An ADHD Coach’s Response to Ritalin Gone Wrong

Image courtesy of Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee /

Image courtesy of Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee /

In last Sunday’s New York Times (January 28th, 2012), author L. Alan Sroufe wrote an article questioning the effectiveness of drugs like Ritalin and Adderall for children with ADHD (click here). He feels these drugs are being used way too often and the side-effects including stunted growth aren’t worth the short-term benefits achieved by the medication. Dr. Sroufe continues to support his opinion with examples that show how medication just isn’t working as well as people are lead to believe. While he is very critical of the intended results, he doesn’t criticize the intended purpose of the medications or those that use it as an intervention for ADD and ADHD.

When I was around seven years old (I am almost now 38), I remember that I was given a pill to help me control some behaviors that my parents, teachers and other professionals had a difficult time managing. That pill was Ritalin. I was one of the first children in the Chicagoland Area to receive medication to treat my ADHD. Very little was understood about the disorder, but this medication was a promising breakthrough in its treatment. As I got older, I became more frustrated with the side-effects of the medication including a lack of appetite, difficulty sleeping and general moodiness. Eventually, my family decided that the medication just wasn’t worth the side-effects. In my late 20s, I tried the medication again and still had difficulty with the side-effects. This does not mean I am anti-medication. It just means it was a personal choice for me to seek alternative treatments.

This is one of the reasons I decided to become an ADD and ADHD coach. Even when I was medicated, I noticed that I still struggled with some of the same ADHD traits. This is because while the medication helped slow down my world, it didn’t help improve the skills that weren’t in my toolkit. When I work with a family, my job is to help my clients understand what tools they need to be successful. This just isn’t achieved with medication alone. Anyone that feels that medication is a cure needs to further evaluate the concerns presented with ADD and ADHD.

When I read Dr. Sroufe’s article, it certainly hit home with me both as someone that took medication as well as a professional that works with clients that are medicated. While I believe he sensationalized some aspects of the medication, I am glad he published his piece. We’ve needed a good reevaluation of medications for ADD and ADHD and this article opens the door for better dialogue. The most important thing that people can do is educate themselves about medication, and this article will have parents, professionals and individuals with ADD and ADHD ask better questions.

For more information on my ADD, ADHD and Executive Functioning coaching, please visit To learn more information about some of the other services I provide, please visit and I can be found on Twitter at ADHDEFCoach. You can also find me on Facebook and Tumblr. My good friend and fellow ADD/ADHD Coach Tara McGillicuddy invites me as a regular guest on ADD/ADHD Support Talk Radio. Tara does many wonderful things and you should check out her website here. Feel free to email me at or call 773.888.ADHD (2343) with any additional questions.

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