I Need Some Advice about My ADHD

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    • #110720

      I am 21 years old, in college, but still living at home with my parents. I have ADHD and despite my doctor recommending I try medication, my parents are against it, as they believe they could potentially lead to addiction, and I have a history of substance abuse. As a consequence, I self-medicate using weed, which I feel is futile but mellows me out enough. I once picked up an Adderall prescription and hid it, was able to take it as directed for a few days, but it was found and thrown out by my parents. My psychiatrist refuses to prescribe me stimulant medication due to my substance abuse past. We tried Strattera and Wellbutrin for some time, but they did not seem to do much for me. At this point, it seems like there is no way for me to get the help I need and I am concerned about feeling the need to self-medicate on a regular basis. My therapist believes I would benefit from ADHD meds, but my psychiatrist made it clear there is no way he will ever prescribe stimulants. Even if I changed doctors, my parents would find out if I got a prescription, and we’d be back to square one. So I am not so sure at this point. The longer I leave it untreated, the worse it seems to become. How should I move forward?

    • #110725

      Hey there,

      Well done for reaching out!

      One of the first things I can tell you is that people with undiagnosed and unmedicated ADHD are actually MORE likely to tend towards self-medication and substance abuse, not less. You can tell your parents that. It’s proven. ADHD treatment helps you control the impulses that would normally propel you towards illicit substances. The same holds true for ADHD Stimulant Medication- they make you less likely to abuse substances, not more.. They’re not gateway drugs, they’re medicines that help you function as you should. Yes, some people abuse their meds, but these people are the exception, not the rule. If you’re straight up and honest with your therapist (including explaining when you don’t think your current dose is working), take your meds as prescribed, and don’t experiment with other substances, there are no risks associated with ADHD medications, vis-a-vis substance abuse. Your parents need to understand that. They wouldn’t stop you having an asthma inhaler, antihistamines, antibiotics, or painkillers. ADHD Medications help you function every bit as much as each of these medications.

      That being said, as you have a history of substance abuse, it’s understandable that your therapist may not want you on stimulant medications. This may be due to the fear that you’d take too many and/or abuse them. It could also be due to a fear that they’d have an adverse affect on your body or brain chemistry, based on whatever you’ve taken before. The first thing to find out is what it is that your specialist is worried about. If it’s the former, request to go on extended release medication, which doesn’t give a ‘rush’, making them MUCH harder to abuse. You could even volunteer to accept a ‘reduced prescription’, if there is such a thing- whereby you only get, say, a week’s worth of pills at a time, to prove you don’t intend to abuse them. It’ll be a pain in the arse for getting them filled, but if it gets you treatment, the hassle is worth it. If it’s the second, say that you’re happy to submit to whatever diagnostic tests they’d require to be satisfied that there’s no risk to your body (EEG, EKG, Blood Work, and CT scans are usually a good start), and regular check-ups to monitor your health.

      ADHD stimulant medications are, statistically speaking, the most effective medications available. However, there are more non-stimulant options available than just Wellbutrin and Strattera. If your specialist will hold ABSOLUTELY firm on no stimulants, then you need to try the other non-stimulant options. They are very effective for a large number of people, but you need to try all the options, same as you would have to with the stimulants. In the case of stimulants, most people who don’t do well on Ritalin do well on Adderall, and vice-versa. Same for non-stimulants. Try all of them, and try them at different doses, AS GUIDED BY YOUR SPECIALIST AND PHYSICIAN. Make no decisions regarding your medications without consulting them first, whether that’s increasing dosage, reducing dosage, changing the timing of your doses by more than an hour, or changing the medications altogether.

      I also recommend dropping the cannabis. Completely. It’s hard to make a case to medical professionals that you’re responsible enough to take controlled substances under supervision while simultaneously imbibing illicit substances. If it’s legal wherever you are, then fair enough, but it still doesn’t paint the best picture. It’s also, actually, the precise opposite of what you want to do to treat your ADHD. Like alcohol, cannabis is a depressant, not a stimulant. It has directly the opposite effect to ADHD medications, even though some people find it efficacious for their ADHD.

      Hope this helps! 🙂

      • #112016

        Thanks for being so brave and working this through. You show great maturity and your an inspiration. I’m exactly like your parents. Your request to “try and judge by the fruit” is spot on. I didn’t do that. If my kids had used biblical references such as judging by the fruit and not just going by my unfounded, uninformed beliefs my daughter would have received meds years earlier. She had the same fight as you. I recently looked up the drug she is taking by “by answe” and the reviewed the side effects. Not sure if your parents should read the reviews but you should. The drug gets 4 out of 5 stars, even though the side effects are real and most likely to manifest, because the problems the drugs solves leaves the patient with HOPE. That’s huge. To fall into despair is a terrible pit. My daughter is getting A’s now, as predicted, misses lots of days at school as predicted etc. All in all I couldn’t be more relieved. I would rather work w her to manage the side effects than see her fall by the wayside.

