Medicating Myself Without ADHD Medication

You Do Not Have To Take ADHD Medication

Self medicating for ADHD
I’ve stopped and started medication 4 times.

Things I don’t want: 

  1. To take ADHD medication
  2. To have to take a pill every morning
  3. For you, or your child or a loved one, to have to take ADD medication

And guess what?  Good news!  You actually do NOT have to take medication.

No one does.  Yes millions of people have used Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder medication and many still do.  Because they have found the upside outweighs any downside.

So, to be clear, I’m not Pro-Medication.  As one ADHD specialist said, ‘I’m not Pro-Medication. I’m Anti-Suffering.’ Well said.


It’s estimated that perhaps 20% of adults who are suffering with ADHD have been diagnosed.  And perhaps half of them are doing something about it.

Doctors may recommend a treatment plan, and medication can be one aspect of treatment.  Exercise, diet, mindfulness, coaching, etc..  are other strategies that makeup a balanced, multimodal, or holistic approach.

Unfortunately, the majority of adults who qualify as having ADHD don’t understand why they struggle with organization, emotional sensitivity, overwhelm, procrastination, motivation, anger, and so on. Lacking a good explanation, they invent bad ones.  ‘I’m lazy.  Weak-willed.  Hopeless.  Dumb.  Flakey. Unreliable. Bad.’  And what’s the treatment for being Dumb?  Or Bad?  Or Hopeless?  Nothing.  Because this is who you are.  (Rather than something you have that adds an extra layer of challenges to everything you do.)

Unaware of what’s going on, they have no hope of overcoming it.  They are not dealing with it, getting it treated, or figuring out ways to manage it.

Or are they?

Actually, I’m going to suggest that the vast majority of people with undiagnosed ADHD have found ways to ‘treat it.’  It’s very haphazard.  It’s not a conscious plan.  But they’ve stumbled upon strategies that actually seem to help them, unfortunately some have appalling side-effects and long-term costs.


In our video series, ADHD Medication: Straight Answers to Big Questions, a number of specialists outline many of these ‘unconscious strategies’ that we adults with undiagnosed ADHD use to wake up our brains.

In fact, I’m going to suggest that every adult with undiagnosed ADHD has finds ways to ‘medicate’ themselves.

I came to this conclusion after interviewing 18 adults from two local ADHD support groups.  They spanned a wide range of ages and experiences.  Almost all of them mentioned how they managed to get by before finally being diagnosed: Caffeine.  Nicotine.  Cannabis.  Extreme sports.  Alcohol.  High-risk careers.  Constantly changing jobs, homes, and relationships.

It sounds outrageous, but I’m going to suggest… Pretty much EVERY SINGLE ADULT WITH UNDIAGNOSED ADHD IS MEDICATING THEMSELVES.

No wonder.

We want to feel calm, clear and in control.  We find things that help us focus.  In other words, we do things that give us the blast of neurotransmitters that we’re lacking.  The stimulants we use may be the result of sex, gambling, shopping, drugs, or any risky activity that gives us that blast of adrenaline.

I speak from experience.


Fifteen years ago I was undiagnosed.  As I read over the results of the ADHD screener tests the school had given my 12 year old son, my mind was racing.  Until I saw that list of ‘symptoms’, I had no inkling I might qualify as having this ‘disorder.’

Gradually, over the next few months, as I worked with Dr. John Fleming, and devoured book after book, I began to see hundreds of ways ADHD had undermined every aspect of my life.  And in some ways it had propelled my life forward.  Certainly my ADHD wasn’t a disaster for my career in comedy.

As for my first marriage?  Failed friendships?  Disastrous finances?  That’s where the damage lay.


Sorry, Doc. I Don’t Do Drugs!

At first I was terrified of the idea of taking an ADHD medication.  Then my doctor mentioned a phrase invented by addiction researcher Dr. Edward Khantzian.

The term was ‘Self-Medicating‘.

We ingest or inhale or sign up for something that wakes up the brain.

We treat ourselves.  With substances or behaviors.  Or misbehaviors.

No wonder I crave 5 or 6 cola drinks a day. It’s not the sugar, it’s the caffeine.  The stimulant.

If you’d asked me, I would have said, ‘It helps me focus.  Makes me more productive.’  It was ‘a help.’

The problem is that these ‘crutches’ are not conscious, informed choices, and they usually have severe side effects.

My Unplanned Treatment Plan

ADHD explained why I always had 1,000 things on the go. 

ADHD explained why I was totally alert and alive on stage in front of thousands of people.  I was relying on Adrenaline to make up for the lack of Dopamine.

