Pages Menu

Column originally published Oct 27, 2020

There Is Help For Adults With ADHD

Question: I was diagnosed with ADD by a paediatrician when I was a kid in 1990s. She warned my parents that if I was not treated with medicine, it would affect my learning and harm my future. At that time, there was not much information available. My parents decided to stop my Ritalin, which was actually quite helpful. Not long after, I started drinking and used drugs, and got into trouble with the law. I was a nasty guy. I am better now; I have a family and a job, and not breaking any law. I have stopped drinking and quit smoking 5 years ago. I do use a bit of weed, that is all. I am still struggling every day. I know I am smarter than what people think, but it is very difficult for me to stay on track. I wish that I had stayed on medicine; I would at least have a career, or motivation to get one. I know ADD is for children; I wish that I can still get help at my age.


I want to congratulate you for having the courage to acknowledge your troubled past, and able to stop using drugs and alcohol. You can still get help at your age.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) was called ADD in 1980s. The word hyperactivity was added to recognize excessive mental and physical activities are just as important as not able to pay attention.

In 1990s, there wasn’t a lot of information available to the public. Many teachers thought that ADHD was the result of poor parenting. Parents thought that teachers didn’t get proper training to educate their children. When physicians prescribed medications, we were blamed for drugging children, turning them into zombies.

At that time, we had stimulants called Ritalin and Dexedrine. These were short-acting medications. They started to work quickly and calmed children’s brain, sometimes making them too quiet. Parents were terrified and thought that the medicine had turned their children into zombies. As a result, many stopped these medications, even though they were helpful for them to pay attention and to learn.

For many children, this came with dire consequences. They got into drugs and alcohol, and dropped out of school. Alcohol and drugs did calm their brain briefly; however, addiction quickly sets in. They had to find ways to support their addiction. Some start stealing, robbery, and drug trafficking; others got into assaults and driving under influence.

It is very difficult to stop addiction; many have to go through addiction treatment multiple times. Attending AA (alcohol anonymous) and NA (narcotic anonymous) can help, as well as addiction counselling.

Much has improved in the understanding and treatment of children and adults with ADHD. Yes, ADHD is not for children only, one doesn’t outgrow ADHD. It is caused by genes that you inherited from your parents. Most, if not all, continue to be affected as adults, some more than others.

Many adults struggle at work and at home. They may have difficulty finding meaningful work because they quit school early. Others have poor self-esteem, not able to seek careers that they are interested in. They are late for work, or get distracted and cannot complete things timely; they argue with co-workers and superiors. At home, they have problem listening to their spouse, or finish things that they have started. Family relationship is often poor. In short, many continue to struggle with ADHD, although in ways different from their childhood years.

You don’t have to suffer any more. There is better recognition of ADHD in adults, although finding a doctor that can help you may not be easy. ADHD medications have also improved; we now have long-acting medications that can last all day. Parents don’t see the zombie side effect any more.

I suggest that you contact your family doctor, and find out whether there are physicians in your community that are experienced in managing adults with ADHD. If you have children, you should monitor them for signs of ADHD. Ask their teachers about their ability to pay attention in class. Watch for their concentration when you do homework with them.