Three Cheers For Those Reds, Whites, and Blues (Part II)

Connecting Life With ADD

By: Sharon Slayton

©ADD Solutions 2007


Three Cheers For Those Reds, Whites, and Blues  (Part II)

Why do we avoid discussions about drugs?  If it really is fundamentally as simple as “just say no”,  why all the ranting and raving about it?  Why?  I don’t know if these are common experiences outside CA and the admittedly “different” San Francisco Bay Area.  Considering the stories and news reports from all corners of the country and a huge portion in-between, I’m willing to bet that at least some 75% or 80% of us all have similar experiences and associations.  However, only about half or less that number see it or admit it.

I know a lot of burnt out people in the Bay Area.  Most of them are older than 35.  In the Midwest, and in other places, I’ve met a lot of burnt out people who were under 35.  They were all looking for various sorts of “love” in all the wrong places.  So what are, or were,  they all looking for?  Ahhh, we’re back to my favorite topics – dopamine and adrenaline.  They’re all looking to get high.  We’re ALL looking to get high!  Did that phrase poke at you a bit?  Why do we think those words automatically mean we’re all looking for “un-natural highs?”  Do you know any natural highs?

Of course you do!  Your family!  Your friends!  Your pets!  Hopefully, your feelings about your life and your self.  When we don’t get our highs there, we’ll go out looking for them some place else.  Guaranteed.  Remember – rats stopped eating to get their fill of dopamine.  Don’t’ think for one minute that the complex being called man isn’t capable of that and more in search of his.

There are really valuable lessons here in understanding what ADD is about.  Every “conditioning program” out there is based on either stimulating or reducing dopamine.  Punishment takes it away, Rewards stimulate it.  There is a little tricky part here, because sometimes what some people think is punishment, ends up being taken as a reward.  Likewise, sometimes something meant as a reward, ends up being taken as a punishment.  Reward and punishment affect people with ADD like no others.

People who have the power to punish get to make a lot of the rules down here on planet earth.  People who don’t have that power – you guessed it – get punished.  If you’re getting punished for things you don’t understand or agree with, you can bet on two things happening.  Shut down, or melt down.  This is the reason we used to think there was an inattentive subtype ADD, and a very different kind that wasn’t.  What we’re finding out is that the ADD is wired in – the “inattentive” or “other” stuff happens mostly because of environment.

People wired for what we’ve been calling ADD, are wired with less ability to create and sustain dopamine.  We’re always looking for it, and we won’t brook a lot of interference in the quest.  When we’re intent on our thoughts or activities, some of us block out other things so we can sustain our internal “high.”  Some of us go the other way and rebel, or fight.  We become “inattentive,” “hyper-focused,” “impulsive,” “difficult to deal with,” “rebel against authority,” and a whole host of other descriptive words you can find in any CHADD or NIMH report.  An entire pharmaceutical industry has responded to the words.

To the rest of the world, we’re the ones that refuse to go, whether it is quietly or not.  “They” get their dopamine in brain-produced, regular incremental doses.  They simply don’t feel the intensity and urges in the spikes and highs and lows that we do.  It is what makes it so difficult for the rest of the world to understand ADD.

So, what does this have to do with drugs?  Back in the sixties, the counter-drug culture introduced that tired old phrase of “get high on life.”  Yes, just like “just say no,” it’s a pat phrase that makes a very difficult idea sound simple.  Results are in for the shortcut route – the “fix it with drugs” approach – that we’ve been experimenting with as a society in between.

Results?  Well, let’s step back a second and recognize one thing that is somewhat of a universal truth.  When we take shortcuts, and sidestep things for convenience or quick solutions….the toll builds up and we end up paying for it somewhere down the line.  The toll on the meds approach is slowly coming due.  And that toll has everything to do with drugs – legal, illegal, prescribed, over-the-counter, and otherwise ingested and obtained.

And what are those results so far?  More than 65% of the country’s prison population is made up of people with ADD and associated learning disabilities.  Anger is now being classified under diagnoses guidelines by CHADD and treatments with and without meds are being defined.

Wait a minute – treatments for anger?  Has this gone far enough?  Ted Koppel, Discovery, has just completed a documentary on how people end up in our prison system.  It has everything to do with drugs, mental ‘illness’, and other things in our society today that are driving our kids and our adults to outlets looking for dopamine and adrenaline highs.   Ten years ago I approached my son’s daycare director about setting up someplace in the school where kids could learn how to express their anger.  Maybe the idea has finally come!  Let’s talk more in the future about how this thing is looking, and what we can all do immediately to get it to look like something very different!