Hello to all my ADHD peeps and ADHD loved ones,

So when did stimulants become a treatment for a hyperactive disorder? A man named Charles Bradley working in East Providence, Rhode Island was working as a medical director in 1937. He was working in a hospital that was founded to treat children that had neurological impairments. Some of the kids in this hospital had emotional problems and extreme difficulty learning and controlling their behavior. These children today would have a good chance of being diagnosed with ADHD. As with all good scientific discoveries Mr. Bradley accidentally stumbled across a treatment for these individuals. Bradley was performing pneumoencephalograms in order to look at structural brain abnormalities. These would in turn cause extremely bad headaches. Bradley attempted to treat these headaches with Benzedrine which at the time was the most potent stimulant. This drug didn’t help the headaches but they ended up causing improvements in school performance and behavioral issues in some of the children. This led to Bradley starting a trial of 30 children in the hospital. Bradley, like people today, was surprised with these results Bradley states, “It appears paradoxical that a drug known to be a stimulant should produce subdued behavior in half of the children.” During the study Bradley determined that the children who benefited from the Benzedrine treatment were the children that had ADHD like symptoms. 

So it looks like everything is fixed, this is going to revolutionize ADHD treatment right……… wrong. No influence on modern treatment for 25 years. You may ask why that is. We figured out how to fix something yet it doesn’t make an impact for two and a half decades. Well, during this time the Freudian Revolution is occurring. Modern day psychoanalysis is developing. We always hear about the good that psychoanalysis has created, but we don’t hear about the bad aspects from it, and this is one of those examples. If you don’t know Freud, he is the father of Western Psychology and the guy had some serious issues with his parents. If you don’t believe me look into his Oedipus complex theory… All jokes aside Freud did a lot of good and ended up helping a lot of people, but the current mental health revolution was talking and not connecting a biological basis for mental health issues. 

In 1944 Leandro Panizzon creates methylphenidate better known as “Ritalin.” It starts getting mass produced in 1954 by the Geigy Pharmaceutical Company. This drug was initially used for multiple ailments including depression, narcolepsy, depressive states, and of course our all time favorite, ADHD. The most impressive results came from people that had symptoms of ADHD. This drug is still used today and is still one of the front-line drugs for chemical treatment. 

By 1966 doctors had to separate symptoms that were caused by brain injury and symptoms that were caused by minimal brain dysfunction due to neurological factors. This is where we get our main three symtpoms of ADHD and they are separated and unique from other disorders. The main three are inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. This created a new grouping which separated these children from children with brain damage, and their peers that were not experiencing issues with intelligence due to the three main symptoms I just discussed. 

Song of the Week You’d Be Paranoid Too by Waterparks

9 thoughts on “The History of ADHD II

  1. Thank you for sharing this history of the drug landscape and ADD. Diagnosed as a child with ADD, I got to know Ritalin quite well in my early years. I don’t like to think that it helped me, though it probably did. Giving It to me was a source of friction between my parents. I did not need Ritalin when I was living with my father, but I did when I lived with my mother…I am wondering what environmental issues were affecting this.

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    1. I am not a doctor or by any means an expert on the subject, just a parent of a child with ADHD. My son took Ritalin originally but then we switched to Concerta. He took it before school and didn’t take it again until the following morning. Now I understand that was a bad idea, but my thinking was I need to teach him how to live without medications. What I experienced was he did really well when he was with me. I kept him constantly busy and changed activities often. But when he was with others it wasn’t as good of outcome. Each parent, grandparent, sibling, teacher, etc deals with children differently and some maybe better dealing with ADD/ADHD because their minds can grasp the concept that they need to stay busy. From my experience the more I was involved in his activity the better he did. Hopefully this experience as a parent gives you some comfort.

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      1. Thank you for the reply. I think it is extremely important for people to put in insight because I have seen misconceptions online. I think one of the hardest things to see is people not giving a kid an option. I think you handled our situation extremely well. I remember telling you at one point that I no longer wanted to take medication during the school day because I felt embarrassed about it. You made sure that you got me set up so I didn’t have to take it at school, and that meant a lot more to me than you could probably imagine. I think I want to write a post on this, but I am going to have to do some self soul searching before I do it. We know that mental health still has a stigma not just in our country, but in a lot of countries and people feel nervous talking about it and honestly I have to say for a long time I was the same way, but more recently I have become more open and just ready to talk to people about mental health because it is so important. A lot of people get this idea that they are the only ones going through their mental health problem, but the reality is you are not. Social support is so important and a lot of people overlook it and I think this newer generation is doing a good job on letting people know that it is okay to not be okay.

        Thank you for the insight as always maja I appreciate you and I am glad that you are reading the posts and putting out insight that I may have never picked up growing up.
        Love ya also sorry for the long reply I just get into a groove and throw it all out there.

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      2. Hi. I am sorry I seem to have missed this thoughtful reply to my post. Thank you for sharing it. I don’t know your circumstances or what kind of home life you have. The book I recommended on ADD Scattered Minds by Gabor Mate is a fabulous book in helping to deepen understanding. It was a very accurate description of the conditions that lead to ADD, at least in my life. Broken home, stressed out mother, no time for attachment and attunement between us. I was diagnosed after years of child therapy, and I was a difficult child, making my mother quite distressed. I was also “depressed” though I don’t recall bering so, but did not want to get out of bed in the morning–ever. And I also most certainly didn’t want to grow up, but wanted to hang on to what little vestiges of comfort I had from when I was a baby. My father took me off of Ritalin when I lived with him, and disagreed with the diagnosis and prescription, not because it was inaccurate, but because he didn’t want to have a child with problems. He had a very strict parenting style, which isn’t what I needed, but he had a young wife who spent a lot of affectionate time with me, bless her, and live-in staff, who became companions of sorts. This additional “presence”, instead of living with a single working mother, was good for me and helped me start on a path towards capability. But in the end, it took will on my part, and many, many people who have helped me along the way, plus years of therapy. I found that physical presence really helped–what I mean is that I could be still if my mother sat next to me when I had to concentrate on something. Or a teacher, or a babysitter. It was feeling attended to, paid attention to, that allowed me to calm down enough to focus on the task at hand. I would love to hear if you read the book, what you think about it. I wrote a review of it somewhere on the blog, and that might give you at least an overview to see if you wanted to keep reading it. The knowledge in that book would have worked wonders for me and my mother both–my father wouldn’t have read it or acted on it under any circumstances.

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