TagADHD

The Great Adderall Shortage

Kelly Bourdet writes for Vice Motherboard:

To prevent hoarding of materials and their potential for theft and illicit use, the Drug Enforcement Agency sets quotas for the chemical precursors to drugs like Adderall. The DEA projects the need for amphetamine salts, then produces and distributes the materials to pharmaceutical companies so that they can produce their drugs. But with the number of prescriptions for Adderall jumping 13 percent in the past year, pharmaceutical companies claim that the quotas are no longer sufficient for supplying Americans with their Adderall.

I hadn’t realized that it wasn’t known how these drugs work:

Despite the millions of prescriptions written each year for ADHD, the scientific community isn’t entirely in agreement on how these drugs actually work. Ritalin increases focus and energy through inhibiting the re-uptake of both dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain. These neurotransmitters then remain in the synapse longer, and their effects are felt in the form of heightened focus and awareness. Adderall, however, works via a slightly different mechanism. While it’s postulated that Adderall also inhibits the re-uptake of these same neurotransmitters, amphetamines also trigger the release of dopamine. This affects the brain’s reward mechanisms, so it’s not only easier to focus on mundane or repetitive tasks, it can also feel positively delightful to do so.

Motherboard: Anatomy of the Great Adderall Drought

The article also goes into some of the shadier aspects of the shortage – such as Shire’s missed shipments to competitors and the creation of its newer, more expensive alternative Vyvanse.

Why so much demand? From a recent Portland Tribune article:

Ritalin and Adderol are commonly prescribed for attention deficit disorder. But a recent study showed that as many as one in four students at an Ivy League university were using one of the two not because they had a diagnosis, but because it helped them study.

And it’s not just the students:

“I’ve had several colleagues say to me, ‘You’re a stupid guy if you’re not using Ritalin to stay up all night.’ You’re much more productive, your career takes off much faster,” says Paul Zak, director of the Center for Neuroeconomic Studies at Claremont Graduate University in California.

Zak isn’t sure that those Ivy League students and his college professor colleagues are doing anything wrong.

“I’m very conflicted,” he says.

And, on the subject Adderall, here’s an interesting paper: When we enhance cognition with Adderall, do we sacrifice creativity? A preliminary study. The study concluded that Adderall might actually improve creativity for those who score poorly on tests of creativity (for some background on creativity testing see here).

Acedia: The ADHD of the Middle Ages

Acedia

John Plotz writes for The New York Times:

By some miracle, you set aside a day to tackle that project you can’t seem to finish in the office. You close the door, boot up your laptop, open the right file and . . . five minutes later catch yourself thinking about dinner. By 10 a.m., you’re staring at the wall, even squinting at it between your fingertips. Is this day 50 hours long? Soon, you fall into a light, unsatisfying sleep and awake dizzy or with a pounding headache; all your limbs feel weighed down. At which point, most likely around noon, you commit a fatal error: leaving the room. I’ll just garden for a bit, you tell yourself, or do a little charity work. Hmmm, I wonder if my friend Gregory is around?

This probably strikes you as an extremely, even a uniquely, modern problem. Pick up an early medieval monastic text, however, and you will find extensive discussion of all the symptoms listed above, as well as a diagnosis. Acedia, also known as the “noonday demon,” appears again and again in the writings of the Desert Fathers from the fourth and fifth centuries. Wherever monks and nuns retreated into cells to labor and to meditate on matters spiritual, the illness struck.

New York Times: Their Noonday Demons, and Ours

(via Adam Gurri)

Acedia was also considered a precursor to the deadly sin of sloth.

The Neuroscience of Video Games, a Review of the Literature

Gamer

John Walker takes a look at the journal Nature‘s recent Brains On Video Games collection, which includes both possible negative and possible positive outcomes of video game play.

The bad news: much of the positive cognitive gains from video gaming are non-transferable, and gaming may increase both aggression and the symptoms of ADHD. The good news: it doesn’t sound like that should be a problem for people without existing aggressive tendencies or ADHD.

My take-away: if you like playing games, keep playing them. If you don’t, there’s probably not much benefit in starting.

Rock, Paper Shotgun: Nature’s Neuroscientific Review Of Games

See also:

Video Games Boost Brain Power, Multitasking Skills

Video Games and Spatial Cognition (PDF)

Video Gamers Are Better Lucid Dreamers?

More On Creativity and Distractibility

Day dreaming

Jonah Lehrer writes for the Wall Street Journal:

A new study led by researchers at the University of Memphis and the University of Michigan extends this theme. The scientists measured the success of 60 undergraduates in various fields, from the visual arts to science. They asked the students if they’d ever won a prize at a juried art show or been honored at a science fair. In every domain, students who had been diagnosed with attention-deficit disorder achieved more: Their inability to focus turned out to be a creative advantage. […]

Here’s where the data get interesting: Those undergrads who had a tougher time ignoring unrelated stuff were also seven times more likely to be rated as “eminent creative achievers” based on their previous accomplishments. (The association was particularly strong among distractible students with high IQs.) […]

This doesn’t mean, of course, that attention isn’t an important mental skill, or that attention-deficit disorders aren’t a serious problem. There’s clearly nothing advantageous about struggling in the classroom, or not being able to follow instructions. (It’s also worth pointing out that these studies all involve college students, which doesn’t tell us anything about those kids with ADHD who fail to graduate from high school. Distraction might be a cognitive luxury that not everyone can afford.)

Wall Street Journal: Jonah Lehrer on Distractions, ADHD and Creativity

This is encouraging for people with major distractibility problems, such as myself. However, I’m not going to get too excited. That first study cited had only 60 participants – a tiny sample. Especially when you consider the “decline effect.”

