ADHD: Not Just For Kids

Can you have ADHD and not know it? Learn the telltale signs.
Available on CBC Gem

ADHD: Not Just For Kids

Nature of Things

It used to be just for kids, but not anymore. ADHD: Not Just For Kids aims to dispel the myths and stigmas about Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, a condition that many people, kids and adults alike, often live with for years, unrecognized or misdiagnosed.

Samy InayehSamy Inayeh was diagnosed as an adult.

It’s a neurobiological disorder that leads to inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. Samy Inayeh, an award-winning cinematographer, struggled with symptoms for years until he was diagnosed. Suddenly things made sense for him and his fiancé, Sarah.

Dr. Ainslie Gray from Toronto’s Springboard Clinic and Doctors Russell Schachar and Jennifer Crosbie from SickKids Hospital explain how ADHD was long believed to be something adults outgrew, but it’s now understood that the symptoms can carry on into adulthood – often without ever being diagnosed.

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Read an interview with director Michael McNamara

Studies by Dr. Jean Gehricke at UC Irvine reveal that nicotine mimics ADHD medications by raising dopamine levels. Symptom reductions can mask the condition, so smokers may never realize they have ADHD until they try to quit. At Florida State University, Professor Pradeep Bhide and researcher Deirdre McCarthy develop the first ADHD lab animals and learn how nicotine exposure during pregnancy can result in passing on ADHD to children, and even grandchildren.

Dr. Lynn Stewart of Correctional Services Canada ran a study showing how 16-17% of male federal prison inmates have ADHD, with an additional 40% presenting moderate symptoms – much higher than the general population (5%). She says that ADHD’s lack of impulse control almost defines criminality.

 Medina Abdelkader (front) is typical of many women who have ADHD

Hyperactive boys get noticed early, while girls tend to fly under the radar. Dr. Mayer Hoffer describes what he calls the classic case of ADHD - an undiagnosed bright young woman whose life falls apart once she leaves home for college. Medina Abdelkader had such problems in graduate school. Diagnosis changed everything for her.

Susan Gottlieb is a successful investment banker who was misdiagnosed with depression in her 40s. Once properly diagnosed, and with help from ADHD coach Robert Pal, she is back to functioning better than ever.

Stimulant medication has been the gold standard for treating ADHD for 50 years. Non-pharmaceutical therapies designed by Sick Children’s Hospital and Ehave, a software company founded by Scott Woodrow, are being tested. Fifty kids are regularly playing a cognitive training program that has been well disguised as an exciting video game.

Pediatrician Dr. Laura Gerber knows ADHD well – she and her children have it. The condition is highly heritable and often parents, when bringing in their children for treatment, discover their own ADHD.

This brings us back to Samy, Sarah and their two-year-old son Kahlil. Four months after our first meeting with them, Sarah gets tested and confirms what she and Samy have suspected. She too has ADHD. Sarah and Samy wonder what the future holds for Kahlil.

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People with ADHD are often the adventurers, the ones willing to take risks, and thus are an important part of our social fabric. ADHD: Not Just For Kids tries to show that children and adults alike can transform their ADHD from a functional shortfall into a strength. It just needs to be recognized in the first place.