There have been a few celebrities making news this week in alcohol-related events. Paris Hilton is going to jail for 45 days for violating probation on a drunk driving charge, and the video shot by David Hasselhoff’s daughter showing him in a drunken stupor on the floor has been shown everywhere. Also making the news was Ty Pennington‘s arrest for driving while intoxicated. Pennington, in case you don’t know, is the host of Extreme Makeover Home Edition, as well as the guy the see on the Sears commercials. Sears carries his line of home furnishings.
Why am I telling you this? Well, Ty Pennington is also featured this month on the cover of a national magazine, and in the accompanying article, he talks about his Attention Deficit Disorder. There is strong evidence to show that the incidence of substance abuse among people with untreated ADD or ADHD is significantly higher than among those who take medication for their ADD symptoms. Substance abuse, at it’s most basic, is an attempt to self-medicate: self-medicate in order to feel better. (Tom Arnold, who has admitted to both having ADHD and abusing cocaine, has said that he took cocaine to make him feel normal. That’s not an indication of the extent of his addiction, but rather a startling, but true, cause and effect statement.)
While alcohol and drugs (street or prescription) are the most commonly abused substances, they are not the only ones. Excessive use of anti-histamines, over-the-counter diet aids, energy drinks, and “power boosts” can all be signs of self-medicating. So can drinking excessive amounts of coffee (or any caffeinated beverage), chain-smoking, over-eating, and generally any behavior taken to extremes.
Before you decide that this type of behavior doesn’t apply to you or your child, take a closer look. I’m not talking about behaving like a junkie, or going into withdrawals here; just excesses. When I first read about these types of self-medication, I realized that I myself was guilty. I was taking too many anti-histamines; never more than the prescribed dose, and only because I had a sinus headache, but still, I was taking them too often. Once I realized the reason behind it, I stopped. Now I rarely take an antihistamine, but when I do, it’s always because there is a real reason for it.
The bottom line is this: many parents, especially parents of newly diagnosed children, are reluctant to put them on medication for ADD or ADHD. I understand that; I’ve been there. But look at what you risk by not medicating them; are you willing to take the chance?
Medicating your ADD or ADHD child is a very personal decision, with pros and cons to both sides. I’ve stayed away from the subject in the past, but I have decided to devote the next few posts to it as part of my commitment to educating others about Attention Deficit Disorder.