You may well know that feeling of having a shortage of neurotransmitters.  It’s like running the appliances in your house on 63 volts instead of 120.  That’s how the routine tasks of life felt to me.  Doing ‘normal life’ felt draining and disheartening.  I thought I was just lazy.  But even the best appliances struggle to run on 63 volts.

This is why I believe almost every single adult with undiagnosed ADHD is medicating themselves.  (And if you consider ‘Avoiding’ a form of self-medicating, well, I’d argue it’s all of us.  For example: ‘I don’t like going to loud concerts.’  Or, ‘I can’t talk to my sister, I get too angry.’   Or, ‘I turned down a promotion because it meant way more paperwork.’)

Until we are diagnosed, and even after that, we are ALL relying on something, usually several strategies or crutches, to manage our symptoms. (If you dislike the term ‘symptoms,’ call them your traits, quirks, mindset, or challenges.  Whatever works for you.)

The Upside of Self-Medication

I do want to acknowledge that yes, some forms of self-medicating may be positive or productive.  Being addicted to exercise is probably better than being a shop-a-holic.  Finding a career  that works with my ADHD has been a blessing for me.  The problem was that eventually it was the only thing in my life that gave me any joy and I spent way too much time doing it.

At that point it wasn’t something I loved, it was all I had.  The adrenaline from overwork and caffeine were my strategies for ‘undiagnosed ADHD.  For others, it may be gambling, alcohol, substance abuse, extreme sports, addiction to drama, explosive anger…  All viable ways to wake up the brain.  But not particularly sustainable.

Once I understood what was going on and recognized how I was self-medicating, I was able to replace the massive doses of caffeine and ‘overwork’ with Yoga, Mindfulness, a coach, and a number of different strategies…. Including medication, yes.

How about you?

What was your form of ‘self-medicating’ before you knew what was going on?  And what strategies and practices do you use now?

Thanks so much,

Rick Green

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41 Replies to “Medicating Myself Without ADHD Medication”

  1. ADHD and ADD have been overlooked, used as excuses and misdiagnosed; but are a huge part of someones life that has this disorder. The effects of ADHD/ADD are different in all people because the causes of this disorder are so extensive that they can’t be directly linked to one specific cause. Doctors do know that it is the frontal lobe of the brain that is affected by ADHD/ADD; the lobe is weaker than a normal human frontal lobe. This is why caffeine works to woke up the lobe of someone who has ADHD/ADD, also why when the person is excited they are able to focus better and can “hyper-focus”. The frontal lobe functions better when stimulated.
    Someone with ADHD/ADD can experience different emotions and highs and lows then someone without. Also having ADHD/ADD makes someone feel like they always need to be moving and advancing in relationships, schooling, and even with their careers. When they feel like things aren’t moving in some direction (most likely forward) they feel unfocused and unexcited which can disrupt the relationship or work.
    There are many different opinions on ADHD/ADD; that it is a dark and terrible disorder to have to live with, maybe that it is a blessing and makes a person more creative and passionate, or that is it a fake diagnose used to much to medicate and drug children or to be used as a excuse by a student or employee or spouse. Either way having ADHD/ADD effects more than a persons ability to focus, it can disrupt many other aspects of everyday life.

    1. That’s a brilliant summation SydneyRenee! You really capture the breadth of ways that this Executive Function disorder can impact a person’s best efforts. Especially when it’s undiagnosed. Until you know what’s going on and understand that this is a Neuro-developmental disorder, that is not fully understood, but clearly involves low levels of certain neurotransmitters, the best explanation you, or anyone around you, has, is that you’re lazy, weak-willed, self-absorbed, rude, touchy, scattered, flakey, dumb, weird, or… well, all kinds of negative traits about which you can do very little. What’s the life strategy to overcome being “flakey?”

  2. I would guess that the sugar in cola was part of the stimulant package you stumbled upon, I know that was a big one for me.
    However, talking about sugar as a stimulant can be a bit of a red herring as it seems almost anyone anywhere can get addicted to sugar, and that addiction has mental and physical side effects. For those people who are confused about what ADHD really is, or even if it exists at all, then discussions about addiction are a minefield: it can be difficult to see the difference between addiction and the inherited traits of untreated ADHD. That’s why I needed to explore this website right out to the corners! If you have ADHD you will be able to identify with A LOT of the issues explored here, and you will carry on being able to identify with the stories you read here INDEFINITELY, no matter where you are in your treatment. Self medication is easy to recognise from the outside, maybe everyone does it (!?), but understanding what exactly is being medicated takes a while!
    Being able to see your own self medication in the rear view mirror is the privilege of really understanding your own ADHD, and getting treatment and help for quite a long time. At least this website makes it easy to take an interest in a difficult subject like one’s own shortcomings!
    And it is free to come here! Halleluja!

