Social media is being overwhelmed with ads for scammy mail-order ADHD startups

Originally published at: Social media is being overwhelmed with ads for scammy mail-order ADHD startups | Boing Boing


Thank you @thomdunn for sharing your own experience with ADHD. It’s a real condition that affects the lives of many while being widely misunderstood by society and waved away with one-fix prescriptions that are a trade-off of symptoms at best. There are no easy answers, and stereotypes don’t help anyone. Society needs to understand better.


Good God. I have had an influx of kids whose parents have done some of these online self-diagnosis things insisting that they will not “subject their children to a diagnostic evaluation” because they have already done it. No, no they have not. I have (semi) patiently explained that I will not prescribe a potentially dangerous, controlled drug to their child without a thorough evaluation to make sure it is the appropriate treatment. Way too often, the answer is not that the kids have focus issues in school, but that they are energetic and noncompliant at home, and the parents are too tired to deal with them. Which meds do not generally fix. But that is not the answer that they want. Yeah, these visits frequently end badly.



As a parent of a child with pretty bad ADD, this is infuriating to read. Now I have to talk to him about these scammy tiktok ads. :face_with_symbols_over_mouth:


I am going to my bi-annual doctors visit tomorrow. I think I am going to ask him about ADHD, as all these memes I see posted about it made me realize I tick off all of these boxes. :confused:

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ADHD is targeted by scammers because it is the current darling of the so-called Worried Well. These are generally upper middle class white people with few real problems, so they start inventing them. Any disease with a complex diagnosis and vague self-reported symptoms is a candidate. Every headache is “a migraine”. Every bad day is “bipolar”. Every lapse in focus is “ADHD”. All of my tech company coworkers go on about all these things they have.

All these conditions are real of course, and many people like Thom clearly suffer from them. The problem is that people love to self diagnose themselves with stuff like this to explain “symptoms of life”. People get so obsessed with optimizing for happiness (again, when they have no real problems to worry about) that they find “diseases” in every mildly negative feeling that wafts through their head.

The damage done by this is that it discredits mental health in general. People don’t take ADHD seriously as a culture if everyone claims to have it and most of those people are obviously full of shit. Mental health is so undervalued and stigmatized as it is, and the Worried Well make that so much worse.

Thanks for sharing your story, Thom.


Don’t forget to add things like “allergic to gluten” - which is clearly a thing, but not nearly as wide spread as people saying they suffer from it.

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Part of the issue with getting an adequate diagnosis on this is that most people do.

It’s very much one of those ranges of behaviors things. Where it’s how much, how often and does it impact your ability to function.

And a lot of the marks and outward problems can come from a whole bunch of other stuff.

I check off almost every box. But I’ve been assessed, properly, more than once. I don’t have ADHD, what I have is issues with Anxiety and Depression. My sister is Bipolar, early on she was misdiagnosed with ADHD a couple times.

There’s been a burst of sketchier diagnoses since COVID hit, cause a lot of the symptoms and impacts of stress and depression can look and feel pretty similar. And a lot of people I know with ADHD, who had it well handled have had a re-occurrence of problems since 2020 or found themselves going back to Adderall after doing plenty well without it for years.

The other end of that is I know a couple people who were properly diagnosed through a real assessment for the first time. After seeking mental health help to deal with the anxiety or COVID driven depression.

Assessment takes weeks at least, and multiple steps. It’s pretty complicated.

Adam Conover did a very good podcast on the subject, his own diagnosis and assorted in the pandemic impacts.

It’s worth asking your doctor about, or checking into. But don’t take a list of symptoms as an “oh no!” or if you’re having issues don’t discount that it could be rooted in something else.

ETA: It’s also worth noting that meds, like Tim says, are not a be all end all solution. Particularly Adderall. Most adults I know with ADHD over 30, actually find Adderall is no help or makes things worse. And a lot of people find a different sort of medication is more help. One friend who was, to his surprise, diagnosed recently has been looking for a good anti-anxiety or anti-depressant.

Since Aderall made him completely non-functional and anti-anxiety meds actually help.

A lot of what proper help on this boils down to is learning proper coping mechanisms, behavioral therapy etc. Like a lot of mental and cognitive health problems.


I have a friend who actually has Celiac’s Disease. We were at a diner once, and though the menu mentioned a gluten-free option, the waiter either forgot to mention it to the kitchen, or no one took it seriously because of how many fucking gluten-free dietary trend hoppers there are. My friend took one bite of her salad, and she knew right away. You could see her stomach turning in her eyes.

After seeing how serious that reaction was, I get unreasonably mad about gluten-free dietary bullshit now.


A lot of times the problem on that front is cross contamination.

Even a restaurant that does the the thing. If they’re used to the “gluten kills puppies crowd”, may not be aware or set up to deal with people who actually have Celiac.

Cross contam can absolutely ruin the Celiac’s day. Gweneth Paltrow doesn’t know or care. It’s very easy to make the Goop level of Gluten free. It can be tricky to keep things clean enough to protect your friend’s colon.


I see these ads on Instagram all the time, but the ads I see are usually peddling some herbal shit. Some of these people are the ones that make it such a pain in the ass to get my adderall prescription filled (I have to see the psych every 2-3 months minimum, my specialist copay is $150. And both my son and I take stimulants so we both have visits every 2-3 months). Whereas I’ve gotten a years worth of zoloft refills called in at once. But one of these things is supposedly addictive to idiots and one isn’t (I says supposedly because, like most people with ADHD I can’t wrap my head around adderall being addictive since I forget to take it so damn often).

