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Thread: How does ADHD medicine affect the brain?

  1. #1 How does ADHD medicine affect the brain? 
    Forum Ph.D. Raziell's Avatar
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    At Uni last week I overheard a guy talking to his friend about his grades getting better after he started getting ADHD medicine, even though he stated that he didnt have ADHD. (I suspect he is then getting them either by lying to his doctor/tests or getting them illegally).

    Im just curious, what medicine do you get for ADHD and why would it help someones grades? Especially if you dont even have ADHD. Some idiot getting the old placebo effect or is there something to it?


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  3. #2  
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    He might think he's lying about ADHD, but he may very well have had concentration and organisation problems that are part of the usual constellation of ADHD/ADD issues.

    The effect on the brain is quite odd when you look at the kind of hyperactive school student that seems to be the usual patient. In fact, it's better to think of the kind of vague, apparently lazy student who rarely gets work done - if it is done, it's not presented on time. Generally known as ADD.

    The drugs that treat the condition stimulate brain function. Why would anyone want to stimulate an ADHD kid who can't sit still? Because all the fidgeting and inappropriate activity typical of ADHD is the person's automatic response to try to keep themselves going. It rarely works because the automatic actions are rarely focused on the productive activity the person's supposed to be working on.

    They're stimulants. Some drug users like them. But if this person is finding the drugs helpful for studies, that's a reasonable indicator that he may have (and always had) difficulties of some kind with attention, concentration or organisation - or any combination of these. He may also have had difficulties with behaviour and maintaining friendships. He may also have a problem with admitting to himself or anyone else that he has a learning difficulty.


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    I think we're talking about two different outcomes.

    ADHD patients suffer from scattered thoughts, inability to concentrate, and low impulse control, yet strangely enough, many of these patients benefit from using stimulants such as Ritalin. Although its activity in ADHD patients is not well-understood, I'm guessing it goes something like this: The stimulant has little/no stimulating effect on the brain of ADHD patients (for whatever reason), however, the brain senses its presence and counteracts it by producing depressants, which then calms the patient and allows the patient to control his/her attention, thoughts and behavior.

    For non-ADHD patients, stimulants simply gives them more brain power, as the word "stimulant" would indicate. Consider Pemoline (a stimulant now used to treat ADHD) given to Allied fighter pilots in World War 2. It gave the pilots a heightened state of alertness and it quickened their reaction times in the air, and provided for a more complete and vivid recall of events during debriefing sessions back at base. So, these kinds of performance enhancements in academia is probably the benefits that your classmate referred to. It's probably illegal in most/every jurisdiction, and most people would also consider it unethical. Try coffee instead.
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    Amphetamines is the main course of treatment. I explained in great detail what the stimulant medication does when you take it, I'll quote:

    Quote Originally Posted by Oxycodone View Post
    It's 2:00pm. His friends are starved and left to eat, but Jeff is not hungry. He is at ease and takes some more caffeine. By 6pm, 12 hours straight of differential calculus gets the best of him, he is tired and the caffeine no longer has any effect. The figures seem to jump in front of his eyes, like popcorn. Jeff is in trouble, so he reaches in his right pocket again. Jeff now swallows a powerful stimulant called dextro-amphetamine, a kind of Adderall on steroids. Jeff read an article about how the US army uses dextro-amphetamine to send pilots flying forever and not get tired. Jeff will soon be at war, in an an F-18 fighter jet, doing heavy math.

    Jeff feels tired. He rests his head against the desk and takes a nap. He feels like shit. He would rather clean Mexican toilets than do more equations. Or worst. Anything but that. Suddenly, Jeff notices some whispers coming from the other table. A girl said how they would leave in 1 hour because the bus was leaving early. The table was softly shaking, "the highway" he immediately justified. The smell of fresh paper got to him. The paper smelled like...paper. He liked it a lot. It felt cool. The shirt he was wearing was tighter than usual, and was softly massaging his muscles.