    1. Yes, the self medicating is a challenge. But there are some versions that are clearly harmful (what doctors call ‘Maladaptive’ and some that may have more positive’s than negatives, (what doctors call ‘Adaptive.’) Things like exercise. Finding a career that wakes up the brain. (Paramedic. Military. Emergency Responder. Show Biz.)
      I know sugar has no health benefits, but I don’t know of any research that suggests it impacts ADHD or helps with focus. It’s the caffeine, which is a stimulant that helps anyone focus, that makes the difference. Which is why so many adolescents and adults with ADHD prefer sugar-free colas, but not caffeine-free.

  3. One of the worst things I ever did was go to a nutritionist before I was diagnosed.
    “Wow!” she said ‘You are drinking WAYYYYY too much coffee, you really need to stop doing that”
    So I did.
    Dear God. My life became a fuzzy furball within a day – plus the delights of the headaches.
    I waited about 3 weeks before I said “No, I will have No Job left if I continue this, I can get NOTHING done except vague wanderings around the internet and in depth reads of the ENTIRE newspaper cover to cover”. Straight back to it. What a relief.

    I have ritalin now, thank goodness! The only issue is … of course… that I forget to take it, forget to reorder it, forget to pack it, and so on. Or the worst one last week was just before bedtime I was wandering about the house on the phone generally tidying stuff up (normal dual activity for me) and took a pill BY MISTAKE absent mindedly!! Oh god! I laughed a LOT! And then stayed up for some time….

    Self medication pre-ritalin – coffee / tea/ pro plus./ LOTS of exercise / lots of adrenaline from all sorts of things good and bad and last minutish. I still do all of those but have ritalin in as well adding to the cocktail 🙂

    It makes a HUGE difference. I took a tablet the first time and could actually concentrate on what my mum was saying to me for the first time in about 25 years 😉 .

    1. I’m glad you laughed about taking the pill so late. I have, on occasion, taken a pill after lunch (I take a slow release one that lasts 8 to 9 hours.) because I am doing something in the evening where I’ll need to be focussed. But I do find that while most of it has worn off by bedtime, I’m usually still awake at 1:00 am.

  4. Rick, I identified with much of what you expressed about self-medication and untreated ADHD.

    I was diagnosed with ADHD over 10 years ago, but didn’t treat it. It was also at that time that I ended up at a 12-step meeting for my workaholism. Going through the 12-step process tremendously helped me to deal with a lot of my ADHD tendencies (although I didn’t know it at the time). A few years ago I got serious about treating my ADHD. It was then that I realized that my workaholism was really due to a large degree (driven by) my ADHD.

    I’ve led 12-step support groups for many years. I see lots of self-medication and I do believe that many of the people who come to these groups (especially addicts) do suffer with undiagnosed ADHD.

    Thanks for posting such a worthwhile post about our tendency to self-medicate and the mechanics of why it ‘helps.’

    1. You’re welcome!
      And yes, addiction is a huge challenge with ADHD. I believe it was Paul Wender who did one of the first studies that showed that 1/3 of the people attending an Alcoholics Anonymous program were ADHD. Since 4 to 5% of adults have this, that means people with ADHD have 6 to 8 times the risk of substance abuse.

  5. Holy mackerel, I came to this website several times today and was blown away by how so much resonated with my life!

    Then, lo and behold, I realized a bunch of it was written by Rick Green!

    I loved the Red Green Show, and the format of the show is almost a metaphor for ADD. It’s all over the place and it totally appeals to my mind.

    Thanks, Rick and crew for this wonderful resource. I registered and will check out more.

  6. Overworking – Explains why in college, I’d try to do a little each week for the big paper due near the end of term, and after a few classes, decided the thing to do was wait until the last week, stay up late, get up early, and “power through it”. Didn’t know why it worked, but I recognized it worked. All efforts to do work in advance resulted in LOTS of daydreaming and few accomplishments. Anyone else find that studying in groups of at least two helps the brain hold onto information (at least long enough to make it through the end of the class)?
    I was in my 50’s when diagnosed, after my dad passed away. Not only was I devastated by losing him, I’d been feeling totally inadequate as mother, wife, and friend for awhile(forgetting things I’d said I’d do, getting distracted, forgetting to shop, forgetting to make appointments, and missing deadlines, overworking when I’d be on a job, watching my marriage unravel and knowing my forgetfulness/distractibility was at least in part to blame). Oh, and menopause complicates ADD.

