Categories
Opinion/Commentary

ADHD diagnoses are rising. Should people with the condition join the NDIS?

Image: Ildar Abulkhanov, iStock

Should treatments for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) be covered under the National Disability Insurance Scheme?

According to Sydney Morning Herald, mental health professionals are pressuring Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese to include ADHD on the NDIS.

In July, psychologists and psychiatrists attended a Senate Committee arguing for more people with ADHD be included on the NDIS. Currently, over 800,000 children have an ADHD diagnosis. Only 5,000 currently access the NDIS.

According to SMH’s Natassia Chrysanthos, in the past five years, the number of Australians being medicated for ADHD has more than doubled. Figures show that more than 400,000 people take medication for the neurodevelopmental disorder. Awareness and education have been attributed to the spike.

That’s a huge spike!

What the Senate Inquiry recommended

Corner of Australian green Medicare card showing Medicare logo. Calculator and Australian money notes in the background.
Image: robymac, iStock

So, why are psychologists and psychiatrists pushing for more children with ADHD be put on the NDIS?

Because Medicare has proven to be grossly inadequate. Waiting lists are too long and too many parents can’t afford to get their children assessed or treated.

The Senate Inquiry recommended changes the Medicare and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).

The findings recommended a nationwide approach to treatment and research:

It is clear that a more consistent and coordinated approach is needed across government systems to ensure these systems are accessible to people with ADHD.

Other submissions pointed out the need for access to Occupational Therapists (OTs), psychologists and speech therapists.

Adult ADHD and potential risks

ADHD is often looked down upon. Some people say that it ‘wasn’t a thing’ ten years ago.

Often, ADHD is stereotyped as children (particularly boys), misbehaving. However, there is a lot more to ADHD. And it can have devastating consequences if not managed properly.

Potential risks for adults with unmanaged ADHD can include:

1. Car accidents and dangerous behaviour: According to Very Well Mind, adults with ADHD can be easily distracted while driving. People with ADHD are also more prone to risk – taking behaviour, such as speeding.

2. Anxiety: According to Very Well Health, people with ADHD often suffer from anxiety. The comorbidity rate is around 50%.

3. Substance use disorder: Many studies show that adults with ADHD are likely to be addicted to nicotine. They are 50% more likely than the general population to have a drug or alcohol use disorder.

4. Difficulties in the workplace: Adults face many issues in the workplace, especially around staying on task and communicating.

5. Difficulty in self – esteem, emotional regulations and relationships: People with ADHD often struggle with self – esteem, emotional regulation and relationships.

In romantic relationships, people with ADHD may be able to ‘mask’ their symptoms initially. However, the longer a relationship goes on, hyper focusing on a partner may turn to ignoring.

Due to low self – esteem, people with ADHD may constantly seek out reassurance from their partner/s. They may constantly question their partner/s’ love and commitment. This can put a strain on the relationship, as trust slowly erodes away.

What is the answer?

I have sympathy for people with conditions like ADHD. I’m all for early diagnosis and intervention. People with ADHD deserve to get the support they need.

However, I’m not sure that increasing the number of participants on the NDIS is the answer. Many people with neurodivergence and/ or mental illnesses have been let down badly by the National Disability Insurance Agency already.

I think fixing Medicare, making psychology free and accessible is a potential answer. Trying to fit more and more people on the NDIS will only end badly.

What do you think? Should people with ADHD have access to the NDIS? Or is there another solution? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Categories
Opinion/Commentary

Treatment guidelines for ADHD have been revealed

Image: iStock

Earlier this year, the ADHD Professional Association came under fire for recommending ADHD medication under six as a first resort.

This went against the Therepeutic Goods Administration (TGA). The TGA warned against using medication as a first resort for children under six.

Well, treatment guidelines for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) have come out.

ADHD treatment guidelines are implemented

According to the ABC, the first official guidelines for treating ADHD have been approved.

It’s hoped that these guidelines will help improve the lives of approximately 1 million Australians that live with the condition. It also offers a uniform treatment for those who have ADHD.

So, what are the guidelines? Was AADPA’s initial controversial proposal approved?

Guidelines

According to the guidelines, diagnosis and treatment are extensive and conplex. Both psychological and medicinal treatments are discussed.

Here are some of the recommendations:

  • Clinicians (General Practitioners or psychiatrists) conduct a “comprehensive assessment” to determine ADHD diagnosis
  • If the patient has a cardiac condition, GP must contact the patient’s cardiologist for an opinion on treatment
  • The ADHD symptoms must cause “significant impairment” before medication is prescribed
  • If close monitoring is required, clinicians are advised to offer short – acting stimulants (i.e. immediate release methylphenidate or dexamfetamine)

Medications that clinicians canQQ prescribe include:

If a certain medication isn’t working, clinicians are advised to try out other medications. If all else fails, psychological interventions are advised.

