Why do certain dopaminergic medications successfully treat ADHD? Scientists believe that part of it has to do with inordinately rapid re-uptake of dopamine. In other words, the neurotransmitter dopamine is absorbed too quickly so that it does not have time to do its job. This neurotransmitter, highly important when it comes to mental stimulation, thus fails to provide us with the kind of stimulation others benefit from. This unfortunate situation leaves us under-stimulated:
“We are in a desert without water, desparately [sic] seeking stimulation whilst our non-ADD companions have water bottles on their backs and a tube to suck from when thirsty. They can amble along noticing the shadows from the dunes whlist we are on a mission to find an oasis!”
Contrary to popular belief, this dysfunction does not leave us utterly unable to concentrate. In fact, it can cause intense episodes of hyper-focus. This can be a mixed blessing, since it can cause those with ADHD, on the one hand, to become so absorbed in their interests that they are able to retain such information better than most people. On the other hand, we are susceptible to becoming so absorbed in our interests that we have a hard time taking care of essential tasks that are necessary for living because they do not catch our interest:
“The big problem comes however from low-interest, low-stimulation tasks – like homework, tax returns or household chores. Here our under-stimulated minds struggle applying themselves and we find ourselves either day-dreaming, bored or more often distracted instead. Sometimes this is quite involuntary, for some the chatter in their heads distracts them completely, for others a lower priority task takes precedence and for others they knowingly, guiltily and unhappily move to alternative stimulating pursuits or even play instead, like playing solitaire rather than writing a to-do list.”
This is related to memory problems (or specifically, “working” memory or short-term memory) those with ADHD can struggle with. It is not that we are unable to remember things, but that our brains do not put a high priority on information that is naturally uninteresting to us (but perhaps nonetheless essential to everyday life). Thus, the names of people, key locations, doing taxes, and so on, may escape our notice because they escape our natural interests.
Dopamine inadequacy thus leads the individual with ADHD to seek out stimulation. We suffer from a seemingly unquenchable thirst that leads us to continually seek stimulation in interesting tasks, oftentimes at the expense of uninteresting-but-important tasks. It should perhaps come as no surprise that ADHD is highly correlated with drug use (and abuse). Detox clinics in the U.S. have suggested that up to 70 percent of their patients suffer from ADHD, and those with the disorder may thus be unusually susceptible to nicotine, cocaine, cannabis and alcohol.
Those with ADHD are also unusually susceptible to internet browsing, computer games and pornography addiction; all activities which are very rewarding from the dopaminergic point of view. The same is true of excessive food and drink consumption. Those with ADHD are unusually attracted to excessive consumption of coffee, soda, and red bull, as well as binge-eating. Indeed, some research suggests that obesity is correlated with ADHD. Unfortunately, as natural stimulus-seekers, we may be attracted to potentially dangerous thrill-seeking activities such as gambling, crime, extreme sports, fast driving and affairs.