    Jeff got up. He felt more rested and replenished than ever. He looked at his watch. He slept for 40 minutes. He felt like he had the time of his life, and that the only logical approach was to keep solving differential equations. No. He must first drink more sugar. Chapter after chapter, book after book fell prey to his pen and paper. Jeff did not understand. He had solved more math than he ever did in a week. Then he hears birds singing. Birds? Birds don't sing at night. But was it night? Jeff reaches for his watch. It was dawn, 5:25am. The bunch of crappy people he had met earlier were probably taking the buss back to whatever shit-hole they were going. He then looked to his right, he had written 250 pages of solutions by hand. He stood up confused. He didn't know how that happened but he just seemed to know everything about those damned equations.
    I suggest you read the whole story:

    http://www.thescienceforum.com/behav...tml#post341312
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    ADHD and ADD are conditions caused by the under activity of a very primative part of the brain, the limbic system. Why do we say this is a primative part of the brain? The limbic system is the equvalent of a frog brain. Its function is to identify what is important and pick that information out of all the other sensory info coming into the brain. In a frog it allows the frog to focus on a fly moving against the background. In a human it allows a student to focus on the subject matter and not be distracted.
    Cerebral stimuants make the limbic system more active and since an active limbic system improves the ablity to screen out distractions and focus on a task, the subject may be able to complete school work or sit quietly in a class.
    ADHD and ADD subjects are equally distracted, Those with ADHD express their distraction in bodily movement and activity that annoys others. ADD kids have the same lack of focus but for some reason are able to just be active in their brains.
    I have ADD. I can remeber passing in a paper in 3rd grade with only the first half of my first name writen on it. I had not been slumbering. My thoughts were going a mile a minute. Something about flotillas of space ships is what I recall. I had a vivid pictorial imagination but rather poorer than average fine motor coordination. Thinking of space ships was easy and interesting, writing my name in cursive was hard and boring.
    A useful diagnostic tool to pick up ADD is to ask the subject to do some sort of eastern meditation, one that involves, "letting the mind be blank" or "be silent and quiet in your thoughts'. ADD persons not only can't do this they have a hard tiime even grasping the idea. It is utterly foreign to their internal experience. Their thoughts are never still.
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    If you use cerebral stimulants when you don't need them the short term result is improved grades but they are psychologicly addictive substances and the long term result is psychosis. Sometimes the psychosis is not reversible.
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    Ritalin acts as an antagonist at the glutamate NMDA receptor. Amphetamine, cocaine, ketamine and PCP ('angel dust') also act as antagonists at the glutamate NMDA receptor. Neurotransmitters 'cross talk' with each other. For example, when the GABA(A) receptor is activated by GABA, this modulates the action of other neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and serotonin, usually damping down their transmission. Sedatives, such as valium (diazepam), act on a subunit of the GABA(A) receptor, causing anxiety reduction and drowsiness. Antihistamines act on the histamine H1 receptor as an antagonist. This results in cross talk with GABA(A), activating the receptor and causing drowsiness.

    When ritalin acts as an antagonist at the glutamate NMDA receptor, this increases dopaminergic activity by inhibiting the action of the dopamine transporter molecule. The dopamine transporter removes dopamine from dopamine receptors. Decrease the amount of transporters and you increase dopamine transmission. The dopamine D4 receptor cross talks with the GABA(A) receptor, reducing GABAergic firing. Personally, I think it's this action at the GABA(A) receptor that is the therapeutic action in ADHD.

    There's increasing ilicit use of ritalin among children, as well as greatly increased prescribed use. All the street drugs mentioned above which act on the same receptor as ritalin are known to activate schizophrenia in genetically predisposed individuals. Ritalin will do likewise, so we might see a modest increase in the incidence of schizophrenia in the future, caused by ritalin boosting dopamine.
    Last edited by Yonza; October 19th, 2012 at 09:57 AM. Reason: spelling mistake
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  9. #8  
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    There's increasing ilicit use of ritalin among children, as well as greatly increased prescribed use.
    In fact, it's important to have good systems for holding and administering Ritalin for ADHD students. A lot of them have had trouble all their lives in making and keeping friends. Add that to the normal gullibility of your average teenager and you'll sometimes find students with prescribed medication being "encouraged" to hand over a couple of tablets quite frequently on the promise that "I'll be your friend." Quite sad when it all comes out.
    "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen." Winston Churchill
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