        You have to find that ” just right Way” to create a paradyme shift in your parents cause their support is critical. Make a deal…no more pot. Tell them to try to understand that school cannot accommodate all kinds of people and your type does not fit the process, it’s not good or bad it’s just the way it is. You need to be a square peg fitting into a square hole. Tell them this is the way it is now. There is no going back and no room for people who can’t embrace the times we live in. It’s no different than an Olympic athlete or foot ball player …like it or not it the times.

        If your parents are church goers look for scripture that’s jumps out at you, get on their common ground so you can effectively communicate w them. It’s critical you get them on board. I’m a Christian and my beliefs and cultural background got in the way. I regret fighting my daughter do long and admire her strength, courage, steadfast trying trying trying to convince me. I will always love her for patiently trying. I’m ashamed I was so certain I was right. I cost her years of struggle needlessly. My bad. Show your parents this email. I’m asking them to please please trust in you, give you a chance and judge by the fruit. The reviews from 98 people are 4/5 because the good far far outweighs the bad.

        Who knows where ADD comes from, it’s environmental for certain, it’s foreign, it’s real, and it can only really be effectively fought by a combination of drugs and parental support.

        Please give your child a chance. Parents, what if it was you?


      • #112161

        I just wanted to say that the doctor recommended I use cannabis for nausea and loss of appetite due to stimulant medication. Also, there are thousands of strains, each with its own mix of cannabinoids. I promise you, the right strain can and does get rid of ADHD symptoms too, not just side effects from meds. The wrong strain can definitely do the opposite and make ADHD worse.

        I really believe pharmaceutical companies should start adding cannabinoids to the ADHD drugs so there are fewer side effects, especially for little juniors who are still growing and need to eat lots of food. A lot of misinformation out there on medicating with cannabis, and it’s really sad to think about so many people missing out and suffering.

    • #110810
      Penny Williams

      Not every psychiatrist refuses to treat ADHD in individuals with past addiction issues. As was said above, you’re more likely to have addiction issues by not treating the ADHD.

      Fear of Addiction

      Now, the question of what to do about your parents. I think , as long as you live in their house, you’re trapped by their beliefs. I don’t condone their behavior, but I do understand their fear of dependency with your history. I wish they’d be more open to sitting with a professional and working out how to treat ADHD safely. It may very well come down to you moving out so you can live your life on your terms.

      ADDitude Community Moderator, Parenting ADHD Trainer & Author, Mom to teen w/ ADHD, LDs, and autism

    • #111309

      It’s difficult to advocate for yourself when it seems you’re powerless to do so. I know the feeling! Keep educating yourself so that you are able to explain your beliefs. The more you know about your condition, the better it looks when talking to doctors and parents. Your parents are obviously in serious denial and most likely have done little to educate themselves by choosing to make decisions regarding your mental health based on assumptions instead of facts.
      I also have a substance abuse disorder. I self medicated with alcohol, marijuana, opiates, and finally meth. The more I tried to disregard the ADHD diagnosis and medication to treat it, the more I self medicated until I lost jobs, failed out of school several times, lost my children to social services, and put myself in risky situations. Everybody has an opinion on shit they know nothing about, especially ADHD. I’ve heard it all from doctors prescribing me provigil, a psychiatrist misdiagnosing me with anxiety, friends and family saying everyone is a little ADHD when I describe symptoms, and social workers pressuring me to try suboxone to treat my meth addiction. I’m looked at as though I don’t know what I’m talking about despite the fact that I’ve gathered information from a variety of credible sources and eloquently summarized the information in a way that is understood so that even my 11 year old sons understand my condition.
      Finally finding the right doctor and the right medication was a long process. I gave up easily when medication didn’t instantly work. I wouldn’t want to try medication for a year. My life was derailed by ADHD in so many awful ways such as abusive relationships, being fired from jobs, low self esteem, and addiction. Looking back, being unmedicated, misunderstood, shamed, and not taken seriously was so much worse than being prescribed stimulants. I hope it doesn’t take you going down the path I did before you are given the medication you need. You’re young and your life has the potential to be great if you’re given the right medication. I’m 34 years old and been on adderall XR since December. I feel like I’m beginning my life and it’s been instrumental in keeping me sober. I don’t crave weed or meth like I did early on in sobriety before I was prescribed medication. The ADHD induced anxiety and sleep problems also subsided. Medication changed my life!
      Don’t give up doing what is right for you. Only you know yourself best. If your parents, therapist, and others can’t support you, move out and get a new therapist. Or at least threaten to in order to show them how serious you are about YOUR mental health and living your best life possible. Don’t let them hold you back. I let what other people thought hold me back and it got me nowhere. I hope you get the medication you need and find the right info to advocate for yourself.

