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The Correlation Between ADHD and Substance Abuse

We have a guest writer for this article, Trevor McDonald, who has written extensively about the correlation between ADHD and substance abuse, addiction and recovery — issues that, sadly, are disproportionately part of the ADHD world.  Here he talks about a very important topic many of us with ADHD can unfortunately relate to…

The thought of putting a young child on ADHD medication, typically a stimulant, can be scary. So when parents are faced with this choice, the guard naturally goes up. But this may also be due in part to some myths and misinformation regarding the correlation between ADHD and substance abuse.

Let’s get this out of the way right now: ADHD medication has not been shown to be a gateway to other drugs. It is a legitimate treatment that provides relief for up to 80% of those properly diagnosed and treated. Where things get confusing is when we hear about how ADHD medications are often abused. But a question is, who is abusing them?

Who is Abusing ADHD Medications?

Adderall and Ritalin are the most commonly abused ADHD drugs: they’ve become widely known as “study drugs.” Ask anyone on a college campus and they can probably get you some “addys.” College students are likely to abuse these drugs to help with coursework and studying. If you’ve ever taken an ADHD medication, you understand why.

These drugs certainly won’t make you smarter, but they will help you focus and remain energized enough to get work done. A 2014 survey by the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids reported that 20 percent of college kids were abusing prescription stimulants. We can only suspect that this number has increased in subsequent years.

ADHD Medications and Substance Abuse

Perhaps surprisingly, studies have shown that when children are prescribed ADHD medications early in life, they are less likely to develop a substance abuse disorder. Still, there is a strong correlation between substance abuse and ADHD. This is often because undiagnosed as well as diagnosed ADHD adults and teens are using drugs and/or alcohol as “self-medication.”

Among teenagers with ADHD, marijuana is a popular choice. A Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry study found that while 7 percent of all teens smoke marijuana, 13 percent of teens with ADHD use the drug.

Think You Might Have a Substance Abuse Issue?

If even suspect you have a problem with substance abuse, reach out to a counselor with ADHD experience. They are most qualified to help you with both recovery and with the symptoms of your ADHD. The correlation between ADHD and substance abuse is a serious and complicated issue, so don’t go it alone — and know that you’re not alone.

Guest Author’s Bio: Trevor is a freelance writer and recovering addict & alcoholic who’s been clean and sober for over 5 years. Since his recovery began, he has enjoyed using his talent for words to help spread treatment resources, addiction awareness, and general health knowledge. In his free time, you can find him working with recovering addicts or outside enjoying just about any type of fitness activity imaginable.

You can learn more about Trevor and follow his work at his website by clicking here. A big thanks again to him for contributing!

I also gave TED Talk few years ago that relates to this topic that you may find informative. You can watch it by clicking here.




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Define Your Personal Boundaries and Focus on YOUR Priorities

When it comes to your time and your priorities…you’re letting people walk all over you. You just might not realize it. I’ll show you the basics of setting personal boundaries so you can get more of your stuff done.

You deserve to work on your terms, stay on your priorities and protect your precious time from both the demands of others — and your own self-sabotage.

What is meant by personal boundaries? Let’s take a look at an extreme situation that may not be so extreme for you and me as ADHD adults

Personal Boundaries in Codependent Relationships

Do you know anyone who exhibits any of the following characteristics of being in a codependent relationship?

  • They’re unable to put their own needs and feelings first;
  • They don’t feel they have any rights;
  • They fear that saying “no” will jeopardize their relationships and they’ll end up unloved or alone; and
  • As a result, they have unhealthy — or nonexistent — personal boundaries.

No? Nobody you know? Allow me to introduce you to … you!

Now, this is not to make light of what can be very serious codependency issues in unhealthy or abusive relationships, or for those struggling with various kinds of addictions (as I once did).

But you don’t have to be psychotherapist-approved to have a few codependent tendencies, or to be living with unhealthy personal boundaries when it comes to your time, your priorities and your privacy — all of which are fundamental to your productivity.

