Can positive changes occur (and last) WITHOUT medication?

Hello everyone,

We go tomorrow to get the final verdict on my husband's ADHD test.  I am convinced he has it, but now we'll see what the "professional" has to say.  Regardless of the outcome, my husband has made it clear (actually gotten quite nasty about it) that he WILL NOT...NO WAY, NO HOW...EVER take medication for it. 

So, I'm curious to hear what sort of success people have had with partners who have chosen NOT to get medicated in response to their diagnosis.  Is there any hope that any sort of long-lasting change can happen if a person isn't willing to address the brain issues that are causing them to act so erratic?  I can't say that I'm that hopeful that anything would permanently change if he's not willing to at least consider medication...I've been through too much counseling with him already, and unless someone is holding his feet to the fire, he just back slides into his same old self-absorbed, crappy behavior. 

I'd love to hear from people who have been there, done that, so any thoughts would be greatly appreciated!  THANK YOU, in advance!!!

P.S.  If anyone has any tips on how to find a good, competent therapist with a sound knowledge of ADHD in adults to help my husband manage his "issues", I'd love to hear them.  Thanks!

The effects

of the Concerta my ADD hubby was prescribed were quickly evident. He came home from work saying it was like a miracle, his desk was actually clear. He said he didn't feel any different either. I've heard the medication is also is way to confirm the diagnosis. As an amphetamine, it would not calm me down but enabled him to reign in his hyper irritability as well as bring his thoughts to a proper conclusion. Why would someone be against trying something that could potentially be so helpful? Oddly enough, there came a time when my add hubby decided he didn't need it anymore. It didn't take long, I burst out crying due to another one of his irate tirades. He quickly called the doc for a refill. 

Thankfully, the meds did not require much tweaking which, can happen. He won't seek any other therapy so, if he was not doing something , after almost 25 years, I was at a point where I couldn't take it anymore. He will act right out in public or when someone else is "holding his feet to the fire" but, when we're alone... Seems like therapy only wouldn't work here.

Maybe a proper "verdict" will come with a wise recommendation from someone well versed in the latest ADHD information. Much prayer helps too. Best wishes! Let us know how it goes!

I do keep praying...

about this issue, and I still have no clear-cut answers.  Prayer is about all I've got right now, due to my spouse's denial that his behavior could have anything to do with ADHD.  Glad to hear that the meds have helped your hubby.  I honestly wish that I could just slip something in my husband's drinks to see if there was any sort of change, as his hyperactivity, among other things, just drives me batty!

We have been in counseling

We have been in counseling for a few months and at first did not want to try medication. I hesitate to believe or advise that long term, lasting progress can be made without meds since we are only 10 months into our reconciliation, about 6 months into our 'new marriage',  3 months into the ADD diagnosis (was officially tested and diagnosed 2 weeks ago), and 1 week into medication. We made A LOT of progress before counseling and before medication...but I only have short term results to report so far.

We initially did not want to go the medication route because he took Concerta a few years ago. My husband felt for years that he had ADD and convinced a PCP to prescribe it to him. He was REALLY grouchy and mean when he took it so he stopped taking it. Oddly enough, inspite of a really rough first few days, this time he is doing better. He does not have anger issues or severe irritability issues so his only reason for needing it were focus and concentration issues. I have heard that it is helpful for ADDers who do have irritability/anger issues (like above poster's husband).

I would just add this...if you're not making progress that you can FEEL in counseling then you need to find another counselor. You will need new communication skills that most counselors can't provide. My next piece of advice would be for you both to commit to understanding your isn't just about YOU learning about HIM and his differences. Understanding and education are key. It is much easier to have empathy for someone when you understand their struggles, fears, differences, and problems.

I think it is possible...simply because medication does not work for some people and they still manage to have successful marriages. If you're both committed to making the most of a good counselor then I would say give it a try! Best of luck!

Been there, done that...

We've tried counseling too - together and separately, and my husband does fine when he's going regularly, but falls back into the same old crappy patterns when he stops.  Unless someone is holding his feet to the fire constantly, he just regresses back to square one.

I have called a psychologist who specializes in Cognitive Behavioral therapy for treating ADHD, and I am waiting to hear back from him so I can see how he works with adults with ADHD.  This may be my last hope...

fuzzylogic72's picture


I can understand the preference some may have to want to avoid medication. As an elementary teacher, the majority of parents seemed to regard medicating to treat adhd as "taboo" for some reason (too much Oprah maybe). That was SO frustrating, as for me the meds changed my life immensely, and I wish I could have gone back in time and received the medical treatment I needed back then. I saw so many more kids who weren't on meds and should have been, than those who were on meds and shouldn't have been.

