Reviewed in the United States on April 1, 2021
Let me start out by saying I LOVE Dr. Hallowell. Not only is he an expert in ADHD, he's a fellow ADHDer himself. He also doesn't push one approach ( medicine vs lifestyle) and acknowledges some things work for some people, depending on a number of circumstances ( severity of symptoms, environment, comorbidities, genetics, etc).
However, as someone who had a TERRIBLE reaction to Adderal, I felt really let down by his lack of acknowledgement about just how bad some of us react to certain stimulants.
I'm a pro WHATEVER WORKS person, whether that may be medication or lifestyle, or a combo of the two. ADHD has some wonderful attributes, but the challenges we face can be so so many. Just going to run an errand at the store can be difficult ( overwhelming, overstimulating, etc).
When I finally got diagnosed at 37, I felt hopeful when I filled my prescription that the low dose Adderal could help me. My nurse told me we didn't know how I'd react, and I understood that. I get it's a game of finding what works, and that genetics is a factor.
However... I wasn't prepared for how horrendous the 3 days on it would be. It was as though I was being emotionally tortured during the comedown, which was periodically throughout the day, since I was taking extended release. The nights-when it would completely wear off-were the worst. On the 3rd day, my family saw what it was doing to me. I was either a zombie OR during comedown, a complete wreck that was in emotional pain that's hard to describe. Calling it irritable ( as Hallowell says can happen) isn't even close. I don't have the words to explain it, only in that it was a horrible, horrible feeling.
My nurse told me to stop taking it immediately and flush my system, which I did.
I began researching Adderal and if anyone else had had the same reaction as I did, because I had heard so much good about this medication. What I discovered made me really upset: lots of women like myself ( and men) were having terrible reactions...but many think/thought they needed to 'keep going' because that's the price of focus.
I stumbled upon an article on a pro medicine ADHD blog ( by Gina Pera) called The Tragic Truth of Prescription Adderall, or "Madderall". The author- whose husband has ADHD- goes in depth into just how dangerous the affects of Adderall can be on people, while acknowledging ' Prescription Adderall works very well for some people, some of the time' and 'For others, however, Adderall effects can create more problems than it solves—exacerbating anxiety, irritability, anger, grandiosity, and even rage.'
Now, I didn't experience rage, but something along the lines of extreme unease and irritibility.
The article goes into how for those who have a bad reaction, it can DESTROY RELATIONSHIPS, or by the very least, put a strain on them.
Now, since Dr. Hallowell isn't a huge 'drug only' person, I had expected in his book that he would do those of us who had an adverse reaction a favor in at least mentioning it, which would make us feel acknowledged, and which would also help anyone who is talking with their Dr. or nurse at least bring up some concerns.
Instead, it's rather downplayed, almost mentioned in passing as though the side effects aren't a big deal for those of us who experience them. In one chapter, he says ' Stimulants are the ADHD drug of choice. They have been shown to be the most effective with the fewest side effects.' I know for a fact that regarding the latter half of the sentence, there ARE side effects, and for some people, they can be scarring, and as Gina Pera mentions, they can damage a person's relationships.
In another section of the book, the Drs mention some side effects are irritability and whatnot, but again, this is sort of mentioned in passing, as though no biggie.
I truly hope that more Drs. both acknowledge BOTH that stimulants work for some people, AND go into just how bad the side affects some of us experience actually are. I wish I had known.
On a positive note, the book goes into just how powerful connection is for ADHDers, and that lifestyle factors can truly be significant in helping one improve one's focus. He gives an example of a man who used jogging as a way of treating his ADHD symptoms, which is fantastic!
I'd like to close with this: I know firsthand how challenging ADHD is, and from the bottom of my heart, I hope that anyone struggling finds what works for you so you don't have to keep suffering. If you are on the anti medication camp, keep an open mind. It DOES work for people.
And if you too had a bad reaction to Adderall or another medication, know that you aren't alone.
EDIT: I wanted to update this review with a few things that are working for me. As I've previously mentioned, I had a HORRID reaction to stimulants. Since I've trained in nutrition and herbalism, I decided to give a more natural approach a go. This isn't because I'm anti medication because as I've said, I'm for WHATEVER WORKS and has the least amount of side effects. But at the same time, I wanted to see if I could improve my symptoms naturally.
I read The Edge Effect, The Mood Cure, and a book on 5 htp ( I'll update this review with the book name as soon as I can find where I put the book lol!). I learned that I'm what some psychologists would call a ' 2 e' adult ( twice exceptional) which means I'm smart but deal with intensity and overexcitability on top of the ADHD and anxiety related issues. This basically means I'm just extra hypersensitive. What fun! :(
Anyhow, I started taking 5 htp to help with my mood issues and I swear to you, the difference has been night and day! It has improved my mood drastically, and also lowered my appetite so I've managed to lose about 15 pounds without really trying. I still have days which aren't great, and I believe these are due to either anxiety or hormones. But in general, adding the 5 htp to my daily regime has honestly been life changing. I take DLPA and L-tyrosine along with it to increase dopamine.
Dr. H mentions in ADHD 2.0 how one rogue Doctor treats ADHD with benadryl. I actually read in a forum on PMDD and ADHD how some women are using benadryl for PMDD related issues, and in other forums how some doctors use it off label to treat anxiety ( in certain cases). I experimented with it and it's a life saver when I have really bad anxiety. I usually only need to take one pill. The downside is that it makes me feel out of it and not as intelligent ( I space out), but I'll take that over having anxiety!
I also really recommend Dr. Amen's books on ADHD as his supplement and medication suggestions for the various types of ADHD are really helpful. It's a shame his SPECT scan is so expensive as I would love to do that.