Guard Your Personal Boundaries and Focus on YOUR Priorities

You deserve to work on YOUR priorities, not just everyone else’s!

In this post I want to show you where your lines of defense are most porous so you can better guard your personal boundaries. Let’s begin with some…

Distinctions About Personal Boundaries

Unhealthy, one-sided relationships are underpinned and reinforced by a lack of healthy personal boundaries — the physical, emotional and mental limits we establish to protect ourselves from being manipulated or taken advantage of by others.

Now this sounds like pretty serious stuff, and it is in the world of dysfunctional personal relationships and mental health. But we can also look at these through the lens of productivity in day-to-day work or home life. Let’s revisit the key characteristics of codependents, put into the context of the workplace:

  1. They put other people’s needs and feelings before their own. In a relationship, this might manifest as a failure to attend to one’s own feelings and emotional well-being. In the context of work and productivity it’s putting other people’s priorities first, and you don’t get your work done.
  2. Codependents don’t feel they have rights — like the right to say no — to insensitivity or even worse. Day-to-day at work, you may not feel you have the right to say no to a bunch of things — a new project, another meeting, an arbitrary deadline.
  3. They believe setting or enforcing boundaries jeopardizes the relationship; they fear being dumped or not loved. In the workplace, you may fear not being liked or fear being laid off or somehow excluded (e.g., not getting a promotion or raise).

Where Do Our Personal Boundaries Come From?

To understand the reason you may be experiencing any of the aforementioned, it is instructive to understand where these boundaries come from.

For the codependent, boundaries were learned.

  • From childhood: If you were constantly told to shut up, you learned that you don’t deserve to be heard.
  • From adolescence: If your personal space was constantly violated, you may have learned that your body is not worth treating with respect. And so on.

But here’s the thing about your boundaries and your productivity: Something that’s learned, is also taught. And every day, as ADHD adults in the workplace and the home, we are teaching others what our boundaries are.

One quick example: I was recently interviewed on a podcast called Dudes to Dads. One of the co-hosts, a very successful e-commerce consultant, noted that he is so responsive to his clients that recently when he didn’t reply to a phone message within 30 minutes, the client got worried and called, emailed and texted, “Dude, are you OK?” That is what he taught his clients.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with great customer service, but training your clients or your co-workers or your boss that a response can be expected in minutes is going to be pulling you away from whatever your priorities are on a constant basis.

So, boundaries are a critical part of productivity and time management, especially for the ADHD adult. And there are countless areas where we can train others to respect boundaries of our choosing, from emails, phone calls and texts, to requests from the boss or your team to your kids or your spouse.

But we also can and must train ourselves to respect our own boundaries, too — around social media, negative thoughts, gossip and other BS.

So give some thought to where you might have some weak personal boundaries — both at work and at home; both with others and with yourself — and see if there are some opportunities to strengthen them.

When I think about  personal boundaries, I’m always reminded of this great quote:

“If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you: Not much.”  Jim Rohn   TWEET THIS

As I mentioned at the outset, you deserve to work on your terms, stay on your priorities and protect your precious time from both the demands of others — and your own self-sabotage.

Remember, whatever’s in your way is yours to crush!



P.S. Have you joined the Crusher™TV Facebook Community yet? A great source of videos, articles and conversations about unleashing the power of your brain! CLICK to join us!

Alan P Brown CrusherTVAlan P. Brown, an internationally recognized Productivity Coach, TEDx Speaker and #1 Best Selling Author of Zen and the Art of Productivity: 27 Easy Ways to Have More Time, Earn More Money and Live Happier is the host of Crusher™TV, where he and his Guest Experts share simple ways to get more done in less time with less stress. Follow Alan on Twitter and on Facebook.


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How to Feed Your Brain to Beat ADHD Brain Fog

“Garbage in. Garbage out.” True for computers, for your brain — and for your ADHD brain fog.

They say, “You are what you eat.” To the extent that’s true, you’d want to eat lots of “brain foods” and steer clear of “stupid foods,” right? Right. So if you want to beat the frustrating ADHD brain fog so many of us ADHD adults (and teens and kids) experience, we need to sort out the brainy from the stupid.