  7. So many great thoughts and kind words. I’ll work my way backwards through them.
    Yes, Wildweeder cramming and last minute deadlines do work. I’ve relied on it for decades, but find I don’t need to as much when I’m on medication. it’s that just sitting down and getting started… Once I’m going… I’m good.

    Pdxjackson, yes, it’s me. The Red Green show was kind of a showcase for ADHD. I don’t know if you’ve seen our documentary, but it features Patrick McKenna, who played Harold on The Red Green Show getting diagnosed with ADHD.

    Dear Cropmom, great that you are impacting people with ADHD. And yes, the rates for addiction amongst adults with ADHD are appalling. In our new 5 part video series ADHD Medication: Straight Answers to Big Questions, we go into this issue in real detail.

    Tashg, I’ve heard so many people talk about stopping coffee, quitting smoking, or athletes who have an injury that stops them from working out and their ADHD symptoms go wild. And yes, remembering to take the pill.. There are apps out there, reminders. I have mine right by the sink in the morning but any variation in my routine and there’s a real risk I’ll forget.

    Chica, you’re right about a lot of people getting addicted to sugar, but numerous studies have revealed zero connection with sugar and ADHD. What I do know is that when I grab a snack, I crave chocolate, cause of the caffeine that is in it.

    And Sydneyrenee, some great observations. The new view of ADHD is that it is a problem with executive function. If you think of what the executives and managers at a corporation do–Planning, Organizing, Setting goals, Monitoring progress, Keeping people on track, Making decisions, Considering costs, managing time… And our brains tend to be like a corporation with insufficient managers and executives. Lots happening but not always in a productive or coordinated way.

  8. I first caught ADHD & Loving it years ago. My son had already been diagnosed with ADD around age 8 (he’s almost 15 now), and when I saw the show, I *mused* over maybe, possibly, do you think it could be that I also had it, it wasn’t really dwelt on.

    By the time our son was a teenager, we had stopped medicating him because we never found the right meds. We’d gotten him on a 504 plan to help his testing anxiety/testing issues, and found that as long as he avoided artificial red food colorings…he was doing better in school. Still, he was becoming a teenager…and so I started reading things like, “What to expect with an ADHD teen” articles.

    The more I started reading them, the more I was not only seeing behaviors in my son…but in me as well. Then, one day, I came upon a box of my mothers boxes of stuff she had in storage and in it was a collection of my grade school report cards. It was like reading my own son’s cards!

    “…needs to use class time more wisely to complete projects.”
    “…would have better grades if he turned in assignments once completed.”
    “…does well in classes where he has interest, but lacks effort in those he’s not.”

    It was staggering. At that point, I realized: the apple didn’t fall far from the tree at all. With regards to your article: Hello, my name is Darias (well, not really), and I’m a Dew-aholic.

    Back in the days at my old office, I was consuming 6-8 cans of Mt. Dew in a day. I was a wizard in our programming / reporting group. Lightning bolts, fireballs, and lion-sized rabbits from hats were produced. I LOVED deadlines and the whooshing sound they made as the flew past (RIP Douglas Adams). I churned out work like no one else. However, after kidney stones, I switched off the Dew to iced tea in 2007, and now looking back (seriously, having this epiphany NOW as I type)…I was never the same. I was a moody, angry employee…and was as bad as I was in school. (Sounds like what tashg is saying below.)

    Fast forward to last week: I finally pulled myself together, and got my evaluation. On Christmas Eve, I started on my first does of Adderall. The clarity now is akin to how I *used* to feel when I was “self medicating”. It’s surreal. I barely remember what it’s like to be actually awake in the morning (about an hour or so after meds are in my system).

    So, while you, Steve, and Patrick made my family and I laugh many times through the Red Green Show, ADHD & Loving it was what changed my life. Thanks for making it. The road ahead is in sharper focus for me now.

    1. That’s wonderful!
      After my mother passed away a few years ago I found all my elementary school report cards that she had saved. The teacher’s comments were like a symptom list for ADHD.
      Of course, back then it wasn’t called ADHD, and I was pretty shy, so everyone just assumed I wasn’t that bright, I was lazy, and I just needed to try harder.
      Eventually, I cam to the same conclusion.
      It wasn’t until my son was diagnosed and, like you, I recognized myself, that it occurred to me that ‘Try harder!’ was completely useless advice. I was already trying as hard as I could, but something no one recognized or knew about was tripping me up.

