This story, from Tuesday’s LA Times, frightened and relieved me at the same time.
Los Angeles Clippers’ center Chris Kaman is an exceptional person. Only a few men at any given time are capable of playing center in the NBA. There are hardly enough qualified centers to go around. Physical gifts like size, speed and shooting accuracy must combine with the ability to process rapidly the flow of the game, the positions of all the players, the coach’s designs.
Coming up as a ballplayer and student, Kaman had to learn all that, under the influence of powerful psycoactive medications he didn’t need — Ritalin and Adderall — from age 2 1/2 through high school for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). However,
Kaman, who had trouble remembering plays and concentrating on the court in college and in the pros, disclosed Sunday that he was misdiagnosed.
Kaman actually had an anxiety disorder that caused him to over-analyze situations and scenarios.
“Growing up, I had to take the medication my whole life,” said Kaman, who said he grew so frustrated taking the medication that he would come home from school and cry.
“I can’t take back time. I wish I could. But I can’t. It really bothered me to take the medication every day. I felt I had to take the medication to make me feel like a regular person. It was kind of backward.”
His misdiagnosis was discovered in July by Hope139, a 5-year old organization based in Grandville, Mich., that studies the brain. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, between 3% and 5% of children have ADHD, with symptoms that include hyperactivity and impulsiveness.
According to Hope139’s research of about 40,000 patients, up to 15% of those on medicine for hyperactivity do not have the affliction.
You got kids? You get the impression as a parent that it’s a lot more than 3 to 5 percent of kids who are being diagnosed with ADHD. If your kid seems intelligent but gets bad grades, is rambunctious, talks too much, is forgetful, the ADHD diagnosis seems to linger in the air with every doctor visit.
Raising my son, I made up my mind to strap myself to the mast and get us through adolescent and not listen to any such diagnosis. As frustrating as raising my son could be at times, I did not want him taking these medications. I figured the cure to what seemed to be ailing him was merely to grow up. Which, at 17, he’s showing signs of doing, to our relief.
What happened to Kaman is exactly what I worried would happen to my son:
The medication Kaman took had the opposite effect on him, said Dr. Tim Royer, the organization’s chief executive.
Kaman’s brain was already working in overdrive, and the medication provided an added stimulus. The dosage was increased to the point that Kaman’s mind became overloaded and he became less animated. “He stopped being a behavioral problem, but he got too much medicine and it shut him down,” Royer said.
Kaman stopped taking medication once he entered college at Central Michigan because he no longer had to sit in one place for more than a couple of hours.
But his concentration in college, and once he signed with the Clippers, was still lacking. He could focus on the man he was guarding but not on weak-side defense, or as Royer put it, “He could see the tree in front of him, but not the forest.”
How is this generation of parents, pediatricians and psychologists going to be judged? Kaman’s story is going to become better-known soon, and we’ll all be taking a second look at how these medications were sold as the panacea to so many families.
Kaman is hoping to become a spokesman for children who are misdiagnosed or are simply looking for another alternative instead of taking medication for hyperactivity. “I’m using my resources as much as I can to try and help people,” he said. “I was trying to see if it worked first. I’m on a platform being in the NBA where I can help people.”