ADD/ADHD stimulant medication can seem counter-intuitive for highly stimulated people.
When we think of ADD/ADHD we think of hyperactivity, fidgeting, distraction, inattention, impulsivity and more. Why would we give ADD/ADHD stimulant medication to address these issues?
All brains need to be aroused to perform day-to-day tasks and function well.
With ADD/ADHD, the challenge is to be able to self-regulate the level of arousal so that it’s in sync with the person’s environmental demands.
Without adequate arousal at the point of performance, the ADD/ADHD brain experiences boredom, distraction, disruption, impulsivity, low motivation, irritability, and sleeplessness.
Too much arousal causes overwhelm, emotional meltdowns, physical crashes (sleep), hysteria, irritation and overall discomfort.
The regulation of stimulation is related to two neurotransmitters: dopamine and norepinephrine.
In the ADD/ADHD brain, it is thought that low or under-regulated levels of dopamine leads to impulsive and behavior related actions. After all, dopamine is considered the “feel good” neurotransmitter, and who wouldn’t want more?
Norepinephrine is related to regulating attention, focus and distractibility.
Left untreated, the ADD/ADHD brain will likely find its own source of arousal through stimulating actions/behaviors such as:
Risk-related behaviors and interests deliver an even higher dose of dopamine:
- on-line games/electronics
- caffeine (coffee, Mountain Dew)
- nicotine (cigarettes, cigars and chewing tobacco)
- alcohol and opiate drugs
- reckless driving
- compulsive shopping
In summary, the ADD/ADHD brain is thought to be under-aroused due to the low levels of dopamine and norepinephrine. Untreated, the individual will self-medicate through the actions and behaviors listed above.
While attending to nutrition, exercise, good sleep habits, and reasonable levels of pleasure and self-soothing are considered part of an effective ADD/ADHD treatment plan, the use of stimulants medications can provide a higher and more consistent level of self-regulation.
How do the stimulant medications work:
- by increasing the dopamine and norephinephrine neurotransmitters and blood flow to the brain
- helps to override the need for self-stimulation: it’s easier to focus, attend, self control and accomplish tasks
- increases fine and gross motor skills, cognitive performance and executive function
Stimulant medications can help to level the playing field for children and adults who are under performing according to their potential.
Classroom and boardroom attention can be easier to control, allowing for the absorption and timely retrieval of new information.
Most importantly, by balancing the neurotransmitters in a controlled delivery system, individuals feel more in control, less anxious and overwhelmed, and have a greater sense of accomplishment and success. More about this at Why ADD Medication for Adults.