People with ADHD should have access to the National Disability Insurance Scheme

Trigger warning: mental illness and suicide

Another recommendation suggests that people diagnosed with ADHD should have access to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

Since we’re talking about severe ADHD, in theory, I agree. However, the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) has badly let people with mental illnesses down.

There have been a number of reports of people with mental illnesses waiting too long to have their NDIS plans (funding) to be approved.

Unfortunately, the result has been tragic. There have been reports of people taking their own lives while waiting for plans to be approved.

Again, people with psychosocial disabilities —including ADHD — should be supported. But the NDIS needs to be fixed so people with mental illnesses can be aporoved.

What else can be done? Make mental health free under Medicare

First, for non – Australians. Medicare is meant to make medical care in public doctors/ public hospitals more affordable. If you go to a GP, for example, you are bulk billed.

Australians with a Medicare card can go in a doctor’s office or public hospital and not get slugged with a multi – thousand dollar bill.

However, mental health care isn’t properly covered. Under the Better Access Scheme, only ten therapy sessions a year are given half price annually. This includes people who are diagnosed with serious mental illnesses.

I think this should change. I believe if you are diagnosed with a serious mental illness, all therapy should be government funded and completely free for patients. I know sone people won’t agree, but it’s how I feel.

Question to readers: I looked up medications I listed while writing this post. Lamotragine is an anti – seizure medication. Aripiprazole is an antipsychotic. How are these supposed to help with ADHD?

Categories
Opinion/Commentary

Controversial guidelines suggest medicating children under six for ADHD

Image: timnewman, iStock

New treatment recommendations for children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is causing an uproar.

The 2012 Current Clinical Practice advises against using medication as a first resort for very young children.

The guidelines read:

Psychological, environmental and family interventions should, if possible, be trialled and evaluated before starting any medication treatment. If all of these other interventions have not been effective then stimulants might be considered.

Currently, the Therepeutic Goods Administration (TGA) does not recommend ADHD medication for children under six.

However, this could change. There is a push for medication to be the first port of call rather than last resort.

Financial interests

The Australian ADHD Professionals Association (AADPA) admitted on their website that members have financial interests in ADHD medications.

However, Professor and AADPA President, Mark Bellgrove insisted:

…we’re entirely confident that we have taken the necessary steps to minimise any impact of conflicts.

Professor Bellgrove claimed that all researchers were:

…exonerated and cleared of any misconduct regarding their declarations about links to pharma.

Professor Bellgrove may be right. All members of the AADPA may have followed all their laws and guidelines. But the question of whether children under six should be given ADHD medication still remains.

The heartbreaking effects of ADHD

ADHD can be a devastating condition for the sufferer and people closest to them. According to WebMD, untreated ADHD can have a wide range of effects in both children and adults. These can include:

  • Impulsivity can make school and work harder
  • Children may not be able to retain information and fall behind in class
  • Difficulty relating to others; may have issues with sharing, taking turns and reacting appropriately in certain situations
  • Difficulty making friends (and dating in adolescence)
  • May suffer low self – esteem
  • impulsivity may result in frequent injuries
  • Conflicts with parents
  • Risky behaviours such as: alcohol and drug abuse, smoking and risky sexual activity
  • Eating disorders (especially in girls)
  • Depression
  • Being involved in car accidents
  • Work issues such as: being on time and trouble completing tasks

ADHD is no joke. It’s clear that it needs to be taken seriously.

My take: ADHD should be treated. But get financial interests out of it

Let me say from the outset: ADHD is real. I don’t doubt that it is debilitating for many sufferers. However, the push from AADPA reinforces ideas that many critics of ADHD already have.

Psychiatry has been bastardised by the pharmaceutical industry. Real illnesses, like ADHD and depression are often given Band – Aid solutions, rather than lasting change.

It’s easy to see why.

In 2019- 2020, the Australian Government subsidised A$566million for mental health prescriptions. Under Medicare, Australians still pay a small amount for medication (approximately A$8 to A$60). So pharmaceutical companies are making bank.

I have not been able to find the amount the Australian Government or consumers spend on medications like Ritalin alone. That’s suss.

I’m not saying medication is never the answer for mental illnesses. But the pharmaceutical industry need to forget their financial interests and focus on helping people who are genuinely suffering. And offer real, long lasting solutions.

Do you think children under the age of six should be prescribed ADHD medications? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.