The average efficacy of meds is 60-80%, and the avoidance of exploring this option in my opinion, is one of the biggest obstacles to maximizing one's chances of dealing with adhd in a lasting, effective manner. 

This is a very good link to give you an overview of many of the current options for treating not only adhd, but also some of the most common concurrent conditions which may be playing a role in the clinical picture:

I've tried a very wide array of the drugs over a period of over 10 years, as well as nutritional changes, supplements, meditation, book, biofeedback hypnosis and various forms of individual and group therapy. If you have any questions, i'd be happy to give you feedback from the perspective of my own experience, however for the drugs, feedback is almost irrelevant since individual responses to to a particular drug (and dosages) vary so widely.

To sum it up best, I would say that making lasting improvements without meds would be akin to making improvements in asthma (which I also have) without medication. If you avoid emotional triggers, grass, hay, pollen, exercise and cold air, then sure you might be able to have some improvement in symptoms, but that would be sacrificing you freedom and quality of life (not to mention the chronic bronchial inflammation that may later lead to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). 

This is just the way I see it. Ultimately, I believe that adhd is a multi-faceted condition, requiring a multi-faceted approach, of which medication is just one (but one very important) piece of the puzzle.




fuzzylogic72's picture


After reading your post again, it shook me a bit when you said he flatly refuses any drug treatment. From my experience, there is little chance of any significant lasting change when an individual approaches adhd with this frame of mind. It's on par with the frustrated partner mis-labeling SYMPTOMS OF UN-TREATEDS ADHD as  'crappy/annoying/mean/abusive/selfish/malicious etc'. Those labels end up making both partners feel frustrated, resentful and hopeless (it would be like calling my girlfriend (with restless legs syndrome), an obnoxious, inconsiderate, hostile sleeper because she kicks in her sleep. Instead, I did some research, bought her some calcium/magnesium and vit.b and now voila! I have a sound sleeper. However had she refused to try the supplements, I would have the right to be frustrated at being kicked all night, and I'd stop staying over!

So while those behaviors are symptoms of untreated adhd, if the sufferer is blatantly refusing to acknowledge that these things need to be remedied, and refuses to even try medication when the success rate is 60-80%, then you have to realize you are in for a long and lonely ride and should adjust your expectations accordingly based on your decision to be a willing victim of their refusal to make an effort.

Thank you, Charlie!

That all makes perfect sense to me, and I'm a crossroads now.  The "professional" yesteday told us that the IQ test that she administered to my husband showed that he doesn't have ADHD.  When I called the CHADD National Resource Center, I was assured that no IQ test will ever diagnose ADHD.  I think that this "professional" works with a lot of children as she couldn't address any of my questions about adult ADHD directly...just kept referring back to the kids she's worked with.  My husband now thinks that he doesn't have ADHD, and medication will STILL never be an option - why medicate when there is no problem, right?  ARRRRRGGGGGGHHHHHHHHH!!!!  It's true that an untrained "professional" can do more harm than good. 

So now it's a question of do I stay or do I go?  I am not the type to be a victim of someone else's crappy least not for the long-term.

Your insights are super helpful, so thank you so much!

fuzzylogic72's picture


Yeah, that's the clincher; refusal to try something that might help would be a deal breaker for me. I would suggest a counselor who specializes in adult adhd; either psychologist or psychiatrist. bear in mind that finding the right therapist can be as much of a trial and error quest as finding the right med/dosage. I have had equal good/bad experiences in my search for both psychiatrists and psychologists. An under-informed, or non compassionate psychiatrist can be a lot more damaging and time wasting, but the right one is irreplaceable. The right psychologist will likely use some form of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and help give new strategies to process emotions properly. Both have been crucial for me, as meds have been.

If you can accept his refusal to try meds (once he has been properly diagnosed that is), then you have to decide to stick. One thing to keep in mind if you do stay, is what my therapist calles the 4 F's. It pertains to our choices (adhd and non adhd alike) of how to conduct ourselves in conflict situations with significant others (and life crises in general).

Fight (non usually helpful)

Flight (doesn't solve immediate problem, but sometimes necessary for self-preservation)

Freeze (common when  people are overwhelmed/frustrated, but unable/unwilling to Fight, or Fly)

Flow - Way the pros and cons, make your decision and if you stay, don't try to Predict the future or bring up past events; just ride it out. If things don't change and the cons outwiegh the pros over time, it will be easier at that point because there are fewer raw emotions interfering with objective decision-making when you are in the state of Flow.

Do you have him on a B-Complex vitamin? this is a staple for stress/anxiety states; and Omega 3-6-9 fatty acids? Start him on natural stuff, and maybe that will open the idea to meds in the future.