As almost every single person I have ever met knows (because you better believe I tell them!), I have chronic attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, better known as ADHD. Usually, those who are assigned the sex “female” at birth are diagnosed much later than their male peers, if at all. Boys with ADHD tend to be hyperactive, while girls often exhibit symptoms of inattention, which are less noticeable to an elementary school teacher or parent with no formal training in psychiatry or neuroscience. I, however, was both hyperactive and inattentive.
Getting diagnosed at age 5 enabled me to start receiving treatment for my disorder even before I started kindergarten. That treatment came in the form of Ritalin, a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant medication. I am not going to attempt to convince you that my parents and pediatrician opting to medicate me was healthy, moral, or necessary. No, I am going to skip that full-disclosure part of most ADHD narratives and get right to the point.
Big Pharma is not doing too much; it is not doing enough. The longest-acting stimulant medications — stimulants being the first-line pharmaceutical treatment for ADHD — last about 12 hours.
That is all: Twelve hours a day.
I, for one, am hard pressed to function as a productive member of this (capitalist) society in 12 hours a day. Moreover, in fact, that whole 12-hours-of-effectiveness thing is not entirely accurate; generally speaking, these drugs take effect after 30 minutes or more (in my case, 40 minutes on the dot). Bearing in mind that many people with ADHD take short-acting, immediate-release versions of these stimulant medications as “booster dosages,” as well, we are talking one missed hour a day.
It may seem that as long you are motivated, 11 hours is plenty of time to do all the activities that comprise one’s day. I hate to say it, but frankly, that is wrong on multiple levels: First of all, one need only consult the latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to see the average length of time spent doing things such as eating, working, shopping, and cleaning exceeds 11 hours. Additionally, one of the quintessential realities of ADHD is that people with it symptomatically experience a lack of motivation. In my case, that lack of motivation is a frequent guest-star — this, despite the fact that I never, deliberately or otherwise, refrain from taking my prescribed treatment regimen in its entirety.
I challenge Big Pharma to step up its game, because amid all the accusations that it is contributing to the overmedication of children, the fruits of its labor — the major CNS ADHD medications — aren’t even close to consistently, sufficiently medicating us, adults.