    • #112033

      One thing you could try is to look to dietary changes to help ease some of your symptoms. While I have always done well with the medications, I found myself unemployed for a spell around 2009 and couldn’t afford them. Because of that, I had to get creative about how to manage without them. One thing I found was a diet rich in vitamin B helped a lot (at least for me).

    • #112034

      Oof! That’s so hard, but I think we all totally get it. Whether for ourselves or for our kids, we’ve all been in that, “but what if it’s dangerous?” spot when it comes to “controlled substances.”

      I think the other comments are very thoughtful and thorough. I will only add that you will need to break the problem down into smaller chunks and identify which chunks you have control over and which you don’t. A HARD ask for untreated ADHD!

      What is it they are afraid of? What can you offer to ease those fears? Would it be helpful to give them a sense of control? Maybe they can keep the meds in a locked cabinet only they can access to give you your doses?

      Or, if they’re really dug in about it, you may have to go this one alone. Seek out forums for self-treating your ADHD with diet and exercise. Getting started is the hardest part (even on stimulant meds, I can’t get motivated to exercise). You can all but “cure” yourself with exercise. (My mom was never diagnosed, but running almost obsessively, you’d never know.)

      I hope you are eventually able to access whatever will work for your brain!

    • #112042

      Hi, I’m sorry to hear about your struggles. Honestly, I agree with your psychiatrist about three danger of substance abuse, I have seen it but too often BUT there’s other meds that are not stimulating that would totally help! Have you tried antidepressants for example? My aunt uses those and they have the same effect for her as stimulants do for other people. Also, is there a coping therapy group somewhere near you? I joined one and it has been most helpful. Be blessed, hopefully you’ll get what you need soon!

    • #112104

      Good for you for seeking help. I have three kiddos with ADHD, so I understand the dilemma. I’d start by having your parents join you in a session with your therapist and have him/her explain his reasoning for putting you on a stimulant. I’d also check with the psychiatrist to determine whether he suspects a comorbid diagnosis. For example, people with bipolar need to be very careful with stimulants as they trigger mania. Also, stimulants trigger anxiety in people who have anxiety. There are work arounds to both, but you need a psychiatrist who’s familiar with both conditions. I’d talk to your therapist about being completely transparent with your parents. As a mom, I get worrying about substance abuse. That’s probably more frightening to them than you dealing with ADHD. They probably need more information about how debilitating ADHD can be. It sounds like they may be more willing to hear this from a specialist. By being transparent, you’ll (hopefully) open the door of communication. Also, you could approach them by bargaining (be sure to involve your therapist in this). Tell them you’ll submit to regular drug tests (assuming your willing to give up pot) and/or offer to have them hold and distribute your stimulant meds (they could keep it in a lock box). Also, the drug Concerta (methylphenidate) can be obtained in patch form (Daytrana) and eliminates the rebound effect. It also has the benefit that you can apply it later in the day and removed 3 hours before bed. With the therapist, you can let them know that your goal is to eventually move out and live on your own. You’d like to work toward finding effective treatment for your ADHD and would rather do that while your home and have their support.

      Hope that helps. Don’t give up! In the meantime, you could look into supplements (fish oil, etc.) and exercise, as both should help. This website has info on supplements. God bless!

    • #112105

      I’m a former college professor of 18 years. I took Ritalin since the 5th grade 3x a day. After I got off of it I self medicated with alcohol to calm myself down. After lots of treatment I was in an IOP where they gave my vyvanse. Now no longer in a recovery home my insurance won’t cover it. So the IOP place refused my adderall which has made a tremendous difference. 2nd psychiatrist said no way. 3rd guy I met with I connected to and told him 20mg was too much but 15 was good just needed it to last longer. So there it is. I’m on adderall X-r. You don’t have to disclose everything to a new doc if you know the medicine works for you and you won’t abuse it. Just my 2 cents

    • #112112

      Find a way to leave your parents.
      Before you do, ask yourself if you can live a lifestyle clean of other drugs. Realistically speaking, ask yourself if you can live a lifestyle free from addiction.
      I had dabbled in other unfavorable drugs prior to being prescribed my meds, but I did so to counteract my depression and anxiety. Hell, when I couldn’t even find drugs, I drank like a sailor! However, since I began therapy and I began to experiment with different stims and antidepressants with my psych’s supervision, I haven’t had much of a need to do drugs, outside of the occasional toke to stem down my evening anxiety. Today, I have a solid medication regime that includes Vyvanse.

      It was actually funny. When my ex left me a year ago, I felt like using again. I realized that my psych at the time, was garbage.

