What if we don’t treat ADHD?

A lot of people worry about medication side effects, want to be all natural, or just plain forget to take their medicines. What’s the harm in that? Is it really a big deal if we don’t treat ADHD? Dr. Russell Barkley has data to show why it’s a big deal!

A lot of people worry about medication side effects, want to be all natural, or just plain forget to take their medicines. What’s the harm in that? Is it really a big deal if we don’t treat ADHD? Is there risk of not treating ADHD?

I have had the privilege of hearing Dr. Russell Barkley, an internationally acclaimed expert on ADHD, speak three times about his research results showing the long term impact of ADHD on our lifespan. He came to Kansas City to present at a Grand Rounds at Children’s Mercy Hospital and again at the Midwest ADHD Conference in April 2018. He presented the same information at the 2018 International ADHD Conference in St. Louis this past November. During each of the the three talks he made big impressions in audience members.

Why am I blogging about it now?

I’m excited to see that he’s giving a FREE webinar through Additude Magazine, How ADHD Shortens Life Expectancy: What Parents and Doctors Need to Know to Take Action. It’s happening later this month and I wanted to write this to show how important the topic is and to encourage you to register so you can hear him for yourself.

When is the webinar? Tuesday, January 29, 2019, at 1:00 EST/noon CST.

If you can’t make the webinar live but you’ve registered, you’ll get a copy to listen later. A win either way!

Update:

Here’s a recorded version that’s circulating online. The main talk begins after 3:30.

What’s the big deal?

We all know adults who have had untreated (even undiagnosed) ADHD all their life and seem to do well. Some people seem to be able to control their symptoms of ADHD or they outgrow them.

There are even those who think certain aspects of their ADHD help them thrive.

There’s significant risk for many with ADHD

Unfortunately, not everyone outgrows ADHD and many people suffer from untreated problems, especially when they’re young and haven’t learned to adequately manage the frustrations that ADHD can cause.

Dr. Barkley’s long term study has shown some very distressing results. Children with ADHD have a shortened life expectancy of over 9 years. Adults with persistent ADHD symptoms have an even more significantly shortened life expectancy of nearly 13 years.

Dr. Barkley’s research is very compelling

The complete study, Hyperactive Child Syndrome and Estimated Life Expectancy at Young Adult Follow-Up: The Role of ADHD Persistence and Other Potential Predictors, was recently published in the Journal of Attention Disorders. Unfortunately, it is behind a paywall, meaning you cannot read the complete results unless you have paid for access or are a student or educator with that benefit. (But the webinar is free!)

Life Course Impairments

Dr. Barkley has found that many risks associated with ADHD can lead to life problems, including premature death.

We all know that kids with ADHD struggle in school without proper supports. This is linked to lower educational success, lower paying jobs, and more family stress.

Many people with ADHD get anxious and depressed due to circumstances created by their ADHD. This can lead to more problems in school, interpersonal relationships, self medicating with drugs and alcohol, legal problems, and even death by suicide.

Inattention and impulsivity increase the risk of accidental injury and death. Other risky behaviors can lead to unplanned pregnancies.

Problems with executive functioning can lead to problems at home with significant others and in parenting. Many adults with ADHD show problems at work and in maintaining a consistent job.

Impulsive eating can lead to obesity, and all the long term health consequences associated with that. These include diabetes, heart disease, orthopedic problems, and more.

A public health problem

Dr. Barkley asserts that we should approach ADHD as a public health problem.

During his talk in St. Louis, one of Dr. Barkley’s slides proposed that “ADHD is a serious public health problem; it accounts for greater reductions is ELE [expected life expectancy] than any single risk factor of concern to public health and medical professionals, such as smoking, excess alcohol use, obesity, or risky driving among other widely accepted health risks.”

The good news

The good news is that many of these risks can be minimized with proper management.

If we support our students to help them succeed in school, they are more likely to continue in their education. When people attain a higher education level, they are able to get more fulfilling jobs and earn better incomes.

Proper management of ADHD and executive function problems can help prevent and treat depression and anxiety. With less depression and anxiety, parents can be better parents, workers better workers, and partners better partners. Self medication with drugs and alcohol will be less, resulting in fewer problems that are linked to those issues: less crime, healthier bodies, less risky behaviors and fewer accidents.

Encouraging healthy habits, such as regular exercise and proper nutrition, helps everyone live a longer, healthier life. This is no different for those with ADHD, so it is important to help them overcome poor dietary habits and inadequate exercise to improve their overall lifespan.

What can be done?

We can use behavioral interventions, training for patients and parents of children with ADHD, educational support, and medication to optimize management of ADHD.

When properly diagnosed and treated, individuals with ADHD can be very successful in life. That’s why ADHDKC was started… to help those with ADHD learn to thrive!

2018 International Conference on ADHD recap

I was excited to attend the 2018 International Conference on ADHD with a group of ADHDKC board members. I’ll try to recap some of the best information learned.

We were all able to make connections with people from all over the world who research and treat symptoms associated with ADHD and with those who are in various learning stages about their own ADHD. It was not uncommon throughout the conference to hear that people found their tribe…

#ADHDcon2018 - Tribe talk

Too much information

There were many simultaneous talks during the 4 day conference. I went to many great talks but missed others. I tried to tweet #ADHDcon2018 during the conference, but couldn’t pay attention and tweet at the same time, so missed a lot of points to share.