  9. I’m still self-medicating. Caffeine is my drug of choice. I tried ADHD meds in the past but it was like drunking water. Since then I have had several vitamin deficiencies under control and started CPAP thereapy for sleep apnea. Does anyone know if these issues could have hindered stimulant therapy? I am curious if I should try them again?

    1. I’d talk to a doctor. You’ll have to anyway to get a prescription.
      I know that sleep issues can cause symptoms that look like ADHD. In fact when we made ‘ADD & Loving It?!’ several doctors said something to the effect that, ‘The ADHD brain can be thought of as half-asleep.
      If your looking for a deeper understanding of medication we created an awesome series called ADHD Medication: Straight Answers to Big Questions. It covers every topic by every expert that we’ve interviewed in the past 8 years.

  10. Hello,

    fist of all, thank you for this wonderful website.Information,diagnosis and treatment for adults is quite scarce here (I live in Belgium), so pushing through all the closed doors and finding (affordable) diagnosis options (+- 400€, nothing reimbursed through health care, only till the age of 26) in itself was a challenge.Just today I had a visit with a neurologist, I think I was one of the first adults with adhd (combined type) he ever saw and had Ritalin prescribed, took the first one an hour ago.I’m curious, hopeful but scared to hope too much.If only I could not live in this 360° sound and fish-eye vision during work, and be able to get from one end of my house to the other without doing 12 things and not doing the thing I wanted to do I’d be glad, but we’ll see. One of the mental health facilities I visited actually asked me where I got my diagnosis so they could send people there to give you an idea.I thoroughly promoted your website there, and everywhere I feel there is a lack of info. A well informed person can make well informed decisions, and that’s even in the best of cases important, so certainly when you have adhd. Ofcourse I’m going through the regret and even a bit of anger (not too much, it’s more fun to look for silver linings) that it wasn’t diagnosed sooner, and even more so because one of the reasons it wasn’t diagnosed sooner is because I have above average intelligence.So because I could “fudge it” I actually got “punished ” a bit for being who I am. It’s convoluted logic I know, but I think it’s something that will sting for a while :s

    Concerning self medication, because woops, I derailed 🙂
    I have used so much to try and limit the chaos in my head, smoked weed to literally -think less fast-, used speed because I noticed it mellows me and does not pump me up, caffeine, alcohol in social situations because I’m just shy and so..afraid of being again the weird one, talking about nerdy things, or being way too enthusiastic about things other people don’t care about, needing to straighten out things because it makes me anxious, throwing random observations “hey that’s a nice colour” in the middle of conversations and continuing. I was treated for an eating disorder and automutilation(voluntarily) and even half diagnosed with borderline BUT I knew that just wasn’t it.I even asked my psych to prescribe me something to “make less connections in my brain”, I think that was the exact thing I asked.So she prescribed seroquel, which feels like you are driving in the fog.You don’t jump from connection 1 to 3 to 12, but you stop at 3 because it’s too misty to go further.

    Why am I sharing this, because looking back, and even looking at it when it was happening I knew I wasn’t doing these things because of the reasons most people do this.Does that sound presumptuous?Maybe a bit.

    What I mean is, I knew that cutting yourself, making yourself throw up, using certain drugs, crunching for exams living on caffeine at 3AM,high paced job… although they do not look alike were about creating circumstances that ignite my brain,or at least gave it some comfort. I know I have a tendency for addiction, I feel that pull, which is why I direct my environment not to be accommodating like that 🙂
    We’re good at that I think, creating an environment that works, like a small net to catch our mishaps and faults.

  11. Again, so many great comments here!
    I’ve gone on and off medication. (I’m back on at the moment.) But I’ve only managed to get completely off caffeine a few times. Unlike medication the caffeine is creates a real craving. It gives me a sense of how hard it must be to stop smoking.
    @dwelfusius, thanks for the kind words. I’m glad you are finding value in what we’re doing. I do recommend our new video series ‘ADHD Medication: Straight Answers to Big Questions.’ It’s basically 99 short films about ADHD that you can watch in any order. (Naturally) and self-medication is one of the topics that’s covered.
    And @daisyconfused, you ask about vitamin deficiencies and medication. I’m in the middle of writing a book with Dr. Charles Parker, and in it he talks about trace elements and how they can impact absorption and effectiveness of medications. He also talks about the ‘pipeline’ that the stimulant medications take to get from the liver to the brain and in 5 to 7 percent of people it’s too small to allow the passage of the medication, and at the other extreme, in some people it’s so wide that it takes a higher than recommended dose before enough is reaching it’s destination. Most doctors are not willing to go there. And understandably so.

