ADHD heart warning should be no big deal

Simple tests, including an ECG, can detect most causes of possible trouble, but parents won't ask for them without reason. ADHD is a good reason, because stimulants raise blood pressure.

Dana at 13"You're not going to put my kid on drugs."

That was my mom, in 1964, when I was first diagnosed as having ADHD. A doctor had suggested Ritalin would help, but she was adamant.

She never told me about it.

There followed a 30 year nightmare, me constantly losing my temper, seldom finishing anything longer than a blog post, and wondering what was wrong with me. Only by owning my ADHD did I start learning to live with it. Now I wouldn't want to live without it.

That first scene will now be repeated thousands of times, along with the decades of heartache, thanks to a pretty innocuous American Heart Association warning that, before being put on stimulants like Ritalin, kids ought to get their hearts checked.

A child's sudden death from a heart attack is the worst thing that can happen, ever, to any family. But it happens. Sometimes it's genetic, and causes vary. If Dale Lloyd had been diagnosed with ADHD, and had his heart tested, he might be alive today.

Simple tests, including an ECG, can detect most causes of possible trouble, but parents won't ask for them without reason. ADHD is a good reason, because stimulants raise blood pressure.

The simple fact is that, for your ADHD child, their risk of a heart attack from Ritalin is far less than the risk their natural anger will kill them.

But that's not going to be what we read today. Instead it will be scary headlines like "Childrens Drug May Kill." Which will lead many parents to refuse help, perhaps deny the condition as my mom did.

Ironically all this comes just as a new ADHD drug, Vyvanse, has been approved for use by adults as well as children.

We're learning more all the time about ADHD, both its organic causes and promising new psychotherapy techniques, which I'm presently pursuing with my own ADHD child.

Don't be scared by this diagnosis. Don't try to deny it, push it aside, or ignore any promising avenue which will bring your child relief. Really, there is much good to be said about ADHD, but only after you own it.

If your doctor suggests a stimulant, get the kid tested, and ease your mind on several fronts. Don't take any drug without also getting the care of a psychotherapist. And don't ignore any avenue offering help: my son says religion helps.

The worst thing you can do is deny a diagnosis because you read some scary newspaper story.