Because there’s a lot of stupid on the food shopping list of the average American — and Canadian, and Brit and everybody else.

In this blog, I’ll dive into the importance of feeding your brain for maximum focus and productivity, and to fight your “ADHD brain fog.”

Healthy Food Helps ADHD Brain Fog

ADHD brain fog is in part a function of…your diet!

I don’t know about you, but growing up, most of my food came out of a cardboard box. Ah, the ’70s. Breakfast was toaster pizzas. Or, if I was lucky, a Carnation Instant Breakfast (artificial eggnog flavor was my favorite).

And lunch? Peanut butter and mayonnaise on white Wonder Bread. Yum!

And it’s not that my family was poor. We just had very poor knowledge about how simple carbs and processed foods can sabotage academic success. My diet meant I had little fuel for my brain. And sadly, the idea that a donut or a croissant (again, all simple carbs) was a meal, lingered until well into my 30s, where I struggled as an ad executive with undiagnosed adult ADHD.

Then I learned the difference between brain foods and stupid foods, and that you can hack your brain with your diet choices to beat the ADHD brain fog and increase your productivity.

To do so effectively, it’s important to…

Stop Eating the Foods of the Past

Two food categories, in particular, are fast losing traction in the marketplace — and for good reason.

Sugar Makes ADHD Brain Fog WorseFirst is refined sugar, or sugars that have been stripped of their fiber. Our brains and bodies are not set up to deal with refined sugar, including and especially high fructose corn syrup. Refined sugar is a toxin. The liver cannot deal with it. Yet, the average American consumes 130 pounds of sugar a year. That’s why one-third of Americans have non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. (Most who do don’t realize it.)

Indications that refined sugar is on its way to becoming a food of the past: per capita soda sales are down 25% since 1998. Orange juice, once “part of a healthy breakfast!” but now seen as the unhealthy carrier of fiber-less sugar that it is, is down 45% in the same period. Sales of packaged cereals, just boxes of sugar and carbs, are down more than 25% since 2000.

And here’s why your brain should be happy to say bye-bye to sugary foods: Fructose targets the reward center in the brain, so you jones for more junk food like, well, a junkie. And you get no sustained mental stamina from it.

Shelf-Stable Foods Make ADHD Brain Fog WorseThe second group likely to be relegated to the dustbin of dietary history is those foods in the center of the supermarket. The biggest food marketers, from Kraft to Nestle to General Mills, who make boxed, canned and jarred food products, are getting their butts kicked by the store perimeter. The marketers have profited for generations on cheap, shelf-stable foods that make up most the typical supermarket’s square footage, but the consumer is now avoiding these fake food aisles and sticking to the refrigerated perimeter where the real food is.

Here’s why your brain should be happy to say bye-bye to the store’s center: Most shelf-stable foods are loaded with simple carbs, artificial colors, flavors and preservatives and a fraction of fresh foods’ nutrient quality. Here’s a good rule of thumb from a top researcher in this field: “If you see a food advertised on TV, don’t eat it. If you wanted it or needed it, they wouldn’t have to advertise it.”


“If it’s advertised on TV, don’t eat it. If you wanted it or needed it, they wouldn’t have to advertise it.”  – Dr. Robert Lustig, UCSF   TWEET THIS


Some Simple Diet Solutions to Beat ADHD Brain Fog

In my award-winning Crusher™ virtual-coach videos, I teach 10 strategies for busy-brained people to escape the overwhelm. And the very first strategy I teach I call “Feed Your Brain.”

Diet Tips to Beat ADHD Brain Fog

Why is this taught first? Because so many of us are eating poop that turns our brains into poop, and we can’t learn new productivity strategies with poop-for-brains. You can’t learn new productivity strategies when your brain is bogged down with stupid food.

And it doesn’t take a lot of effort to get the crap out of your diet and let the good stuff in. Here are four, easy-to-remember diet principles essential to the brain.


