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ADHD, concentration, and methylphenydate (Ritalin/Concerta)

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ADHD, concentration, and methylphenydate (Ritalin/Concerta)
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Answer
6/16/16 5:46 PM
I have been practicing buddhist meditation since my 30's. It was only after I turned 40 that I got into the arising and passing event. It was only that year that I had been diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome, an heritable neurological disorder characterized by motor and phonic tics which is usually accompanied by comorbid conditions, tipically OCD and ADHD. Here is a report of my experience with TS and getting "out of the TS closet".

After being diagnosed, I decided to treat TS and OCD just with cognitive therapy, but for ADHD me and my psiquiatrist agreed to complement therapy with a medium dose of Concerta (Methylphenydate) which, by the way, works great. Also, while taking my regular dose of Concerta on retreat, I had the awesomest retreat of my life (A&P). That was two years ago.

So after all, perhaps ADHD was really hindering me from gathering the necessary concentration to go deep in meditation. I have always been an advocate of going "natural" and frequently remember the words of the Buddha saying that anyone (regardless of their health) can reach enlightement during his or her lifetime. I also think a lot about the "not taking mind-altering drugs" precept. But I ended up accepting my own limitations,  accepting that perhaps this was more of a mind-enhancing drug than a mind-altering drug, and that if I was lucky enough to have found the way to create the right conditions to move forward, it probably will be a waste not to use them.

Now, I am aware that although I do have a diagnosed disorder and take these drugs with prescription, this text might be interpreted by some as an invitation to take them even if you don't have ADHD. I would not recommend that, if only because it would be illegal for me to recommend it, and for you to take it. And honestly, if you don't have ADHD probably that's not what's keeping you from moving forward in your practice.

However, on a more phylosophical level, what do you think about this? I know D. Ingram poses the example of people taking anti-psicotic drugs because they need it. This would be a milder case since you don't really need ADHD medication. Except, you know, to perform in the real world, and to live a structured life. But I guess I could live without that for the duration of a retreat?

Although I am mostly happy with my decission to keep taking my meds while on retreat, I would really like to know your opinion on this.

Thanks folks! Daniel M.

RE: ADHD, concentration, and methylphenydate (Ritalin/Concerta)
Answer
6/22/16 7:47 PM as a reply to Daniel Mon.
Hi Daniel, thank you for sharing your story  courageously.  My take on this topic is based on my experience with mood stabilizers in the treatment of bipolar n.o.s.  I have found that the right medication cocktail, combined with 100's of hours of intelligent psychotherapy, and 1000's of hours of intensive meditation, slowly reverses bipolar.  I have been able to spend periods off the meds, and take lower doses when I got back on them.  My experience is very specific, however, and I do not advocate that people resist or deny any biologically based conditions.

RE: ADHD, concentration, and methylphenydate (Ritalin/Concerta)
Answer
6/25/16 3:08 PM as a reply to Daniel Mon.
Daniel Mon:

Although I am mostly happy with my decission to keep taking my meds while on retreat, I would really like to know your opinion on this.


You clearly well informed and thoughtful in regards to your diagnosis. I believe in using all the tools available. I’ve taken medication at two different periods in my life due to an anxiety disorder. In my case, I was able to stop after a few years of meditation. If I thought medication was needed again in the future, I would consider it.

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RE: ADHD, concentration, and methylphenydate (Ritalin/Concerta)
Answer
6/23/16 2:18 PM as a reply to Daniel Mon.
I think it's perfectly fine to take adhd medication while on treat. Congrats on the great retreat!

RE: ADHD, concentration, and methylphenydate (Ritalin/Concerta)
Answer
6/25/16 8:10 AM as a reply to Daniel Mon.
I am on a cocktail of prescribed medications for fibromyalgia, and have taken various meds at various points in my life over the years. I would say that whatever works to mitigate symptoms for whatever condition you have, keep on with it both on retreat and off. I have tried going off or tapering meds from time to time and the results have not been good. There are other healing practices (specific exercises, aerobics, diet) that are as important as the medications in my own case, and following a good protocol, including meditation, can over time reduce dependency on drugs. However, I would be careful not to rock the boat. It's always tempting, when things are going relatively well, to stop doing the very things that have contributed to wellness. 

I don't mean to be discouraging, just realistic. These conditions are not trifling, and it's important to avoid relapsing. I don't put such medical interventions in the same category as alcohol or recreational drugs. Best wishes!

RE: ADHD, concentration, and methylphenydate (Ritalin/Concerta)
Answer
4/21/17 9:47 PM as a reply to Daniel Mon.
Hi Daniel,
Thank you so much for your post.  I was diagnosed with ADHD one month ago.  I have started medications but haven't yet found one that works for me (but I know I'll get there soon).  I am 28 and have been meditating, mostly in concentration meditation with the goal to acheive 1st jhana, on and off for the past 4 years.  I have had experiences of piti but not reached 1st jhana.  I went on a 10 day Goenka retreat one year ago.  Meditating is very helpful for my concentration, but as you know, there are extra hurdles for people with ADHD.  This was inspiring to me to know that someone with ADHD was able to reach A&P, so thank you for sharing.  As someone with ADHD who has struggled for 4 years to progress in meditative practice, I fully support your taking medications, as I will certainly do the same.  In my understanding, ADHD is a deficiency in dopamine and/or norepinephrine in the brain, so medication attempts to bring those with ADHD to the same level as "normal" humans.  My opinion is taking medication is not "cheating".  I think there is no certain answer to whether taking medication is "cheating" until we find an arahant with ADHD.