I’ve been meaning to blog about the decline effect, and hopefully will soon. Incidentally, Lehrer wrote a great article about it for the New Yorker recently. Here’s a particularly relevant portion:

Although such reforms would mitigate the dangers of publication bias and selective reporting, they still wouldn’t erase the decline effect. This is largely because scientific research will always be shadowed by a force that can’t be curbed, only contained: sheer randomness. Although little research has been done on the experimental dangers of chance and happenstance, the research that exists isn’t encouraging.

I would consider myself a creative person. Perhaps distractability has helped me be more creative. But creativity is worthless without execution – and that’s why I’ve been trying to train myself to be more focused.

Having difficulty paying attention has negatively impacted my life more times than I can remember. It’s a big problem for me. That said, there’s usually room to use weaknesses as strengths.

Previously:

Are Distractible People More Creative?

Research Shows That American Creativity is Declining

Teachers hate creativity?

Are Distractible People More Creative?

Focus of Attention

Consider a recent study by neuroscientists at Harvard and the University of Toronto that documents the benefits of all these extra thoughts. (It was replicated here.) The researchers began by giving a sensory test to a hundred undergraduates at Harvard. The tests were designed to measure their level of latent inhibition, which is the capacity to ignore stimuli that seem irrelevant. Are you able to not think about the air-conditioner humming in the background? What about the roar of the airplane overhead? When you’re at a cocktail party, can you tune out the conversations of other people? If so, you’re practicing latent inhibition. While this skill is typically seen as an essential component of attention – it keeps us from getting distracted by extraneous perceptions – it turns out that people with low latent inhibition have a much richer mixture of thoughts in working memory. This shouldn’t be too surprising: Because they struggle to filter the world, they end up letting everything in. As a result, their consciousness is flooded with seemingly unrelated thoughts. Here’s where the data gets interesting: Those students who were classified as “eminent creative achievers” – the rankings were based on their performance on various tests, as well as their real world accomplishments – were seven times more likely to “suffer” from low latent inhibition. This makes some sense: The association between creativity and open-mindedness has long been recognized, and what’s more open-minded than distractability? People with low latent inhibition are literally unable to close their mind, to keep the spotlight of attention from drifting off to the far corners of the stage. The end result is that they can’t help but consider the unexpected.

Wired: Are Distractible People More Creative?

See also: The Attention-Allocation Deficit

Photo by Hartwig HKD

Do Lap Dances and Humiliation Treat ADHD — and Should Public Schools Pay?

Mount Bachelor Academy regularly uses intensely humiliating tactics as treatment. For instance, in required seminars that the school calls Lifesteps, students say staff members of the residential program have instructed girls, some of whom say they have been victims of rape or sexual abuse, to dress in provocative clothing — fishnet stockings, high heels and miniskirts — and perform lap dances for male students as therapy. […]

But because the programs are privately run, what happens within their walls is largely a mystery. No one knows whether the programs succeed or fail. […]

Mount Bachelor’s executive director, Bitz, says her school uses widely accepted psychological treatments to help children overcome their problems. “We also use a psychodrama-treatment approach designed to do one or both of two things,” said Bitz in her statement, “get a student to embrace qualities of their character (such as beauty or courage) about which they have doubt or assist them in recognizing qualities that are unproductive (such as selfishness or conceit) about which they have little insight.” […]

“They told me I was dirty and I had to put mud on myself for being raped,” she said in reference to another Lifesteps session. “They basically blamed me for getting raped.”

Bitz dismissed Jane’s story and called it “very suspect” in an interview with the Bend Bulletin, which also spoke with Jane. “We know that some current students have made a conscious decision to lie about our school, hoping that it will be closed as a result, and that they would then be sent back home,” Bitz told TIME. […]

Synanon began as a drug-rehabilitation program before morphing into a controversial cult and is credited with putting forth the idea that confrontation and boot-camp-style breakdown tactics could cure teen misbehavior and addiction. Synanon’s confrontational techniques influenced est and LifeSpring, which began selling weekend seminars designed to prompt emotional breakthroughs in participants.

Time: An Oregon School for Troubled Teens Is Under Scrutiny

Interesting article on a number of levels:

1) The potential Synanon-inspired abuse of kids right here in Oregon.

2) The implications of the court case for students and school districts.

3) Problems with private schools in general.

4) Problems with public schools, education, and therapy in general.

There’s a follow-up form the author of the article at HuffPo.

(via Metafilter thanks to Trevor Blake)

ADHD: a Farce

Looks like some physicians are finally seeing the light on the whole ADD/ADHD excuse that runs rampant in our society:

Retired California neurologist Fred A. Baughman Jr. fired off a letter in January 2000 to U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher in response to Satcher’s Report on Mental Illness. ‘Having gone to medical school,’ Baughman wrote, ‘and studied pathology – disease, then diagnosis – you and I and all physicians know that the presence of any bona fide disease, like diabetes, cancer or epilepsy, is confirmed by an objective finding – a physical or chemical abnormality. No demonstrable physical or chemical abnormality: no disease!”

“It is this direct, no-nonsense style that has made Baughman a pariah among the psychiatric and mental-health communities and a hero to families of children across America who believe they have been ‘victimized’ by the attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) label. The ‘disease,’ Baughman tells Insight, ‘is a total 100 percent fraud,’ and he has made it his personal ‘crusade’ to bring an end to the ADHD diagnosis.

Full Story: Insight Mag

(via Invisible College).

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