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Self Medicating

Until one is properly diagnosed as having the ADHD mindset, life may be a mystery, a stressful series of unexplained failures and occasional successes.

But then one accidentally stumbles on something that helps. Or seems to help. Something that turns down the noise and brings some relief, some peace. It may be a common stimulant like Caffeine or Nicotine. It may be Cannabis or Cocaine.

It may be something that wakes up the brain into a state of alert. But these forms of ‘Self-Medicating’ usually come with some obvious side-effects, and some unappreciated costs.

Dr. David Teplin

You’re trying to increase dopamine spike, so that not only are you kind of I suppose waking up the brain but you’re also stimulating the brain in terms of feel-good. Who among us doesn’t want to feel good?

Rick Green:

Nobody, we will do anything to feel good and will do anything to avoid feeling bad or sad.

Barbara Luter:

So if you’re dealing with that storm you’re gonna do almost anything to get to alleviate that emotion.  So that’s the strength of it and that’s the strength sometimes of impulses.

Shayna, Focus Group Member:

When you don’t know how to function as a normal person that’s a big easy step to take is just to shut it off and that’s what I imagine a lot of people do. It’s what I did for a long time.

Dr. Stephanie Sarkis:

So people do find a way to replace that missing chemical whether it’s you know regulated or not.

Dr. Anthony Rostain:

There is another way of thinking about ADHD about reward deficiency that it isn’t really just about inhibition it’s that we’re not rewarded as much. When people with ADHD don’t feel the same reward from the activities that other people do and as a result they get bored or they look for other things that are more rewarding.

Now hopefully those things are healthy things, often times they’re not.

Dr. Edward Hallowell:

and in the case of ADD is particularly important because we most of us have this itch you can’t get rid of it, you just want to find adaptive ways of scratching it.

Rick Green:

This is huge, adaptive ways meaning healthy ways, positive ways, sustainable ways of waking up the brain.


You just want to be okay so you look for anything that’ll make you not hyper that will make you not crazy.

Rick Green:

By the time we reach adulthood everyone with ADHD has found ways of delivering shots of dopamine to the brain they’re doing things that give them those blasts of dopamine.

Only they don’t realize that’s the reason they’re doing what they do.

Self Medication

We’ve got 9 million ADHD adults in the US alone and 85% of them just don’t have any idea, and they are out many of them doing the same things that I was doing self medicating.

Brian, Focus Group Member:

I self medicated during my earlier 20s before I knew I had anything, before I knew any skills to compensate.

Alan Brown ADDCrusher:

Throughout my 20s it was just one big drug ride, drug and booze drugs and booze.  I was dealing drugs I was using them.

Dr. Edward Hallowell:

The self medication which is a term that Ed Khantzian, wonderful pioneer in the realm of addiction coined in fact a couple of decades ago and it’s a brilliant hypothesis that we find some method to make us feel better.

Dr. Stephanie Sarkis:

So you can do that either through medication exercise or you also high risk behaviors like gambling also raise your dopamine level but that has bad side effects to it.

Dr. Miglena Grigorova:

In the beginning it was smoking and overloading myself with projects, now it’s taking care of myself and running, yoga, Pilates these are things that really really helped me focus.

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