Medicating Myself Without ADHD Medication

  1. To take ADHD medication
  2. To have to take a pill every morning
  3. For you, or your child or a loved one, to have to take ADD medication

And guess what?  Good news!  You actually do NOT have to take medication.

No one does.  Yes millions of people have used Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder medication and many still do.  Because they have found the upside outweighs any downside.

So, to be clear, I’m not Pro-Medication.  As one ADHD specialist said, ‘I’m not Pro-Medication. I’m Anti-Suffering.’ Well


It’s estimated that perhaps 20% of adults who are suffering with ADHD have been diagnosed.  And perhaps half of them are doing something about it.

Doctors may recommend a treatment plan, and medication can be one aspect of treatment.  Exercise, diet, mindfulness, coaching, etc..  are other strategies that makeup a balanced, multimodal, or holistic approach.

Unfortunately, the majority of adults who qualify as having ADHD don’t understand why they struggle with organization, emotional sensitivity, overwhelm, procrastination, motivation, angerand so on. Lacking a good explanation, they invent bad ones.  ‘I’m lazy.  Weak-willed.  Hopeless.  Dumb.  Flakey. Unreliable. Bad.’  And what’s the treatment for being Dumb?  Or Bad?  Or Hopeless?  Nothing.  Because this is who you are.  (Rather than something you have that adds an extra layer of challenges to everything you do.)

Unaware of what’s going on, they have no hope of overcoming it.  They are not dealing with it, getting it treated, or figuring out ways to manage it.

Or are they?

Actually, I’m going to suggest that the vast majority of people with undiagnosed ADHD have found ways to ‘treat it.’  It’s very haphazard.  It’s not a conscious plan.  But they’ve stumbled upon strategies that actually seem to help them, unfortunately some have appalling side-effects and long-term costs


In our video series, ADHD Medication: Straight Answers to Big Questions, a number of specialists outline many of these ‘unconscious strategies’ that we adults with undiagnosed ADHD use to wake up our brains.

In fact, I’m going to suggest that every adult with undiagnosed ADHD has finds ways to ‘medicate’ themselves.

I came to this conclusion after interviewing 18 adults from two local ADHD support groups.  They spanned a wide range of ages and experiences.  Almost all of them mentioned how they managed to get by before finally being diagnosed: Caffeine.  Nicotine.  Cannabis.  Extreme sports.  Alcohol.  High-risk careers.  Constantly changing jobs, homes, and relationships.

It sounds outrageous, but I’m going to suggest… Pretty much EVERY SINGLE ADULT WITH UNDIAGNOSED ADHD IS MEDICATING THEMSELVES.

No wonder.

We want to feel calm, clear and in control.  We find things that help us focus.  In other words, we do things that give us the blast of neurotransmitters that we’re lacking.  The stimulants we use may be the result of sex, gambling, shopping, drugs, or any risky activity that gives us that blast of adrenaline.


Fifteen years ago I was undiagnosed.  As I read over the results of the ADHD screener tests the school had given my 12 year old son, my mind was racing.  Until I saw that list of ‘symptoms’, I had no inkling I might qualify as having this ‘disorder.’

Gradually, over the next few months, as I worked with Dr. John Fleming, and devoured book after book, I began to see hundreds of ways ADHD had undermined every aspect of my life.  And in some ways it had propelled my life forward.  Certainly my ADHD wasn’t a disaster for my career in comedy.

As for my first marriage?  Failed friendships?  Disastrous finances?  That’s where the damage lay.

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