  12. Hi Rick,

    This is a great website. When I first saw ADHD and Loving It, resonated a lot with me. Since then I have been back here off and on and other places to learn more. I have not really been able to convince myself to push for a real determination if I have ADD or not. Some aspects seem to apply, others not so much. I realize it is a spectrum. On the self screening tests I score pretty high for the inattentive type.

    Reading this article and the comments below has stuck a cord with me. As an electrical engineer, the the feeling of running on low voltage totally makes sense to me. I find I do better at work and home with the combination of fast approaching deadlines, loud music, and caffeine (sugar fortified, of course). Looking back this has been true for a long while, back to school days. I know this is not healthy but it usually works and gets me in my groove.

    I have not been diagnosed with ADD. At one point while under a lot of stress at work I did talk to my doc about it. I think my coping mechanisms just started to fail. The doc seemed to think it was more the stress of my workload and lack of rest and not ADD. After my long project ended (very successfully!) last year I took a summer off and bicycled across the US. It was great and I was able to completely de-stress. I had no trouble getting started each day. Now that I have been back at work with a lower stress level and manageable load I still find myself having real trouble getting stuff done at work. Same for stuff at home.

    I think the evidence is mounting in my case and I need to see where I stand and get some help. I am tired of always seeming to have to work so hard just to get started and in the groove and then later just to finish. I am tired of running on a low voltage and needing caffeinated beverages just to function.

    Thanks for helping to educate folks like me about ADD and explain things in fun and interesting ways.

  13. Compulsive shopping. I couldn’t afford ADD and Loving It, nor ADD and Mastering It, but bought them anyway. Will power and having both sabotaged my career and maxed out my credit is what is keeping me from single-handedly financing Totally ADD. Don’t regret my two purchases. Need the Perfect Career vid. (What I am obsessively coveting is the AD HD tee shirt.)

    Wish I could buy one (okay, several) of everything.

  14. So many good comments! (Blog wasn’t half-bad either, Rick.) LOL
    My form of self-medicating was overloading myself. Saying yes to everything. Finally learned when people ask me to do something or join something I say, ‘That sounds so cool! I’d love to get involved. Let me think about it and check my schedule and see if I can make it work.’
    As someone pointed out, maybe it was in one of the videos, it actually makes me sound more reliable and trustworthy, because I’m not lying. I REALLY do want to get involved.
    Well, to be honest, I want to when I first hear about it. Which is true about anything that’s new, right?
    The next day I’d be all, ‘What was I thinking?” and hoping they’d forget they asked me. Now that doesn’t happen. Okay, not as often. LOL.

  15. I would have to say that caffeine in the form of soft drinks, energy drinks, or chocolate would be my “go to” drug of choice. I didn’t think it played much of a role until I was forced to cut back after a couple of heart related problems this weekend. Now that I have severely cut back on my caffeine intake I certainly notice an increase in my inability to focus. One could argue that it is simply a side effect of the caffeine withdrawl. Fair enough. I guess only time will tell.

    Wish me luck

  16. I went to an AA meeting in 2013 and made a new friend & thought “gee this guy is a lot like me’. He left AA, but before he did he said to me: “It is not alcoholism it is ADHD”. So i went to a psychiatrist & he was right – i got diagnosed at 40 years old. So i had 4 decades of no diagnosis – feeling constantly ‘on alert’ with massive anxiety, panic attacks, restlessness etc.. How did i self medicate? abuse of alcohol, xanax, ecstasy, speed & cocaine for 20 years. 5 years clean & sober now. This article is right – if you have adhd you WILL be self-medicating it one way or the other because ADHD DEMANDS TREATMENT.

  17. Recently more has been required of me, and I was slipping up. In order to keep up, I knew I was starting to be tempted back into my (unhealthy) continual caffeine as self-medication. Your blog was very timely, and has helped me start the conversation with my kid’s ADHD doctor to consider a short term medication for me. A big part was the fact that after downloading the very short 7 fears about medication it took more much more than seven runs through to hear it all. Thank you, those around me will appreciate your “intervention”.

