Adult ADHD/Psychology: Medication and Diet FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions: Are Drugs Harmful?

no This implies a lot of ideology, fake news, half-knowledge and bad and one-sided media reports. As with any other mental or physical illness, drugs greatly relieve suffering and bring relief to those affected.
The drugs (methylphenidate and amphetamines) are very effective and quickly show significant improvement in symptoms. Psychotherapeutic and sociotherapeutic measures are usually more effective and an upward spiral occurs. Current treatment guidelines see medication and additional biopsychosocial support (eg psychological help, psychotherapy, sociotherapy) as the first option to reduce and alleviate symptoms and improve quality of life.
The drugs of choice are stimulants (particularly methylphenidate and amphetamines). These act on the dopamine system in the human brain. Dopamine is an important neurotransmitter that is increased by these drugs. Amphetamines increase dopamine release in nerve cells. Methylphenidate, on the other hand, blocks dopamine reuptake in nerve cells. This improves the functions of the dopaminergic pathways in the brain.
In case of intolerance, there are also selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors or antidepressants as alternative treatment.

Of course, the concerns and fears of those affected should always be taken seriously, and accepted unconditionally when people with ADHD decide not to take medication therapy. I consider it abusive and unethical to pressure those affected and their relatives, because medication must always be taken on one’s own responsibility, voluntarily and in accordance with the authentic needs of the affected person, or not.

Medications can reduce impulse control deficits, but patients must also learn and practice impulse control strategies. There are positive feedback processes between the different levels. Taking medications can make psychotherapy more effective, while concomitant psychotherapy improves drug adherence and changes neurobiology.

Frequently Asked Questions: Can diet improve symptoms?

No, neither the so-called “Feingold” diet nor diets based on food intolerance or long-chain fatty acids achieve a significant improvement in symptoms. Although diets could possibly have an effect on brain metabolism and bring about improvement, there is no empirical and scientifically substantiated evidence for this. So far we have to assume a placebo effect.
Current guidelines for the treatment of ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) therefore do not provide for diets. Of course, a balanced, healthy, varied and vitamin-rich diet increases cognitive performance. In specific cases, it can also help those affected who do without artificial sweeteners (especially aspartame) and diet products, although empirical studies are still pending here. Aspartame may lead to less tyrosine, which is the precursor to dopamine, reaching the brain. Tryptophan, the precursor to serotonin, can also be more difficult to absorb, which in turn can lead to depression.
But as I said: these connections are not yet clear and have not been scientifically and empirically proven.

Author: Florian Friedrich
Psychotherapist in training under supervision.
(Logotherapy and Existential Analysis)

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