Why I’m thankful that I have ADHD as a millennial (ADHD Awareness Month post #5)

For an ADHD blogger, you may have noticed my feelings about ADHD aren’t exactly of the warm-and-fuzzy variety. It’s true: I’m far from attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder’s biggest fan. It’s not that I believe this kink of the human nervous system is anything to be ashamed of; in fact, I’ve spent a great deal of my life attempting to convince people it’s not. It has just had too deleterious an effect on my life for me to join the ADHD-is-an-evolutionary-adaptation camp. If I had to be born with ADHD, though, I’m glad my birth year of 1989 classifies me as a member of Generation Y, aka the millennials. 

Technology 

Young asian student on university campus with computer laptop
(Photo credit: Adobe Stock)

I honestly don’t know what I’d do without the internet and my various electronic devices. And I’m willing to hazard a guess that I’m far from the only ADHDer who feels this way. I first knew modern technology would be my ADHD-related salvation in middle school when my math teacher started posting homework assignments online — not just textbook page numbers but scanned copies of our worksheets we could print out if we didn’t make it home with the sheets distributed in class. There was something so liberating about being thwarted by my ADHD, as I inevitably was from time to time, but then being able to reverse the damage right from home, with no one else but my mom the wiser. Of course, not even 2002 Drew could have conceived how integrated the internet would end up being in my education, from googling for research on weekends in high school to emailing professors term papers late at night in college.

As I got older and technology more advanced, I found additional workarounds for my pesky ADHD problem in the form of various hi-tech devices. When I was 22, for example, I bought tickets to a concert in my hometown, but when the day of the show arrived, I realized I had left the printable tickets in my college apartment, a two-hour drive away. Suddenly, I remembered having received a confirmation email I could pull up on my iPhone, which I did, and was granted admission to the concert as a result.

Over the years, the combination of my iPhone and my MacBook Pro has been my saving grace; in a future post, I’ll explain exactly how. But trust me, we ADHD millennials have benefited immeasurably from the ‘i’ revolution.

Treatment

My gratitude for being born with my particular disability in my specific generation is also due in part to the fact that there are a variety of pharmacological treatment options available today. By my count, based on the most recent information on WebMD (last updated in April 2016), there are five short-acting CNS stimulant medications, 14 intermediate and long-acting stimulants, six nonstimulants, and seven antidepressants used in the treatment of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. That’s 32 in all. Now, granted, many of these medications are chemically the same drug, just prepared in different strengths and dosages. And I’ll be the first one to tell you it is essential for Big Pharma to prioritize developing entirely new medications for those whose ADHD is unresponsive to any drugs currently available.

Pills Pills Pills

Nevertheless, this is a leaps-and-bounds improvement over the breadth of options (or rather, the lack thereof) on the market not very long ago. Between 1936, when the first ADHD medication, Benzedrine, was approved, and 1982, only six medications were developed and released on the market. And after that, there were no new ADHD drugs for another 14 years, when Adderall first hit the market in 1996. In other words, for almost half a century, a new ADHD medication only became available once every seven years or so. Subsequently, Concerta, an extended-release preparation of methylphenidate I took from ages 13 to 22, was released in 2000; Focalin, the stimulant I’m on now, hit the market in 2001; and the FDA didn’t approve the non-stimulant medication I take, Intuniv, until the year 2009. Imagine if I had been born just a decade earlier: I wouldn’t have had Concerta to get me through all of high school and college, Focalin to get me through my ’20s, or Intuniv to get me through grad school. And I definitely wouldn’t be able to write this post now!

Tolerance

But perhaps the no. 1 reason I’m glad I was born when I was is that in the 1990s, ADHD awareness spread like wildfire. It was unprecedented. There were conferences and self-help guides, not to mention the first issue of ADDitude! And things are only getting better. Gone are the days when jokes about parents putting their kids “on Ritalin when they just…won’t…behave!” were fodder for popular primetime comedies (*cough*”FRIENDS”*cough*). With every passing year, ADHD is shedding the stigma that surrounded it in the past and getting closer and closer to its rightful place in the public consciousness as just another fact of life. And if this is a trend, you know what the very best part about being a millennial with ADHD is? It means the next generation may live in a world that would never conceive of ADHD any other way.