- IU Health Center
- Visit the CAPS office for an ADD screening
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
Dr. Kip Myers on Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
During college, our capacity for scholarship, managing time and money, and emotional growth is put to the test. When overwhelmed by these challenges, students often ask me if they have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). I hope to shed light on this important subject.
Symptoms of ADHD
Previously called minimal brain dysfunction, ADHD is a developmental disorder characterized by poor attention and organization, excessive physical movement, and impulsive, poor judgment causing serious consequences in most spheres of a person’s life, by age seven. As many as eight percent of children are affected, and their school records reflect far below average grades and frequent discipline problems. Less than half of them will have residual attention problems in adulthood. However, when the problems do persist in adulthood, lives are often complicated by increased risk of motor vehicle accidents, sexually transmitted diseases, and divorce due to their unreliable and impulsive behavior. Unemployment is more likely and, not surprisingly, adults with ADHD are overrepresented in jail and prison populations.
Treatment of ADHD
Fortunately, adult ADHD is treatable. Medication is the cornerstone of treatment, and stimulant agents like Ritalin and Adderall achieve significant improvement in about 60 percent of patients and are generally well tolerated. While healthy patients taking approved doses are usually safe, there have been associated increases in heart rate and blood pressure, which can potentially result in an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, and sudden death.
Non-stimulants like Strattera and Welbutrin also have good evidence of effectiveness and can simultaneously treat depression. Efforts to learn better organizational and study skills and counseling to improve interpersonal strengths and to gain coping techniques for dealing with everyday problems are important adjuncts to medicine.
While drug companies work to create demand for their products without educating the public, only one in three adults who believe they have ADHD actually do. The majority have attention problems caused by other significant disorders like depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. Others lack practical skills for learning.
Risks of ADHD Treatment
Unfortunately, several pitfalls exist on the road to proper diagnosis and treatment. Due to the nature of ADHD, many patients follow treatment recommendations inconsistently or abandon it completely. Conversely, there is a risk of abuse and dependence with stimulant agents, with consequences ranging from insomnia and vomiting to violent psychosis.
To confuse the issue, prescription stimulants can enhance the mental focus of almost anyone, just like other chemicals from caffeine to cocaine. Many students are yielding to this temptation and risk not only adverse physical and mental consequences, but criminal prosecution as well. Possession of stimulants without a prescription is illegal, and selling them is a federal class B felony. Furthermore, normal people using stimulants condition themselves to function only under the influence of the drug instead of building skills that can last a lifetime.
ADHD Screening at CAPS
ADHD and other conditions that impair attention are treatable, and the staff at CAPS has the skills to help. Stop by for a low-cost ADHD screening. No appointment is necessary; just stop by the 4th floor of the IU Health Center between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.