Stimulants motivate people. Stimulants make people more active. At one time (and probably still) stimulants were used as diet pills.
People with ADHD are often very active, especially those of us with the “H” switch turned on and the hyper drives set to warp ten.
I’m one of those. I can go through the day feeling like I’ve accomplished nothing, yet I won’t have stopped “doing” all day long.
To itemize my accomplishments you sometimes have to be very creative. I moved a book from my night stand to my dresser, some receipts from my dresser to my desk, a dirty coffee cup from my desk to the kitchen counter, my phone charger from the counter to the hall table, the newspaper from the hall table to the end table, my shoes from beside the end table to the side door, my keys from the door to the key rack … you know I could go on.
That’s the story
You know what I’m saying. I was trying to return a book to the library. By days end the book is still on my dresser, and I still can’t tell you I’ve accomplished anything worthwhile.
Along comes Methylphenidate and I’m picking up the book off my nightstand and returning it to my cheerful and happy librarian, the one who used to chide and fine me for late returns.
So how does that work?
In short, it helps the part of my brain that doesn’t work right to … uh … work right. Cool, right?
The stimulant medication “stimulates” communication with, and function of, my prefrontal cortex. In short, it helps the part of my brain that doesn’t work right to … uh … work right. Cool, right?
This is one of the dichotomies of ADHD, one of the paradoxes. There are people who think that we just aren’t trying hard enough. Their proof is that we can focus on television or computer games. If we can do that, we should be able to just try harder and focus on doing our income tax, making toast, watching paint dry. Sorry, no can do.
The trick, once again, is stimulants. The things that stimulate us, possible examples are Star Trek, Pac-Man, Facebook or Twitter, still stimulate us. Your pictures of relatives at a family reunion may keep our interest … maybe, but 40 snapshots of your two month old grandson aren’t going to hold my attention much past picture number two.
Meanwhile, back at the medicine cabinet …
Do stimulants help with focus for those who have ADHD? Yes, if you can tolerate them. Do stimulants have potential negative side effects? Yes, they are well documented. Does aspirin have potential negative side effects? Yes, equally well documented. Does aspirin help me focus? Nope.
I was always amused with the idea that sugar caused ADHD symptoms. I figured out the so called proof some time ago. The claim is that if you give your ADHD child sugar, within half an hour they are bouncing off the walls, scattered and hyper.
The truth is, they had half an hour of stimulated focus and then, sugar being a short lived stimulant, they lost their focus and were hit by an energy surge. What would you do if you were suddenly feeling like a boiler ready to bust, but you’d lost the focus you’d just had? We should maybe feed kids sugar a half hour before recess, eh? Just kidding. Or maybe …
So instead of thinking of stimulation as being inducing action, think of it as just inducing … period. In our case, stimulants induce concentration, focus, calm.
I’m telling you this today, because on Friday I have something more to say about stimulant medication. We’re going to have a little discussion about some of the known side effects of stimulants in general and Concerta in particular.