The Dangers of ADHD

Terry Matlen, ACSW Health Guide
  • Many years ago, when I was a child and was more interested in Nancy Drew books than understanding ADHD, my mother got a call from her frantic sister. Her son- my cousin- had been tearing through the house when his brother accidentally slammed the door on his finger. Hard. So hard, in fact, that the tip was ripped off. We rushed over to their house to help retrieve the finger tip, and then escorted them to the hospital for reattachment surgery.

     

    A few years before that, this more than likely undiagnosed ADHD wild child nearly killed himself while exploring a bottle of aspirin, which he gulped down with one swig.

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    I believe that ADHD is under recognized as a potential health hazard, yet very little is written about this. We read studies about the high incidence of substance abuse, traffic accidents, nicotine addictions, and unlawful conduct. We know that the prisons are filled with undiagnosed adults with ADHD.

     

    But what are the specific every day dangers of having ADHD?

     

    Think about it: the most common symptoms of ADHD are hyperactivity/impulsivity, inattention and distractibility; others include memory deficits, procrastination, mood lability, impatience and more. What effect does all of this have on the individual with ADHD? For some, these symptoms are merely an annoyance. For others, they wreak havoc with relationships, school and work. But for others, they can be life threatening

     

    For example, my own hyperactive, distracted and impulsive daughter just recently came close to burning the house down. She had decided to cook a steak for herself but failed to check inside the oven before turning on the broiler. Within minutes, the oven caught on fire, with flames spreading rapidly up the walls and reaching the ceiling. She didn't realize that she'd left a grease-laden pan in the oven the night before. Luckily, we were able to contain the fire before it spread to the rest of the house.

     

    Then there are the stories told to me by distracted mothers and fathers who have unlocked their car doors, dumped diaper bags and toys in the back seat, then drove off...not knowing they left the baby and car seat on the roof of the car! Fortunately, none of these children were hurt.

     

    I've heard countless tales of kitchen fires, broken bones, and medical emergencies due to people's ADHD. In fact, my own distractibility caused me to seriously smash a finger in a car door (must be a genetic thing). I've broken my foot due to steps appearing "out of nowhere" in the house I've lived in for over ten years and broke a knee when over-exercising. I simply wasn't paying attention to my body.

     

    Those of us with ADHD might forget to take our medications as directed by our doctors; not just our ADHD meds, but medications we depend on to stay alive. We may make similar mistakes with our children; mistakes we can't afford to make. Perhaps we've forgotten to get refills in time, or mistakenly gave the wrong dose. Or truth be told, how many times have we given our children the wrong medication?

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    There are other areas in which ADHD can be dangerous. Distracted parents might not be aware when their young (and often ADHD) child disappears from the house. My former neighbor's toddler son was a habitual crib and house escapee. Luckily, he never got hit by a car when his parents found him blocks away.

     

    Our impulsive kids are at risk of getting hurt when lashing out at their peers, inviting a fist fight that could leave both parties injured. They fall off bikes they're riding too fast; dive into lakes that might be too shallow and don't paying attention to traffic lights when crossing the street.

     

    The dangers continue...with accidental poisonings when curious children and bottles of pills or cleaning fluids meet head to head, and with children getting lost in malls. The list goes on and on and it raises an important question: how many children are hurt or injured due to their ADHD? And what can we do about it?

     

    Adults with ADHD may procrastinate and not rid the house of spoiled foods, causing family members unnecessary illness due to food poisoning.

    On the job accidents and injuries are common, especially when working with heavy machinery, driving trucks and busses, caring for infants, and the like. Not paying attention can be lethal!

     

    What can we do to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe? The first step is being aware of the above risks, coming up with strategies to protect all family members with ADHD and making sure that the ADHD is being properly treated. But first and foremost, is being aware that yes, ADHD can be dangerous. It can be downright deadly.

     

Published On: January 24, 2008