But you know what, this shit changed my life and I love love love it.


… I can’t upvote you nearly enough for the entirety of your comment. Anxiety and Depression and comorbid with ADHD, and are less of an indicator of having ADHD than something else going on. Proper Diagnosis is KING in this situation.

I will state that if you think you have it (tagging @Mister44 specifically!), get a referral to an actual psychiatrist or a specialist in that field for a proper diagnosis of what ales you, and a treatment / coping / ‘living with’ plan tailored for you specifically.

While AdderalXR works for me (I act and behave quite differently when I’m off the stuff almost to the point of being a different person!), it may not work for your specific brain/body chemistry mixture- Working with your doctor (and psych) to find something that works for you is paramount. Do not expect a miracle right out of the gate- It may take a couple different medications to find one that works for you. Self monitoring can help in this regard as well.

(I am not a doctor, do not treat this as medical advice. I am offering up my own opinions and suggestions based on the 35+ years of living with ADHD, having been on Ritalin as a kid (and Cylert until it got pulled), using sheer force of will for many, many years until it threatened my job security, and got back on to Better Living Through Chemistry with the Adderal some15 years ago.)

@PurpleFlower : Adderall (in all flavors) is amphetamine salts, which puts it as a Class 2 controlled substance as in neuro-typicals it can be addictive.


The bit that surprises me is how many appear to be full-on scams, either trying to get your money at the door or promising some vague and dubiously verifiable ‘nootropics’; rather than just good, honest, pill mills.

At least when I was in school, people who talked up ADHD on dubious evidence weren’t victims of stereotypes of executive function disorders; they just knew that a suitably cooperative doctor had the magical power to turn obtaining some amphetamines into a legal, relatively cheap(and, not least, FDA-regulated and probably manufactured by people who had to care about fiddle GxP stuff). Same with the ones who had a Google degree in modafinil, but probably not so much of a sleep disorder as they let on.

Is the DEA just jumpy enough after all the opiate pill mills that it’s too hot in regulatory terms; or has team social media added confused meme kids as a new class, alongside actual patients and people who are quite clear on what drugs they are looking for?

Sigh. And right there is where I have to weigh benefit vs costs. I am already on a Class IV drug for pain management. That used to require monthly visits, but found a new dr that is seeing me every 6 mo.

thanks for the info.

It was a monthly visit while getting the dose right, now its at 3 months.

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Can I share my story (recently updated), too?

As a female born in the 1950s, I’ve been able to imagine that I have several brain conditions that went undiagnosed (even unknown) when I was younger. Which at least gives me the dubious advantage of saying that I’ve suspected them since long before the pandemic.

I complained that I was glued to an easy chair, reading fiction and eating unhealthy foods, unable to get up and do things (even fun things). I could force myself – while grinding 12 teeth to destruction over the years – to do essential things, so my life did not fall apart (“high functioning”).

I got a diagnosis of depression in the 1990s, but SSRIs did little for me. I quit them cold turkey with zero side effects. In the 2010s I got a diagnosis of anxiety added on. Cymbalta really has made a difference, but I am only partly improved.

Autism spectrum was my suspicion (for decades, as bosses and friends took me aside and told me my behavior was inappropriate). My MD finally sent me to a psychiatrist (for a 1/2 hour appointment?!?) He asked bog-standard anxiety and depression questions and prescribed Cymbalta. At the end I said, “I was asking about autism.” His reply: “Oh, everyone thinks they have Aspergers now. It’s trendy.”

Four years ago, a therapist (who I’d been seeing for a year) said that she was confident that I have ADHD. Hmmm, that wasn’t even on my radar!

My new MD sent me for a neurology workup (age 66).

Last Friday I sat and did 7 hours of testing. A technician administered paper Y/N questions, apps (mostly pattern recognition), in-person questions. I also had two in-person (masked and social distanced) interviews with the doc. I’ve never been so exhausted from non-physical activity! This is supposed to be covered by (US) Medicare and my good private insurance – together covering 100%.

To be continued…


Clearly my story describes the upper-middle class woman who is “walking well.” But I don’t think that precludes Austism and ADHD. And I didn’t mention my physical symptoms that align quite well with these diagnoses.

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Yes, including people who have Autism, you arse. Sorry, Doctor Arse.

When I went looking for diagnosis, I had several goes round of
Me: “I think I’m on the Autism Spectrum”.
Doctor: stares blankly
Me: explains the main characteristics of ASD
Doctor: stares blankly
Me: explains what my symptoms are
Doctor: “Oh, then you might have autism then. I would refer you to a specialist, but I don’t know of any.”

It was only with the help of family and friends that I found a clinic which would 1) respond to my emails, 2) give me straight information, and 3) test me and diagnose me.

That was over ten years ago, and I have to say with recent experiences, it hasn’t improved. Also, said diagnosis isn’t covered or subsidised by Medicare (Australian single-payer health care), so you’re on the hook for more than $1000 for it. Also, most clinics are still leery of diagnosing the hyperlexic phenotype (what used to be Asperger’s, with no language delay), women/girls, or god forbid both.

And people wonder why minority groups don’t have such high numbers of autism diagnoses: that it could be because everything is arranged to make it as difficult as possible for them to get one never seems to be officially noticed. You either have to be severely affected, where it’s obvious to even the most overworked GP, or have access to really good supports and ability to get past the healthcare gatekeepers to get even recognition. Getting help is an entirely different and distinct set of battles.


Thanks for sharing. I hope there’s good news, and you find the right language (and treatment) for what you need!