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Medication Isn’t Magic

February 15, 2013

Open DoorsA new study conducted at Johns Hopkins University found that ADHD symptoms persist in young children despite treatment with medication.  After reading through the various news reports, my first question was did those children have any other treatment besides medication.  The study seems to be based on one of the most common misconceptions I hear about ADHD in my coaching practice from parents, educators, and even adults who have the condition.  

There is this idea that medication is magic and I am here to tell you, there is no such thing as a magic pill that will make ADHD go away.

It is this kind of thinking that causes some of the biggest challenges I see for people of all ages learning to manage, thrive, and succeed with ADHD.  It is one of the reasons people decide medication “doesn’t work”.  It is one of the reasons that people question the use of medication at all.  It helps to perpetuate some of the worst myths about ADHD.  Today, I want to set the record straight.

There is no medication that magically makes ADHD go away.

You might be thinking, well, why would you take meds at all then.  Which is a question you should always ask about any medication, especially if you think it may not be working.  Here is why you should try meds and then keep trying different meds and combinations of meds and dosages until you either find the one that works for you, or try them all and determine you are one of the unlucky 20% for whom ADHD medication doesn’t work.

Medication doesn’t manage ADHD, but it gives you the power to do just that.  

To understand what this means, you have to first step away from the standard way we view medication.  If you are diabetic and you take insulin, your diabetes is managed.  If you have high blood pressure and you take medication to lower it, it is managed.  This kind of take meds/problem managed approach doesn’t work with ADHD because medication only makes it more possible to manage symptoms.  You still have to have the skills needed in order to be successful.

For me, having ADHD feels like I am in a room that is spinning around me.  People keep telling me that in order to be on time, all I have to do is open Door A and in order to pay attention during lectures, I just need to open Door B.  Without medication, I can’t even see these doors because the room is spinning too fast which means there is no chance I am going to be able to identify which door is which, pick the right one, open it, and then walk through it.

For me, medication makes the room move slower.

In a slower room, I can see the doors, I can make the choice, I can open the right door, and I can make my own way through it.  But I can only do those things if I also have the skills to do so.  If I can see the doors but don’t know how to tell A from B, I still won’t be on time.  If I can see the doors, but don’t know how to use a doorknob, I still won’t be able to listen to long speeches without fidgeting.

Medication makes it possible but skills are what makes it a success.  It is the combination of the two that has helped me overcome my challenges AND leverage my strengths.  This is why I think coaching is so critical to learning to manage your own ADHD.  Coaches help build the skills needed to pick the right door, turn the knob, and know what you need to do on the other side.

Medication isn’t magic, but it makes it more possible to see the doors,
but you still have to be able to open the door.

Turning Leaf Life Coaching offers coaching for ADHD and Life Transitions worldwide over the phone and in person throughout NH, ME, MA, and VT.  For more information, go to


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