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The Tragic Truth Of Adderall, or “Madderall”

Posted Feb 03 2013 12:00am

Grief that yet another person fell victim to a highly problematic medication that, even though helpful for many people, can create severe reactions in many others. Relief that finally The New York Times got it right: The manner in which medications for ADHD are prescribed in this country largely resembles a giant game of “Pin the Rx on the Adder” or even worse; the “test the spaghetti” equivalent of throwing chemicals at someone’s brain and seeing what sticks. (Below, I offer an excerpt from my book ‘s chapter on medication, written precisely to help people avoid such tragic and unnecessary outcomes; there is also a sidebar on the important distinctions between the two classes of stimulants: methylphenidate, or MPH, and amphetamine, or AMP).

Yes, I am angry, and I’ve been angry for a long time about the medication I’ve come to call “Madderall.” For 15 years, I’ve collected first-person stories about the potential dangers of Adderall, including the fallout from prescribing physicians who view it as the “go to” medication for people with ADHD without knowing to be watchful for its potential side effects. If they did as they should do and gathered reports from family or close friends as to how the medication seemed to be affecting the person, they might know about these side effects. But most don’t bother or even deem it important.

Because Adderall so often can cause problems, I encourage people to consider it only after trying the methylphenidate class stimulants (Ritalin, Focalin, Concerta, Daytrana, etc.) and some newer delivery systems in the amphetamine class (such as Vyvanse). (Ideally, a trial should be given of both the amphetamine and methylphenidate classes, to see which works best. Sometimes even a combination of the two proves optimal.) Yet, so many physicians prefer starting new patients with Adderall, even though it is mostly an old and outdated option, given superior delivery systems available today that release the medication more evenly, creating less of a “rollercoaster” for neurotransmitters. Still, the ignorance around Adderall is only one piece in a very problematic and often tragic puzzle:

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