I’ve not written about ADHD in awhile, but I still regularly get emails from folks who stumbled across some of my past entries on the topic via Google searches. Most of these emails are looking for basic information on what ADHD is and I have a handful of different links I send out in reply. In the future, however, I may just send them a link to this entry at Retrospectacle:
ADHD was found to be the result of a deficiency of a specific neurotransmitter—here, norepinephrine. Like all neurotransmitters, norepinephrine is synthesized within the brain; however norepinephrine synthesis requires dopamine as an intermediate step. Specifically, the basic building block of each norepinephrine molecule is dopa; this molecule is converted into dopamine, which is then converted into norepinephrine. This is the normal process. Theoretically, if this dopa-to-norepinephrine synthesis is altered (say by certain genes), low levels of norepinephrine and ADHD-like symptoms could occur. Conversely, drugs which provide extra levels of norepinephrine relieve the symptoms of ADHD.
Its likely that the full spectrum of ADHD symptoms is not solely attributed to the prefrontal cortex, but rather entire pathways which interact together. These pathways do include the frontal/prefrontal areas (attention, impulse control) but also the limbic system (regulates emotions), the basal ganglia (this is the brain’s “router,” directing information), and the reticular activating system (affects attention and impulses, motivation). Since these areas communicate with each other, its likely that neurochemical problems in one area may affect others.
It’s a good overview of the current understanding of ADHD and how to treat it and it provides links to sources with greater details on a couple of topics covered. As for me, I’ve been off the Adderal I was taking back when I had insurance for over two years now, as has Courtney, and while we’re both coping with our ADHD better than we had prior to counseling and medication, it’s still a struggle at times.
For example, every so often I struggle with impulse control where I get it in my head that I have to purchase something new. I’ve been battling that particular issue for the last few days as I’ve been lusting to go out and buy a Playstation 3 or a Nokia 770 or a new video game or something, anything, new that I can play with for awhile. I understand why I get into these phases, it’s because the new toy acts as a stimulant for awhile as I sit down and learn how to master it. It takes a lot of internal argument to convince myself not to give in to the impulse. With the PS3 that’s not too hard as I just have to look at my checking account balance and compare it to the cost of a PS3 and I can quell that impulse pretty quickly. The Nokia 770 is a bit harder to douse as Buy.com is selling them for $140 ($130 if you use Google Checkout) and that’s not entirely beyond my means though I really shouldn’t spend the money. The fact that it would be exceptionally useful at work right now with all the downtime I have to fill doesn’t help convince me not to get one.
When I was on my ADHD medication these bouts came around much less frequently and were much easier to overcome than they are when I’m not on my medication, but I’m definitely doing a lot better than I did before I knew I was ADHD. I’ll probably get through this latest round of impulse control without spending any money or at least I should be able to make it to my birthday on the 25th of August where that itch will be scratched by a gift or two and some b’day cash I can spend freely. These are the days, however, when I wish I could afford to be back on Adderal.
Anyway, the article is a good overview and worth checking out. I found it via Pharyngula.