MS 1107 #14
Creative Commons License photo credit: sangak

In Binders Full of ADHDers, Part I, I called for action, not lip service, to social change during newly re-elected President Obama’s 2nd term. Those of us with ADHD need pro-active measures on all fronts, including political, to see the changes necessary to make our lives better.

Make sense, not war

One area of concern, in both Canada and the US, is the notion of the “war on crime.” Shouldn’t we be waging a war on ignorance?

ADHD is considered the most treatable of all mental health conditions, yet study after study has shown that those born with ADHD often find a “Go to Jail” card in their back pocket around the time they turn into adolescents (especially if they’re hyperactive boys).

Research shows that both men and women with ADHD make up to 45% and more of prison populations (see a small sampling of studies below), yet early diagnosis (very unlikely for girls) and treatment (still as rare as hens’ teeth) can eliminate many of the factors leading to the creation of ADHD rebels without a cause.

I’m no sociologist. I’m no economist. But I’m not the only one who thinks that we need to re-focus our priorities. Dr. James W. Squires, in writing for the bipartisan coalition Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity, writes,

“Perhaps we should spend less money on warehousing people in our corrections system and instead seek to provide more quality mental health and substance abuse treatment services.”

– from Inexorably Linked: The correlation between economic status and health, by James W. Squires, M.D.

We need to decide, as a society, what our highest values are. Wouldn’t we rather treat ADHD than continue to let some of our most creative, passionate, and intelligent citizens malinger in jail?

The roots of all evil – or at least, ADHD-related evil

So let’s consider some of the contributing factors of untreated ADHD: risk-taking behavior; impulsivity; anger management issues; inability to visualize consequences (faulty executive functioning); low self-esteem; being intelligent but underachieving; poverty due to lack of education and opportunities; higher rates of alcohol and substance abuse; …need I go on?

It’s no wonder we so frequently pull the “Go directly to Jail. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200card.

Untreated ADHD can lead to lives of financial ruin. Helping people with ADHD to meet their full potential – from childhood on – makes sense and would save cents. Make that, would save millions. We’d not only keep people out of jails, we’d put them into the workforce (and the more entrepreneurial ADHD types will not just have jobs, they’ll create jobs).

We know how to help people with ADHD; why aren’t we doing it?

According to an article in the Washington Monthly, March/ April 2012 called Obama’s Top 50 Accomplishments by Paul Glastris, Ryan Cooper, and Siyu Hu, among Obama’s achievements in his first term as President were: the Affordable Care Act (2010); the creation of the Race to the Top education reform and other educational initiatives; and expanded health coverage for children.

Will any of these impact the identification and treatment of ADHD? If not, will other policies and initiatives improve the education of medical professionals, mental health workers, teachers, and others in the front line, identifying and treating ADHD?

Will President Obama make mental health and substance abuse treatment a priority?

There may not be an actual “Get Out of Jail Free” card, but at least we can think about paying to keep people with ADHD out of jail in the first place.

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An Epidemiological Study of ADHD, Substance Use, and Comorbid Problems in Incarcerated Women in Sweden.

Childhood attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, substance use, and adult functioning among incarcerated women.

Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder in female offenders: prevalence, psychiatric comorbidity and psychosocial implications.


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