  18. Hey Rick.First off I want to say that the Red Green show is one of my favorites! Reminded me to order some dvds!
    Any how I moved to Oregon and the S.A.D. along with the ADHD is killing me in the winter. And I am seriously considering medication. I take no medications and prefer it that way but the combo of the 2 is staggeringly debilitating in the winter.
    I’ll thoroughly re-read you article. (it also means I have to see a doc another thing I avoid!) I’m 66 and didn’t figure out I was ADHD until I was in my 50’s! Thank god my mom was very organized and made us be organized..Poor thing lived with a household full of ADDERS! haha
    I might add that 1 book I have found extremely helpful is View From a Cliff by Lynn Weiss. This book is so positive and helpful for those with ADHD. An affirming outlook. Plus alerts and you to the different aspects of ADHD that crop up in day to day life and how to deal with em and look at them in different ways. And kinda pokes fun at them..

  19. Caffeine is an interesting one. At the moment i’m unmedicated and drinking 3 large coffees a day. While i am ‘wired’ on the coffee i have been paying close attention to what it is actually doing to my adhd. It seems to ‘trick’ my add into thinking it is getting treated when in actual fact the caffeine is making it worse. I do get a crap buzz off it but i definitely get more agitated, my mind races (dex makes it slow down or stop), i get much more fidgety and my ticks get worse (sniffing, picking at my fingers, grinding my teeth). I looked up what caffeine actually is and it is pesticide that the plant makes to ward off herbivores. So i have ‘pesticide’ running thru my system and wonder why everything feels worse…. Dex vs caffeine? there is no comparison. Back to the dex i think.

  20. Hi Rick,
    In the comments below you mentioned a book you were writing with Dr Charles Parker, and in it is a discussion about vitamin deficiencies impacting medications. Is there an ETA on your book? Big hugs, ma

  21. When I was younger, every time I had to do a chore or anything I found mundane, I hated doing it so much that I would drag it out for forever. The reason I drug it out for forever was because I was either listening to music or was thinking about something else. Now I still do the same thing (I’m actually supposed to be cleaning my room right now, but I don’t want to because it is boring and because I’m bad at organizing) the only difference is that I have a very vivid imagination, and I use that to keep me entertained and stimulated, but I try to use my imagination sparingly, so that every now and then I come back to what I am doing, and try to somewhat pay attention to my actions. When I was younger I used my imagination, but I used it so much that I hardly knew what I was doing and often forgot what I was doing. I still do that sometimes, but I can almost regulate it.

  22. I self medicate with marijuana. I don’t smoke a lot – I’m scattered enough already, but my little one hitter is a part of most of my days. I’ve always enjoyed weed recreationally and have only in the last 10 years or so related it to my ADHD. Sometimes the weed helps and sometimes it makes the ADHD symptoms worse. I tend to smoke by myself and late at night so I don’t affect anyone. It does lively up myself a bit. I’m 64 and retired so I am not sure I am going to do much else with my ADHD other than medicate with weed and hide out. My ADHD, which is really not a get rich quick scheme in any way, does not affect me economically much anymore. My cost to smoke weed is about $500 per year, which is probably cheaper than any medication would cost me, although possibly not as effective. Nice, though. Things are more pleasant and funnier…usually.

  23. I’m a total daydreamer. I was the girl in the class who was always in trouble for never paying attention because I was lost in my thoughts. When I was very young, my family said I had TV-itis, because it was all I did and no one on my favorite shows got mad at me. If I wasn’t watching tv, I was devouring a good book. Stories and movies of all kinds were my addiction (except horror movies which gave me nightmares). I don’t call it medicating so much as avoidance by zoning out of my life with its myriad of problems. But it was something I was good at. My single regret is that I didn’t become an English major or Librarian. I was sure doing either would bore me to tears

    I was scared of weed, was ambivalent about smoking and couldn’t get addicted (though I did try!). So I fantasized all the what-ifs I encountered on TV and in real life. The more experience I gained the more critical I became and got better at deconstructing my need for fantasy and escapism. Eventually all the daydreaming led to me writing a science-fiction trilogy. Hopefully the first book will be published by next year!

  24. I’m not sure if this makes sense, but I medicate myself with art and optimism. I’m constantly doodling, whether it’s in class or on my homework. I’m always bursting with energy, something I channel into optimism. It really helped to keep an agenda so I can cross off stuff I have to do and not just get distracted and aimlessly browse the internet. Like I am now. Oops… I should be writing down my thoughts for the day!!

    1. CheeziBreezi, medicating yourself with doodling is awesome. In fact, you might want to check out Fidget To Focus coauthored by Sarah Wright about the value of fidgeting or having a distraction to help one focus. In my first job, as a demonstrator at a very cool Science Centre, the only aspect of the work I loathed were the bi-weekly staff meetings. I wanted to scream at some point. I was squirming in my skin. Finally, I started bring along playing cards, coins, and other magicians tricks, and practiced them as I listened. I was able to sit still and even pay attention if my hands were busy practicing tricks, over and over.

