As a ninth grader I forgot my trumpet at school, I forgot to turn in homework that I had worked on three hours the night before, and it took me two hours to memorize twenty Spanish vocabulary words. My handwriting was like a third graders’.
My name is Joe Heimerl. I am a junior at New Prague High School. I have Attention Deficit Disorder, better known as ADD.
After all of the trouble in school in ninth grade, I went to see Dr. Tate, my doctor, and was diagnosed with ADD. I didn’t even believe in ADD until I was diagnosed with it. I thought that is was just an excuse for people who were dumb or kids who needed an excuse for screwing around in school.
Before ADD, I was always outside and hung out with my friends constantly. My mom and dad were happy with me because they knew I tried my hardest in school even though my grades were not all As.
According to a Michael Reiff, a doctor at the University of Minnesota who edited a 2003 book on ADD, it is caused by a “neurobiological disorder,” which just means that the brain has not fully matured and takes a little longer to do so.
Reiff also told me that ADD might follow you into adulthood unless you have a task that involves memorization or concentration.
Something that surprised me is that “kids that don’t take their medications abuse drugs and alcohol,” Reiff said. He referred to studies that show that between 15 percent and 25 percent of adults with substance use disorders have ADD, Reiff said.
According to research published in the journal “Pediatrics,” 27.9 percent of kids in one study stopped taking their medication by age 11. By the age of 15, 67.9 percent had stopped.
“Many teenagers want to be as independent as possible and this can include stopping wanting to take the medication,” Reiff said.
Reiff also thinks that kids who stop taking the medication want to be like their peers – pill free.
Reiff’s advice for a kid like me who isn’t sure if he wants to keep taking the medication is to try a period in school where I go on and off the medication. Then I should figure out a way to measure all of the results.
I don’t want to take my medication because I don’t like the way it makes feel and it makes me lose weight, which hurts me in football.
My friends and family have their own advice for me.
My good friend Dylan said I should stay on the medication. He thinks that I am more relaxed and that I am more focused on topics when I’m taking medication.
My other friend Jacob thinks that I should stop taking the medication. In his opinion I am more of a loner when I am on the medication and I avoid people. It’s true. I liked it better when we used to hang out more.
My mom thinks that the medication is great for me. She feels that I am more organized with my homework in school and that I write a lot neater. She also noticed that I memorize faster and that she doesn’t need to study with me as much.
Since I started taking medication, I have proved anyone who thought I was stupid wrong. Now my mom is helping me pick out a college to attend. I am looking at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University. I am sure that I would slip up if I did not take my pills and then lose my chance at college.
There is a negative side of the medication also. I take two blue amphetamine, M&M-shaped pills daily. They last for about five hours. I take one when I wake up and one before I eat lunch. The worst part of my medication is the energy rollercoaster it creates. First, I have a two-hour energy high. Then I have a two to three hour time period when I am relaxed, which makes it easy to concentrate. Then I crash and every muscle in my body becomes exhausted. I want to work out and play outside but when I crash I am too tired to do that. It’s miserable.
Another side effect is being unable sleep at night and I lie awake for an hour until I become a little tired and eventually fall asleep. I’ve lost 10 pounds since being on the medication and I play football. I started out stronger than the other kids, but they began to catch up to me and I lost my position.
With the drug I can focus on my homework for more than five minutes and never forget to turn it in. My grades rose from Cs to As.
I think I am lucky to have the medication and I’ll continue taking it. Whatever the trade-offis, overall it has made me stronger as a person.