Sugar Sucks
FACT: Sugar and junk foods create a quick blast of energy but then metabolize away, leaving you with an energy crash. And guess what happens after that crash? You look for another energy blast, and grab another piece of sugary crap, never getting any sustained mental energy. So, if you’re eating a glazed donut for breakfast, you are kicking your own ass down the street.

Carbs Kill
FACT: Simple carbs are much like sugar in that they create a burst of energy that’s short-lived and then leave you in the mental gutter. Now, carbs don’t really kill — in fact, you can’t live without them. But stay away from simple carbs, easily remembered as “white foods:” white bread and pasta, white rice, white potatoes. Hunt down complex carbs instead: whole-grain breads and cereals, brown rice, yams.

Protein is Power
FACT: The brain makes a variety of chemical messengers, or neurotransmitters, to regulate, among other things, alertness. Protein triggers alertness-inducing neurotransmitters that help you focus. You get quality proteins from fish, lean meat, beans, eggs, dairy and protein drinks or powders. And if you use protein drinks or powders, make sure they’re not loaded with sugar, because sugar sucks.

Omegas are Mega
FACT: Certain fatty acids, like the omega-3s and omega-6s found in cold-water fish, can improve brain function and memory. So, get more essential omega fatty acids. To get these and protein, snack on walnuts, pistachios, pine nuts and sardines. Then chow down on salmon, tuna, avocados.

And here’s a bonus: ZIMBY-6. (Z, I, M, B6) Zinc, iron, magnesium and vitamin B6. These are all shown to enhance brain function. Their food sources are many, but keep it simple and just buy some high-quality supplements.

So, all you need to know about diet for right now is: Sugar sucks. Carbs kill. Protein is power. Omegas are mega. And ZIMBY-6.

Take This Action Step to Start Beating ADHD Brain Fog

I feel strongly about this, and so should you — strongly enough to take some action on behalf of your starving, food-abused brain.

On a clean sheet of paper, write across the top, headings for the following five columns:

Breakfast – Lunch – Dinner – Snacks – Indulgences

List under each one the foods you most often eat. Then take a step back, scan the whole sheet and circle those foods that violate our principles of Sugar Sucks, Carbs Kill, Protein is Power and Omegas are Mega.

Now, picture each one you’ve circled in your mind with a big red X through it. Then, stab it, run it over with your car, get out of the car and stab it again. Repeat this exercise with all poisons.

In Closing…

Now that you know the basics of how to keep your brain properly fed for optimal function and overall wellness, perhaps this old adage will have new meaning: Garbage in, garbage out.

Keep that brain fed right, and whatever’s in your way will be yours to crush.



Alan P Brown CrusherTVAlan P. Brown, an internationally recognized ADHD/Productivity Coach, TEDx Speaker and #1 Best Selling Author of Zen and the Art of Productivity: 27 Easy Ways to Have More Time, Earn More Money and Live Happier is the host of Crusher™TV, where he and his Guest Experts share simple ways to get more done in less time with less stress. Follow Alan on Twitter and on Facebook.


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How to Say NO (So You Can Say YES to Yourself)


Do you know how to say no? Saying no is a super power that can change your life. Fortunately for us, its not the kind of power you get from a radioactive spider bite or gamma rays. All you have to do is just say — No.

There are 1,440 minutes in every day. But only a small percentage of those are available for intense focus on the core of your job. And the more stuff you say “yes” to, the smaller that percentage will be.

Congratulations, you have 1,440 minutes available to you tomorrow. But you’ll want to use them carefully. Because when you take out minutes for sleep, eating, taking care of yourself, taking care of others, miscellaneous non-productive stuff at work, you’ll have less than 180 minutes of truly focused time to do your job’s core work.

If you read my previous blog post on Energy Vampires, you know how dangerous they can be. Well, one of those energy vampires is you. And one of the reasons you are an energy vampire is that you are saying “yes” to too many people. Every time you do, you give away a bunch of your precious time and energy. This is why you must learn how to say no.

