I want to take a moment (or much longer) and discus ADHD meds, and the choices we’ve made regarding them and our son, Colin. I keep hearing over and over again (both before and after they know my son is on meds) how doctors are “over diagnosing” ADHD, and “over prescribing” stimulant meds like Ritalin, or Adderall, etc. People say doctors just hand those pills out like candy, and what these kids need is a good spanking and some discipline. I’m sure there are some doctors out there who over diagnose and over prescribe for ADHD/ADD. I don’t know any of them.
These drugs are some of the most tightly regulated medications on the market. Prescriptions are not allowed to be called in to the pharmacy. I must obtain new “scripts” for every ADHD med my son takes each month. Until recently, the doctor had to physically see how Colin was doing each and every month he wrote a prescription (the doc is now allowed to write scripts for up to 3 months in advance). I also have to show my driver’s license each time I pick up his meds from the pharmacist due to the fact they are considered “controlled substances”. Obtaining these meds is not the piece of cake some would have you believe.
Let me tell you the story of how and why I came to put Colin on Ritalin. First though, I want to say that I have no problems with someone who decides they do not want to put their child on medication. It is NOT a decision that is to be made lightly, and I respect the decision of each parent in regards to how they want to raise their child. I expect, however, the same consideration from others.
The year after my first wife passed away, I bought a house in the suburbs and moved myself and my two boys. We were practically the American Dream personified. A couple of days after Christmas that year, I put my boys to bed around 7:30 and decided I’d try to get a little shut-eye before I had to go to work that night. I shut my door and was fast asleep. At the time, I had employed the 18-year-old daughter of one of my coworkers to sit with my boys at night while I was at work.
I got up about an hour and a half later and jumped in the shower to get ready for work. As I was getting out of the shower, I had the most frightening experience of my life. I hear someone from my living room call out, “POLICE OFFICER!”
My first thought was that this had to be a joke. I figured my coworker had come to drop his daughter off early, and had made his way into my house. “Yeah, right, Sam. Whatever”, I yell back.
“SIR! THIS IS THE POLICE DEPARTMENT! PLEASE COME INTO THE LIVING ROOM!”
Now, remember, I am just out of the shower, and am in the middle of drying myself off. I look around the corner from my bathroom (which is in my bedroom), and see two police officers with their hands on their weapons, looking directly at me.
“Uh. Uh. Let me put some clothes on…” I manage to stammer.
As I begin to get dressed the lead officer is talking to me. “Sir, do you know that your garage door is open, your car doors are open, and your back door is open?” he asks.
“No, sir. I didn’t know”, I say as my mind starts racing. Wondering how my garage door got open, and if someone had burglarized my car, I still had not managed to grasp the full situation.
At this point, the officer says, “We were driving through the neighborhood, and noticed the garage door open, and figured we had better check up it.” Then, he looks at me and says, “Sir, do you have any children?”
Dumbass me still was in such shock, I did not really register what he was asking, or why. “Yeah, I have two boys.”
“Their names? Ages?”
“Colin, age 4, and Ryan, who just turned 4 last week.”
“Do you know where they are?”
“Yeah, they are in the back bedrooms.”
THAT’S when it started to click.
“What’s going on?”, I ask the first officer as the other officer goes towards the back of the house.
“Just a minute” he says, while we wait for the other officer. He comes back and says flatly, “Yeah, they’re not back there. I found this..” and produces the two halves of the door knob covers I had placed on the INSIDE of Colin’s and Ryan’s doors so they, theoretically, couldn’t get out.
“Yeah, I think we found their house,” the officer calls on the radio. So, to make a long story just a little bit shorter (and thank you for reading this far), apparently what happened was this: after I laid down (and shut my door to sleep for the LAST time), Colin managed to peel off the door knob cover from his door. He then got Ryan out of his room, and they decided it was “play time” in the garage. They got into the car, and were playing around when, I guess, they saw the garage door opener on the visor.
Colin pushed the button, and up went the garage door. Both boys, seeing their opportunity to make a break for it, went back inside the house and PUT THEIR SHOES ON, and started walking through the neighborhood. Thank goodness I live in a fairly nice area. They walked two streets up from our house, and walked up to someone’s house and rang the doorbell.
I don’t know if that was the only house they rang, but luckily for all three of us, the lady that answered the door had a child about the same age as my boys, and brought them inside. She then called the police. I thank my lucky stars all the time for that lady. This story could have had such a worse ending.
Anyway, it was at that point that I realized that Colin’s ADHD had reached a point where he basically had little to no impulse control whatsoever. He literally could not stop himself for one second to think, “This might be dangerous, I shouldn’t do this.” If he had an idea, he was going to do it. And Ryan was going to go along with him. I knew then and there, SOMETHING had to be done.
I also want to say that, as scary as this story is, it was not the ONLY reason I wanted to put Colin on meds. He literally, NEVER stops moving (even now, on his meds, he is in constant motion). He’s even restless when he sleeps. He never stops talking (again, even on his meds, he rarely stops talking). If he is off his meds, he has to touch EVERYTHING. Seriously. Every. Thing. Including people, dogs, cats, stuff on the ground, etc. He has a special affinity for switches and buttons, and that makes a trip to the doctor’s office with its light switches, and call buttons, and instruments to look in eyes and ears, especially fun.
So, anyway, I took Colin to an ADHD doctor less than a week after he and Ryan “escaped” from the house, and he gave me all kinds of surveys to fill out, and even had Colin’s pre-K teachers fill one out. The doc said Colin was “0ff-the-charts” ADHD, and prescribed Ritalin. We started him on a small dose, and worked our way up to a pretty heavy dose (80mg every morning) within about 8 or 9 months.
Even on that high of a dosage, it didn’t solve all of his behavioral issues, but it did allow him to go to school and not be a TOTAL distraction. We even had to get him an aide to sit with him for about a year and a half to make sure he stayed on task and didn’t disrupt the class too much every day. He still had his “moments”, but with the help of his incredible aide, his wonderful kindergarten teacher, as well as repeating kindergarten, Colin is now pretty much on grade level and makes mostly A’s and B’s in first grade, and will start 2nd grade in August.
Up next, Part 2 of Meds or No Meds, where I discuss the ongoing challenges of the medications and what happens when we have to switch or modify his dosage and/or the medication itself.