Monday, April 1, 2013

I take issue with your news story NYT

I struggled greatly with the idea my daughter could be diagnosed with ADHD as early as age 4, and it took me close to 3 more years to agree to get her diagnosed, and a few extra months to agree to use prescription drugs. I read as much as I could about it and when I finally did take that step with her I still felt some hesitation. No amount of drug company propaganda or doctor reassurances made me feel any better until I saw with my own eyes how she reacted to it. As I have mentioned before in this blog, it wasn’t an easy road, but what did make me feel a bit better about taking that first step was reading other parents’ experiences with their children, and still and proceeded with caution.

If I had any long lasting proven alternative to prescription drugs I would go that route in a heartbeat, because I know the cons to prescription drugs as well as I know the pros, and at this point in time the pros outweigh the cons. As a parent I feel it is my job to safeguard my children by being informed, and I happen to think my physician’s office is not the end-all-be-all for information. That may not be the case with other parents.

I take issue with reporting that “Several doctors mentioned that advertising from the pharmaceutical industry that played off parents’ fears” such as Shire’s Vyvanse showing a parent looking at her son and saying, “I want to do all I can to help him succeed.” I saw that ad and I still didn’t want my child on medication, but those exacts words came from me months afterward when she finally was on medication and succeeding. If anything, that ad is SPOT ON. Whoever thinks otherwise has obviously not gone through the angst of deciding to medicate their child with a stimulant.

The below is their current ad campaign for Vyvanse, and I think very accurate about the work still needed regardless of the medication.

Other drug companies may have similar ads, but I am greatly familiar with this one as we use it in our family.

I also take issue with physicians and other healthcare providers making less of our parental concerns. I heard Dr. Hallowell refer to stimulants as being “safer than aspirin,” and I knew that wasn’t accurate. Aspirin actually has several risks, but we live with them anyway because we weigh the options. Yet, most people aren’t given those options to weigh up-front and in the open. The information is there for the taking, but in fine print, in libraries, in medical publications, in places you need to go out and look for. It isn’t the first thing they give you when diagnosed. It is actually one of the lasts things they give you, and usually after they have given you a prescription.

I know many people are still reluctant to take their children to get evaluated because of all the negative media surrounding ADHD and medication. I have personally spoken to several parents who had concerns about their children and getting an ADHD diagnosis, and their chief complaint was exactly that. I don’t make less of their worry, I relate, but I also share my experiences with both my children. I also advocate for them to get informed and show them the way to several publications.

I don’t doubt there are plenty of children being misdiagnosed, and I know there are some teachers out there not helping matters by pressuring parents into getting their children medicated as if that was the one and only solution. There could be a happy medium. Healthcare providers could be more careful in their diagnosis, and provide parents with additional reading resources so they can make informed decisions.

Scare tactics by the media, and the New York Times in particular with yet another article blowing out of proportion ADHD diagnosis and treatment, is not the way to go. I have read this article published yesterday several times now, and I understand there is some very accurate information in it (although two corrections have been made from yesterday to today, so maybe they were too quick to the punch), but it also has very alarming language that can make a hesitant parent steer completely away from even getting their child diagnosed fearing the worst. Several other people I spoke to who read it had the same first reaction I did, which was that of an “alarming” story. It wasn’t till I pointed out other facts in it and some of my own that they realized they walked away with only the negatives and none of the positives, such as the wording changes expected from the American Psychiatric Association to the criteria for ADHD diagnosis to allow that symptoms merely “impact” daily activities, rather than cause “impairment.” This is actually a good thing, which they attempted to point out, and yet I still find their choice of words didn't help when saying:
 merely “impact” daily activities
It make it feel unimportant, small, insignificant. This “merely” has some heavy repercussions when the symptoms show up every day several times a day. A leaky pipe can have some permanent damage on the rest of your house.

My kids have shown great improvement through medication, but also through patterns and structure in their routines and some diet modification. We are doing so well that we can have our weekends OFF of medication. Their symptoms are still there, but less prevalent and a bit more manageable during days that don't require so much focus on detail and where their impulsivity can be curtailed by their parents (i.e. me and Hubby).

I am just tired of people who don’t know what it is to live with ADHD to pass judgment. It is a daily struggle, and you are not making it any easier. If only one child gets better options simply because of the diagnosis alone it will make their life that much better, even if they choose not to use medication. Don’t scare them off. Medication is one small part of treating ADHD, but this sort of publicity makes people stay away from the rest when it can make all the difference in the world to simply KNOW.

Do you think some news stories get exaggerated?

Rossana G-A

FTC Disclaimer: I am not compensated to write this post.

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