There is a famous quote by Warren Buffett that says, “The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say ‘no’ to almost everything.”

So stop giving away so many of your precious 1,440 — I’m sorry, your less than 180 minutes — by saying “yes!” to the Power of No.

How to Say No Get More Yes

Saying no can be difficult at first, but the power of the word can be life changing.


Well, we are programmed for “yes” pretty much from the get-go, starting in childhood. Your job, from toddler to preschool, was to say “yes” to instructions. Saying “no” was bad, even grounds for punishment. Then, you got to school and that yes-is-good/no-is-bad thing was reinforced by your teachers and even your prospective friends. Then there was adolescence, where intense peer pressure had you yessing everything right up to petty crimes, depending on who your peers were. (Grand larceny in my case.)

Then you got your first job, and it was: “Yes, I can do that! Yes, that too!” Indeed, in our jobs and in society generally, we live in a Culture of Yes.

We want to be seen as “can do!” We want to help. We want to be a good employee, neighbor, charity committee member and so on.

  • Saying “no” is selfish.
  • Saying “no” risks you not being liked or chosen for something.
  • Saying “no” is disrespectful. At times even confrontational.

Life coach Susan Lasky says, women may have particular difficulty saying “no” because: “We think we can, and should, be able to do everything — the strong, passionate Wonder Woman. We think we need to be everything to everyone in our lives.”

But whether you’re an aspiring Wonder Woman or a someday Superman, saying “yes” is easy. Because, as “Zen Habits” author Leo Babauta says, “Current self thinks that future self can handle it, no problem. But then future self becomes current self and suddenly has to pay up for all the obligations placed upon him by all the optimistic past selves.”

And so, all our yeses make it more difficult to do our job well and to get caught up, get promoted, get raises. Yet even a few simple nos across the course of the day can yield huge gains in your available time’s bottom line.

Tim Ferriss once said, “What you don’t do determines what you can do.” And he has a list he calls his not-to-do list, in other words, a say-no-to list.


Using a few of his not-to-dos and a few of my own mixed in, let’s see what one day of exercising even a tad of the Power of No might yield:

  • Say “no” to e-mailing first thing in the morning.
  • Say “no” to answering calls from people you don’t know.
  • Say “no” to letting talkative people babble on.
  • Say “no” to checking your email again.
  • Say “no” to that unhealthy snack.
  • Say “no” to a political argument.
  • Say “no” to checking the headlines or sports scores again.
  • Say “no” to notifications on your smartphone.
  • Say “no” to responding immediately to emails.
  • Say “no” to a negative chatter session.

Consider making your own not-to-do list. Take a minute to write down, say, five things you’re going to say “no” to tomorrow.

Those were some relatively easy nos. And they added multiple minutes to my available productive time! You may have noticed though, that most of these didn’t involve saying “no” to other people. With those nos, things get a little trickier. You can read more about some of those tough nos here on a CrusherTV blog that goes a bit deeper into this topic.

And always say yes to the firm belief that whatever’s in your way is yours to crush!


I dedicated an episode of Crusher™TV to The Power of “No”, and below is the preview of that episode. Click the image below to check out the preview for more advice on how to say no.

What’s Crusher™TV? It’s not just a weekly online TV show that teaches ways to have more control in your life. It’s a LIBRARY of over 95 20-minute videos teaching ways to beat procrastination, get prioritized, get organized, manage your time, and more. You might get a lot out of watching the entire Episode 45, The Power of No, where I dig deeper into this particular topic. (To watch full episodes you can become a member for a buck and cancel any time ya like, but either way, you can preview that episode above.)



Alan P Brown CrusherTVAlan P. Brown, an internationally recognized Productivity Coach, TEDx Speaker and #1 Best Selling Author of Zen and the Art of Productivity: 27 Easy Ways to Have More Time, Earn More Money and Live Happier is the host of Crusher™TV, where he and his Guest Experts share simple ways to get more done in less time with less stress. Follow Alan on Twitter and on Facebook.


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