'Vast majority' of adults with ADHD unable to access supports

'Vast majority' of adults with ADHD unable to access supports

The HSE says ADHD affects between 5% and 7% of children, and 1.5% of adults, though advocates estimate the reality is higher. File picture

The "vast majority" of adults with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder
(ADHD) remain unable to access clinical care, despite the launch of a national programme earlier this year.

Just three areas – Limerick, Sligo and part of Dublin/Wicklow – have received funding under a clinical care programme for adults with ADHD, which was launched in January by the HSE. And the executive says reaching other areas is dependent on receiving additional funding.

The absence of support has been criticised by advocates working with people with ADHD. 

ADHD is a medical condition that occurs when the brain’s neurotransmitter chemicals do not work properly, which causes issues such as difficulty concentrating, fidgeting and being unable to stay calm or still.

The HSE says ADHD affects between 5% and 7% of children and about 1.5% of adults. However, these figures are disputed by charities in the field.

The programme, launched in January, provides assessments and treatments for adults with ADHD, including specific medication and psycho-social therapies.

However, outside Limerick, Sligo and Dublin/Wicklow, it remains unavailable. 

Ken Kilbride, chief executive of ADHD Ireland, said the lack of services for adults with ADHD and the slow rollout of the proposed national programme was impacting people now.

ADHD Ireland estimates that about 5% of adults in Ireland have ADHD, meaning about 170,000 are affected by the condition.

“There are some services for children but there are little or no services for adults,” Mr Kilbride said.

“The official line from the HSE is that in January of this year, it launched its Model of Care. However, that’s just a few clinics and it means little to those outside of those catchment areas. For the vast majority of adults with ADHD in Ireland today, the HSE has little or no services for them.” 

ADHD sufferer: 'I’m just not functioning and I need help'

Aoife McLaughlin was diagnosed with ADHD about 10 years ago when she was 16.

She said the lack of support for adults with ADHD means she is considering travelling to the UK for treatment. She said she still has difficulty accessing medication.

Ms McLaughlin received support from adult mental health services but has since moved and has yet find support in her new catchment area.

“It’s been three or four years now and I’ve just been going it alone,” she said.

“I’m just not functioning and I need help, and apparently the only way to get that help is by getting on a plane or a boat.” 

ADHD Ireland receives about 3,000 calls every year, with about half of those coming from adults seeking an ADHD diagnosis.

Mr Kilbride explained that, once people have the diagnosis, ADHD is “very manageable and treatable”.

“However, if left undiagnosed and untreated, adults with ADHD can have higher rates of mental health issues, marital breakdown, unemployment, substance abuse and lower life expectancy,” he said.

An examination of the socio-economic costs undertaken by ADHD Ireland revealed that undiagnosed adult ADHD costs the State €1.8bn a year.

“We’re a first-world country and here we have a condition that, because it’s left untreated, is costing the State €1.8bn a year, and nothing is really being done about it,” Mr Kilbride said.

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