Can you do it all on ADDERALL?

Connecting Life With ADD

By: Sharon Slayton

©ADD Solutions 2007

ADDERALL – the most profitable and fastest growing AD/HD drug.  First introduced for weight loss by Shire under a different name, Adderall was taken off the market in the 60’s due to side effects and a huge addiction rate to the med’s two pure amphetamine salts.  Shire re-introduced Adderall in the 80’s to treat ADD.  Is anyone really surprised that today  Adderall is being prescribed with increasing regularity for overweight teens, and that associated abuse and addiction rates are climbing?  Read on for the next act in this really bad play.

Shire’s new drug?  “Vyvanse” – lisdexamfetamine dimesylate.  For those of you who don’t know chemistry language, that’s two pure amphetamine salts coated with lysine.  Still the same med, but with less chance for “abuse” because the lysine coating inhibits DLE (drug liking effect – really!) a “rush” that “abusers” find appealing.  Shire/FDA reports focus on reduction in “DLE” – not on potential for addiction.  Kudos, I suppose, to the pharmaceutical industry for at least trying – but I can’t wait to see what marketing does with this.  I guess we can produce “addicts” who aren’t “abusers.”  Is it time for my meds?

I was almost disappointed when I found out Vyvanse is a pill.  When I first saw the word, I thought it said “Vyvanase,” like the stuff in asthma inhalers.  I always knew it would come full circle to delivering amphetamines through the nasal passages.  I laughed until I realized I read the word wrong – and that Vyvanse” is up for approved use in kids 6-12.

Maybe I’m overreacting, but here’s where a lot of education and experience lead my “no meds” brain.  Almost without exception, targeting dopamine is the way stimulant meds work.  Simply explained, dopamine happens in our bodies in association with pleasure – pleasure and happiness make dopamine, and dopamine makes and keeps the happiness happening.  If it is good enough, you’ll keep coming  back for more.  Sound good so far?   Ever heard of cigarettes?

Whether Adderall or another stimulant, the same meds are banned for pregnant women because of the damage they do to forming fetuses and the strain they put on cardiovascular and other systems in both fetus and mom.  No matter, they are given to millions of kids (true number!) whose brains and neurons are still forming until the age of 9 or 10 – arguably until 18 or 20.  Many children under 10 take stimulant medications for at least 3-5 years – often daily.  Read that again, and remember, in the words of many members of the APA, “the diagnosis for ADD is the diagnosis of being a child.”

I feel compelled to add that dopamine has a tendency to “open the mind” to whatever is being presented.  It “enhances and reinforces learning.”  When the meds wear off, and dopamine levels decline, interest and motivation in learning seriously decline – the lessons ‘without’ are far less penetrating than the lessons on the meds. Still sound good?

Just as a lark, let’s look at what is happening here, and make a simple comparison with another dopamine related action.  Last year, in a National Institute of Mental Health study, over, and over again; a mother with an authoritative parenting style had a more sustained “normalizing” effect than meds on kids with AD/HD.  Side effects were still present, but quite different.  Things like happier families and healthier lives happened; and, they persisted in improving and lasting over time.  No further longitudinal studies are really needed.  No warning labels are involved.  Think of the money we could save.

We apparently don’t have enough time or money today to pay attention to the real issues with ADD.  Teaching and helping our children to become authoritative, not altered adults, should be our first concern.  We should be changing social and educational systems to achieve these goals – not experimenting with our evolution or our kids.  By the way – the NIMH study got recent press daylight disguised as “kids from daycare misbehave in sixth grade…”  Funny how we focus on things.