  25. So glad I stumbled onto this site. I think that maybe ADHD is the explanation I’ve been waiting for. I have yet to get a diagnosis. Just one thought: yoga/meditation makes me want to jump out of my skin. I’m an actor and I also find like Linklator voice exercises (which involve a lot of stillness and listening to one person guide you through imagery) make me want to tear my hair out. I know meditation & yoga are good for me, but how do I do it when that level of stillness just makes me want to jump out the window?… sorry… not totally on topic… just thought of it because you mentioned yoga or mindfulness or something as part of treatment.

    1. Bethany – I’ve never heard anyone ever make the comment you did about your reaction to Yoga, meditation, etc. – but, you hit the nail on the head. You described my experience to a “T”! And it might be helpful for you to know that when I was formally diagnosed with ADHD (as an adult) the testing center said I had the most pronounced case of ADHD that they had ever observed in an adult. (Back then, they used to actually give you a battery of tests, and if the differential in the score between tests A & B were more than 10 points, then you had a clinical diagnosis of ADD). It was so frustrating to come out of the yoga or meditation class with everyone talking about how great it was, and I thought I was literally going to scream – I thought there was something seriously wrong with me……….. nope, just wired differently. So, you’re not alone on that one!

      1. BFowler1000, I love your description of it. I found yoga very hard to stick with. But that’s true of almost everything. It was only seeing the payoff, seeing the progress that I was motivated to make the time each morning. The 20 minute routine paid off in terms of energy and focus. But then my wife, who does not have ADHD, is a yoga teacher, and in some of the training sessions for each new level of certification she finds sitting and meditating for 10, 20, 30 minutes or more is painful at first. But she’s forced to stick with it, and suddenly everything shifts.

        Maybe that’s true of every ADHD strategy, that it takes time and often some tweaking to see that it works, or doesn’t.

  26. I did buy videos from you *Pats my own back*
    I think this is a great site. I honestly still don’t know if I have ADD or if my lack of impulse control, major executive dysfunction and failure to regulate emotions is from Aspergers, which I am recently diagnosed with, but I honestly relate more to ADD. However the therapist blatantly disregarded that.
    My ways of self medicating has been sugar, Pepsi Max, shopping (the worse I feel the more I feel a need to spend money) But mostly avoidance. To a point where I basically socially isolate myself all the time and stay clear of anything than can tempt me and make me lose control (like men! =unsafe sex, drugs = I hate the idea of losing control of myself, any form of gambling machines/casinos = I’ve been lost and broke there before) So I basically avoid feeling anything, it’s safer…

  27. My 20 y/o daughter was diagnosed with ADD on Monday. Her symptoms didn’t present until after high school because she was a super athlete throughout her life. ADD started presenting when she quit sports after her first year of college leaving her crippled emotionally with extreme depression, but it was always present; she just managed through it by always moving–self medicating. Currently in her third year of college she has self medicated by maintaining a high GPA including the dean’s list most semesters. She’s been prescribed Vyvance, but hasn’t started taking it yet. She is getting ready to study away in Europe in two weeks where she’s been set-up with a therapist. She is also starting to get herself moving again. I think we’re on a good path. I realize now looking at my life through my rear view mirror, and with my daughter’s diagnosis, that I’ve self-medicated all my life. I was given an impossible childhood, a challenging young adulthood and twin girls in motherhood because someone (my God) knew I possessed a superpower to get myself and my loved ones through tough times. I would not have been able to succeed in this life without it. I also drink coffee, sleep very little and organize everything and everyone around me. If taking a medication will help me do things even better then I may need to try it, but probably won’t. Somehow menopause helped to calm me down, but it sure hasn’t slowed me down. If anything, I’m more focused during stressful situations. I wonder if what has gotten me through these challenges will hurt me later. I also want to mention that my daughter and I love your site. We haven’t purchased any videos yet, but plan to. My daughter is a rhetoric major w/ a concentration in film & media and what you’ve done with this site and your career is what she aspires to do some day too. Thank you for helping us navigate ADD without big pharma and other annoying sponsors.

  28. That’s really funny with Cola! I am known for being a Coke Zero addict by all my friends (I dont smoke & dont drink alcohol). I dont need the sugar, just the sweet taste + caffeine. I always recognize fellow ADHD persons, when someone is also craving Cola or energy drinks.
    (Edited by mod)

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