Warning: the following post is not provided by a medical practitioner. Follow it at your own risk, under guidance of your doctor. If you have high blood pressure, or a history of heart problems, you probably shouldn't do this. Follow all instructions on the packet. I don't assume any liability for any problems that this may cause - again, do so at your own risk.
Now that that's out of the way, here's how I found out that I had ADD. Or some form of anxiety that mimics ADD in nearly all of its symptoms, such that ultimately it's pretty much exactly the same thing. Or so my Doc tells me.
I had a cold for a week, so I was taking an over the counter cold remedy which contained a decongestant. The weird thing was that I noticed that at the end of the cold, I was a lot more alert and awake than I had been before I even had a cold. Which got me thinking...
I tried an experiment. At first, I tried taking it at night, figuring that - since I have cats, and I'm allergic to them - it might be a pretty good idea to rule out allergies as being why I was tired all the time. I added in a new-class antihistamine (the ones which don't make you drowsy) to the mix, and it seemed to help a bit. Not tremendously, but at least a little.
I did this for a few weeks, and then one day - I can't remember why - I tried taking Sudafed in the morning.
The results were startling. I was able to focus at work much more, wasn't as tired, and I was happier and more alert. I carried on with this for a month, just to check that what I was seeing wasn't just a one off (I'd had weird experiences like this before - one time I got really bad food poisoning from Denny's, and when I finally recovered, I felt better than I'd ever felt before, period - so I wanted to rule that out).
It worked. Not perfectly, but enough to make me sit back and wonder. I went for sushi with a friend one lunch, and he mentioned that he and his son both had ADHD - and that it was getting worse as he was getting older. This got me thinking - what if I had the same thing? The symptoms are about the same - lack of concentration punctuated by periods of extreme concentration and productivity - also known as hyperfocus.
A little research later, and all of a sudden I had a working theory. Sudafed, you see, works by flushing your system with norepinephrine - its main claim to fame is that it essentially tells your system to pump out as much of the stuff as it can muster. Now, you've only got a limited supply of this stuff hanging around, but your body can synthesize more from L-Tyrosine, an amino acid that you can get into your system in a variety of ways, but my hunch is that eggs and sardines are great sources. (And sardines are an excellent source of calcium and iron, so they're worth eating anyway). However, it does mean that you'll run out of it - which is partly why the Sudafed wears off (the Sudafed itself gets metabolized as well, of course, which also screws things up).
The latest research shows that ADD and ADHD can be helped by pumping more norepinephrine into the brain. This is why the Sudafed trick works - although, unfortunately, it's also a stimulant, so it has other side effects including a faster heart beat, and the jitters. This is why if you decide to go down the same path, you probably shouldn't do it for more than a week, just to see if it works for you or not.
There are better things than Sudafed to cure ADD though. Something a little more... shall we say, industrial strength! It's called Strattera, and it's a Selective Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitor - or SNRI. Unlike Sudafed, it doesn't flush norepinephrine into your system - instead, it prevents your system from breaking down the norepinephrine, allows your brain to basically stew in what you've got. Which means that you're not going to run out. Also, it only acts on the brain (well, and your mucus membranes - which means that for the first time since I was a teenager, I have permanently unclogged nasal passages - in fact, when they start to clog up, I know that I need to pop another Strattera pill).
Armed with this knowledge, I went to a doctor who specialized in ADD. We talked for a while, I presented my findings, and she agreed to put me on the more powerful stuff. My life has changed for the better - I'm no longer as impulsive, I don't have anxiety, and I can focus at work. I also don't get involved in stupid pointless flamewars online any more. I'm still as creative as ever - but my brain's working the way I always thought it should.
So if you think you've got ADD, you might want to give the Sudafed test a shot. And eat more eggs and sardines. ;-)
Simon Cooke is an occasional video game developer, ex-freelance journalist, screenwriter, film-maker, musician, and software engineer in Seattle, WA.
The views posted on this blog are his and his alone, and have no relation to anything he's working on, his employer, or anything else and are not an official statement of any kind by them (and barely even one by him most of the time).