ADHD Does Exist: Refuting One Doctor’s Argument
As a person diagnosed with a mood disorder, part of my self-care regimen is keeping track of news and facts on mental health research. Recently I borrowed a book titled ADHD Does Not Exist by a Richard Saul, MD– and after reading it, I feel the need to set the record straight.
In some ways this book reminds me of grocery store health magazines, the ones that usually grab attention with sneaky headlines like “The Real Cause Of Depression” or “The Stunning Secret Behind Weight Loss.” The major issue with these types of articles is that they end up with the same problem as the less reputable experts they’re trying to disprove: pigeon-holing a disorder into a single cause.
The main selling point of ADHD Does Not Exist had me laughing. In a chapter nestled in the middle of the book, he introduces a self-described disorder called Neurochemical Distractibility/Impulsivity (NDI). I assume he intentionally placed there so he would not appear too arrogant. He points out that NDI can be proven by blood tests.
The blood tests have yet to be confirmed. Like depression, there are some pretty solid evidence about how ADHD affects the brain.
Dopamine levels are significantly lower for some people, and for others developmental issues in the brain make part of it physically smaller. The reason people “grow out” of ADHD is because that part of the brain “catches up” in size. So there is physical proof that ADHD does exist.
Dr. Saul suggests patients get MRIs and Neuropsychological testing, but those are simply not affordable. These and other tests may not be covered by insurance and have to be paid out of pocket. Each can cost up to a few thousand dollars. Sometimes Doctors forget that affordability is crucial.
Dr. Saul never mentions the benefits of medication for NDI. He also doesn’t address why patients become sleepy when taking amphetamine salts, which is sometimes described as physical proof of ADHD, though this is debated by doctors.
He also fails to mention or may not be aware of new types of medication coming out on the market. One such medicine does not release amphetamines until it reaches the stomach. Another is even slower to act, taking a few weeks to kick in. He does mention Stratta in passing, but seems to fail to recognize that it’s a non-stimulant medication.
The other hypocritical part of the book is the fact that he seems more okay with the high percentages of depression and anxiety, while completely washing ADHD. He touches on recent articles linking five mental disorders to the same part of the brain, ADHD included. He describes the high percentages of physical issues such as vision problems but doesn’t seem to make the connection that, yes, mental disorders can occur at just as high of rates.
It seems as though Dr. Saul wrote this book for the uninformed and the terrified parent in order to ride on the popularity of ADHD diagnoses. He sensationalizes the stigma. If there are any facts, they are used in black-and-white terms. I agree that often disorders are misdiagnosed and over-diagnosed due to some of the factors that he lists in his book (boredom, physical health issues, the DSM) as well as those he doesn’t mention (rigidity of the education system, reduction of extracurricular activities,) but I wholly disagree with completely erasing ADHD as a disorder on its own.
This guy should have his license pulled. When picking up the book, I expected it to sensationalize the over diagnosis of ADHD based on the name alone. What I did not expect was straight up lies and misinformation. I was amused by the science fiction he infused with his “non-symptom related” NDI, until I think about the fact that many people will take it as truth because there’s an MD behind his name.
He’s lucky that I’m not willing to dig through his bibliography to see how he rephrased and reworded actual scholarly articles to his needs. My attention span doesn’t hold up that well, I have ADHD!