Saturday 20 January 2024

The impact of a shortage of ADHD meds

Anthony on holiday

When Anthony was seven years old we asked for him to assessed for ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) because despite all the help he was getting he could not settle or concentrate in class. Six months later he started a controlled stimulant drug to help him concentrate at school.   For the next five years Anthony had them everyday, not just when he was at school because without them he would fall apart.  ADHD meds have been in short supply recently and are not always thought of as being important, but to Anthony they were about his survival. 

Anthony has an amazing mind.  I love it and him to pieces. He was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) around the age of four years old. He founds many things more difficult than his peers. Few things were intuitive for him. But he also often saw things from a different perspective. Like us all, he is unique.

Around the age of six we realised all the techniques being used to help him focus him and his sensory system weren’t very effective. Anthony was spending almost as much time out of class doing various exercises as he was in class and still fidgeted as soon as he was back in. And I thought, maybe Anthony has ADHD?

I was right. On a scale where more than 70/100 was enough for diagnosis, Anthony scored 94. It wasn’t easy but we decided to try Anthony on medication to help him focus at school. His Teaching Assistants were supportive but not convinced.   Within six months the teaching assistants were completely on board with comments like, “I’m not sure he’d still be in school if he hadn’t started on his medication.”

Because, the medication helped Anthony focus. It helped him control himself.   His ability to focus and particularly to control himself (at least some of the time) is obviously important at school.  but it is more important than that.  He still wants to operate outside of school.  He still wants to function and he still wants to enjoy the things he likes.  And this was not just hard, but sometimes impossible for him without his ADHD medication.

When he was younger this was about his play.  

He loves playing football in the garden.  But without his meds he can't focus and gets over excited and boots the ball over the fence.  He can't understand why it happens.  The third time he does it without meaning too, he bursts into tears..."Why can't I control myself"

He loves watching movies, particularly those with superheros.  But without his meds he can't keep track of even the most basic plot and has no clue what's happening.

He loves being in a warm paddling pool on a hot day.  But without his meds he forgets to be careful, flails about and hurts himself or siblings.

As he grew it became even more important. 

He wants to have friends.  But without his medication, he can't filter what he is saying and offends people.  

He wants to go to the playground.  But without his meds he forgets where he is going or when he is meant to come back. 

He wants to be independent.  But without his medication he can't keep track of anything he owns.  

The biggest impact of all of this is how it affects his self esteem.  It's already hard being different in a way people don't get.  Add failing in over and over again and it can have a serious impact on his mental health.  Soon, medication isn't just about being able to have fun.. it's about being able to function, being able to be confident... being able to cope with how you feel. Being able to get through a day without wishing it hadn't happened. 

ADHD medication isn't right for everyone.  There are lots of different types and it doesn't work for everyone or for everyone all the time.  As people with ADHD move their lives, their needs may change just like anyone else.  Anthony ended up coming off his medication.  We were able to help him develop other methods of controlling and organising himself.  

He still doesn't get it right a lot of the time but he is doing well and I'm so pleased with him. However, had he not had access to ADHD medication at the time he needed it, we would have struggled and I'm not sure we'd have the lad with a positive outlook on life that currently looking forward to college and playing online with his friends. 

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