International connections

I was very fortunate to meet Marylin, a woman from France who is passionate about learning and sharing information about ADHD. She shared with me that ADHD is not commonly recognized in France and she is working to change that. Learn more about her organization at TDAH.

Marilyn recorded several of the sessions and uploaded them to her Facebook page. I’ll share these along with other information below.

Marylin and speakers, Dr. Michelle Frank and Sari Solden.

Translation from Facebook:

If you thought ADHD was reserved for children….
If you thought that: in the same way as intellectual early, (fortunately less and less used) ADHD disappears over time….
If you thought ADHD was a bad education…. too permissive….
If you thought ADHD was a simple motor hyperactivity….
So…. it’s time to learn, to inform you to understand this neurobiological disorder that affects millions of people around the world: Children, adolescents, adults, men and women together.
The symptoms differ, however, the disorder remains the same.
ADHD is an invisible, ill-known, misunderstood handicap, particularly in France, where diagnosis and care have accumulated considerably harmful delays. 10, 15 (rather 20 years to be honest) compared to other countries of the world.
ADHD is not happy with associated disorders (called morbid), dyslexia, dyscaculie, ect… anxiety disorder, disorder disorder with provocation.
Non-diagnosed ADHD may also lead to adolescent-Risk Pipelines: Sexuality, driving, risk-taking, addictions,
(drugs, tobacco, alcohol) unwanted pregnancies, and
D after the latest research: a considerably reduced longevity. Are you ready to open your eyes and ears and change your states d spirits…

Dr. Russel Barkley

Dr. Russel Barkley is a world renowned expert on ADHD and was one of the keynote speakers. He spoke at the Midwest ADHD Conference sponsored by ADHDKC.org last spring, so you might recognize him and his message: untreated (and undertreated) ADHD has risks!

If you want to skip to Dr. Barkley, go to 8 min. To do this, hover over the bottom and click on the Facebook icon. It will bring you to the Facebook video, and you can scroll forward.

Hover over the bottom and click on the Facebook icon to be able to fast forward.

And yes, we were smitten with him being there… he’s that big of a deal!

Unique Challenges Facing Mothers & Daughters with ADHD

Our own Jeremy Didier and her daughter were among a panel of mother/daughter pairs who talked about living with ADHD.

Our own Jeremy Didier and her daughter were among a panel of mother/daughter pairs who talked about living with ADHD.

Self care

I was not in this session, but found a snippet on Twitter:

Importance of self care. Thoughts on shame. Eric Tivers from Susie Sahim. #selfcare

Importance of self care. Thoughts on shame#adhdcon2018 #adhd@EricTivers talk on adulting pic.twitter.com/SeyAFIVXl1— Susie Sahim ➡️ #ADHDCon2018 (@bogusred) November 11, 2018

Jessica McCabe from How to ADHD

I was excited to be able to see How to ADHD's Jessica McCabe as the final keynote speaker.
I was excited to be able to see How to ADHD‘s Jessica McCabe as the final keynote speaker.

For those who don’t know her, she has made a name for herself making videos about ADHD. I’ve been a fan of her videos for several years, so seeing her live was awesome! 

One of her first slides summarized the other three keynote speakers talks. 

LeDerick Horne spoke of growing up with dyslexia and ADHD in a time and place that was not supportive, yet developing into a renowned poet and public speaker. Eduardo Briceno talked about having a growth mindset. Dr. Russell Barkley shared his 40+ years of research data showing that untreated ADHD has too many risks to ignore – they all culminate in a significantly shortened lifespan. 

Marylin also caught this in full on Facebook live. Start at about 14 min in to skip all the conference acknowledgements if you’re not interested in those.

Coach Diane

Coach Diane from Odyssey Learning spoke about various ways to help kids and teens learn executive functioning.

I was really excited to see that Coach Diane, from Odyssey Learning, was speaking at this conference. Since I won’t be able to make her local talk next month, it was fantastic to hear how she uses creative ways to help kids and teens learn executive function skills.

If you can make it to her local talk, please RSVP on SignUpGenius. Her ADHDKC talk will be geared for tweens and teens, but her slides are more for professionals working with people with ADHD.

All of her slides are available from her website, Odyssey Learning.

What did she talk about?

She talked about how we’re wired to learn when we’re interested. Everyone, but especially those with ADHD, struggle to pay attention when they aren’t interested.

Fear, stress, boredom and anxiety of course make learning even harder, and these are common traits found in people with ADHD. When kids with ADHD are bored, they can suffer from agitation. This gets mislabeled as a behavior problem, but it’s a neurological problem!

Making new concepts and information interesting is one successful way to help people learn. She uses cooking, games, magic, and more to help kids learn.

Backwards planning is one strategy that helps kids complete tasks. Knowing where you want to end up, then coming up with all the steps that are required to get there, is backwards planning. She will use cooking to model backwards planning, then help kids learn to generalize the skill to real life examples.

So much more…

There was so much that I have not been able to share. There are API handouts as well as general session handouts available online.

If you are able to make it to the next conference, it should be great!