      I found a new one shortly after and started dating someone else, who left me while I was experimenting with stims. It turns out that I was taking too much. Literally a 10mg difference.
      I couldn’t feel depressed about the breakup. In fact, I moved on ridiculously quickly because my combination of meds and therapy made me think… normally.
      All this to say that you need to take a step back and ask yourself why. “Why did I start using drugs in the first place? If I use stims, will I relapse?” Talk to a therapist and most importantly: MOVE OUT!!! If your parents stand between you and recovery, push them aside!
      I lived my whole life (I’m 29) without therapy or meds and I grew up feeling like a screwup. I hated myself, my family, and friends. It turns out my mother didn’t agree with mental issues as a whole and treated me like trash. I didn’t seek help because of this and well, let’s just say that after 27 years of abuse, I have a ton to unpack.

      Don’t let your family stop your progress.

      Find a job, save up, move out.

    • #112159

      Wo, I didn’t read all the previous advice from others but I did read some. Have you looked into a product called Synaptol? It’s a natural alternative for ADHD. Read what you can about Natural alternatives to a stimulant. If you have problems already with substance abuse you could very well be setting yourself up for some bigger issues. Also, Yoga, Exercise, Proper Vitamins. You should be taking Methyl B complex and Methyl Folate as our brains need this vitamins in an easier absorbed form. Recommended by my psychiatrist. I can suggest some natural safe vitamins and cleaners for your home. Get rid of chemicals. Also, changing up our routines give our minds a natural stimulant as we like changes that are exciting. Feel free to reply or comment.

    • #112173

      I really feel for your situation, it is a tough one! I’ll try not to repeat too much that others have already advised – all of the advice posted in this thread is spot on!

      Your parents view point is coming from a place of worry, so maybe you could find a psychiatrist that specialises in ADHD, and once you have built a rapport with this psych, you could bring your parents along to a session.

      I’ve only been diagnosed with ADHD recently, at 34 years old. For most of my twenties, I flirted very heavily with substance and alcohol abuse. I was highly impulsive, did a lot of things I regret and largely wasted many years. I also struggled with depression and anxiety, even during periods where I would get my act together, exercise and avoid alcohol and drugs. I was honest about alcohol dependency during my diagnosis but I wasn’t very forthcoming about my history using drugs.

      I’ve found my ADHD meds to be immensely helpful with my day to day functioning, mental health, anxiety and clarity. I’ve tried both short acting and long acting with no desire to abuse my medication in anyway. My preference is even for the extended release formulation.

      Given the above and everyone else’s great advice, I would find a psych with a better understanding of ADHD, and I would try to get them to help your parents understand better.

      All the best, I hope you work something out!

    • #112439

      This hits home for me. My son has ADHD and his impulsiveness and lack of focus for things he isn’t interested in is hard to sustain and control. My husband was so against medicine for him at 7 and I was also but changed my mind seeing how poorly he was doing in school. He too, concerned the side effects would be negative. And some were. There is not a one fix for all people. He started on Focalin and Intunive. We thought they were a good choice and dose for him but as he got older and aware of his body he was able to explain how he was left with feelings of anxiety. We switched to Stratera and Zoloft. He became suicidal. Tough times. I don’t wish this on anyone. We finally tried Adderall and Prozac and that was the right combination for him. We discovered that like his cousins, that the extended family will respond the same way to the same drugs.
      I can and do understand the thoughts and concerns that your parents have. However, the right meds and dose will create in you the ability your looking for and therefore, the longing for self-medication will no longer be an issue. There are non-stimulant drugs that can do wonders for you to learn and accomplish the things you will need to do to be a successful person on the planet. You’re old enough to know how you’re feeling and you will communicate that to your doctor and therapist and parents. You’re an adult now and although you still live home your parents have to cut the cord and allow you to know what’s best for you and trust that you know when your body and mind feel good. You need to communicate to them that you have to at least try. They will be able to see a large difference in the way you present each day and together you will overcome this. This will also improve your self-esteem and that will do wonders for you! Good luck! My very best!!!

    • #112607

      At some point in the argument – you are over 21, it’s a trial, whatever – you could empower your parents to give you a daily dose so that they may be more comfortable that you won’t abuse it. Also, Vyvanse is said to be less addictive, and that may also reassure them.

      I understand that their opposition may not be because of fear of addiction, but this might help in any event.

    • #112610

      I spent years doing different drugs ti try and help me cope with life before i was diagnosed.

      I now take 56mg of slow release xenidate and have am really feeling the benefit.

      Motivation, organisation and self worth have all become more of a continuous path istead of the opposite without meds.

      My advice would be to try it for yourself and see if you benefit as I have had.

      I might add that I was exteemely doubtful about meds when my son was diagnosed at 8 years old, And as I had gone to a school for malajusted chilren, I thought that he should be dealt wirh cognitively. I was very wrong. He has also come on leaps and bounds over the last few years and is excelling at last.

      Good Luck.


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