn to drug abuse whether or not they have a disorder.

6. Finally, I have seen the youngest and most difficult to control children respond remarkably well to behavioral treatment with a well trained child psychologist.

I would even suggest to all readers that ADHD is not necessarily a disorder if the individual can learn to channel it into creativity. I can report that I have seen people do this and have wonderfully successful lives. Very often, the very things we believe are disorders can be "blessings in disguise." A lot depends upon getting the appropriate kind of help.

A final amusing note:

Remember the wonderful short story written by O'Henry titled "The Ransom of Red Chief?" A gang of kidnappers take the young son of a wealthy family and hold him for ransom. The child was so wild and uncontrollabe that the kidnappers ended up paying the family a ransom to take the child back. The story describes all the mischief the child caused. A very funny story.

However, parents of children with ADHD are not amused because their lives are extremely stressful from every point of view.

Your comments are welcome and encouraged.

Allan N. Schwartz, LCSW, PhD



Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.

Readers who live in the Boulder, Colorado metro area, or in Southwest Florida may contact Dr. Schwartz for face-to-face consultation. He is also available for psychotherapy through Skype video for those who are not in Florida or Colorado. He can be reached via email at for details.

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