Education and Medication

A retired teacher from Manitoba once told me that when parents asked for her thoughts on ADHD medication for their child, she always told them their child would be medicated, the only choice was whether it was by the doctor or by the child themselves.

All she had was experience, this wasn’t a policy of her school or the board that she worked for as far as I know, but it sounds right.

Do what comes naturally

In my adolescent years I found alcohol. And I found pot. And I found risky behaviour. And I used them all.

The pot made me paranoid more than half of the times that I tried it. I ended my association with it early because of that paranoia and because alcohol and adventure seemed to be enough for me. Oddly, even the negative effects of a hangover were a comforting alternate mental state for me. I hated the way I felt physically, but my mind was too weak to scatter.

Enter executive function

In my mid twenties I found a life partner that made me want to be a better person. She helped me make decisions that I hadn’t been able to make before. She had a way of making me look at the basics and ignoring the frills that often distract us. I stopped drinking because I realized I did not want to endanger her.

Then I realized I didn’t want to endanger anyone else. Funny I hadn’t thought of that before. But that’s what we do, isn’t it, demonstrate poor behaviour without consideration, without due diligence.

These days I’m doing much better. I have a prescription that helps me manage the static-charged interference in my brain. But more than that, I’ve been educated to know what’s what in this regard. If this were the only benefit of my pursuit of ADHD knowledge, it would be well worth the price of admission. To know why I long to take that drink and to know that taking that drink will only fix my life temporarily is a piece of the big picture, a part of my education that helps me. And that knowledge is comforting.

Here in my country, Canada, we have an organization named CADDRA, the Canadian ADHD Resource Alliance. They would be similar to, if not the Canadian equivalent of, CHADD.

In the CADDRA Guidelines, a document available for free online, in the section titled Core Principles and under the heading “Principals of Informed Consent,” CADDRA states: “There needs to be discussion regarding potential risks of no treatment.”

Inherent in this statement is the assumption that there are “risks” involved in not treating ADHD. One of these risks is self medication. And a very great risk it is.

No one goes out to avail themselves of alcohol, drugs, or perilous activities thinking “This will help my ADHD brain.” They try something and find emotional comfort in it. So they do it again; and again, and again …

We learn what works, we choose what works best for us, and we continue to do what works best for us, because we don’t know any better. Those of us who were not diagnosed have some reason to relent on our self-punishment, but those who have had issues with self-medicating while being aware of the legal alternative, need to ask why they are denying themselves the possible positive effects of medication.


I know this is a powder-keg issue, but I also know that the explosion is usually centered around lack of education regarding medication. I am not addicted to my methylphenidate. I am addicted to alcohol. I have not succumbed to that addiction in 28 years. And most pointedly, since the passing of the woman who acted as my executive function, I still have not succumbed.

I’ve been educated.