Please note that we aren’t doctors, nor do we play them on TV. Please seek medical advice from your physician if you feel like you have difficulty concentrating. This article is not substitution for medical advice/care.
In a recent post on a Facebook group page, one member wrote about her experience taking a friend’s ADHD medication for a day. She took it out of desperation before a major exam at school. Although she knew it was wrong, legally and physically, she wrote about how it enhanced her ability to focus on her studies, taking care of her home, and interestingly enough, even on her five prayers. She said that she felt, oddly enough, more “spiritually connected.” Which brings us to our question: Should Muslims use medication to focus better on prayer?
The use of prescription medications to treat ADD/ADHD in both adults and children is on the rise, and has been for the past few years. Many take the medication to help them focus on everyday tasks, their studies, and yes, there are Muslims who have admitted that a benefit to taking it has helped them focus on praying five times a day.
Ruba Odeh, a pharmacist from Canton, Michigan, said that the the use of ADD/ADHD prescription medications has been widespread amongst students in recent years.
“Increasing pressures for these students to succeed academically and to compete with their peers, combined with the ease of accessibility to these medications on college campuses have all played a factor,” Odeh said. “While more and more students are taking amphetamines to increase their academic performance, their classmates are beginning to feel the burden of leveling out the playing field. For these reasons, the abuse of these medications is quickly becoming somewhat of an epidemic with our nation’s youth.”
Odeh has mixed feelings about young Muslims taking ADD medicine to help them focus on prayers. She said she recognizes that some people truly need these medications to help them function appropriately in their day to day lives.
“The Muslim in me, however, knows that we should all be in a clear state of mind when performing our prayers, which is sometimes difficult to do when taking stimulants. It’s a gray area for me. Ideally, of course, using other techniques to try to focus on your prayers without the use of medications would be best.” tweet
Odeh goes on to say, “But I suppose prayer while medicated is better than no prayer at all. It’s a debatable topic, but one thing we can always turn to for sure is [supplication] and we should always use that when struggling with issues in our faith.”
Shirin Zarqa-Lederman, an in-home child and adolescent psychotherapist, treats children and adolescents at home using client-centered approaches rather than in a traditional psychotherapist’s office. She believes there are alternatives to ADD/ADHD medication for children and young adults to try before being prescribed medication.
According to Zarqa-Lederman, “The first technique young adults or children can try is to drink coffee or tea. Although caffeine often makes people alert, awake and sometimes hyper, often children with attention deficit disorder respond in the reverse.” Additionally, she states that they are focused and demonstrate an increase in self-control. It also gives the child a sense of confidence, since they can recognize their change in behavior as well. “It allows them to recognize they do have some control over their behavior.”
In addition, families can try other behavior modification techniques, such as implementing a structure.
“Structure is the most important element of modifying behavior for ADD/ADHD,” Zarqa-Lederman said. “Structure means that their environment and their waking hours are accounted for, consistent, and predictable.”
Other techniques include predictability, organization and routines. She said it’s important for parents to make it clear to the child what behaviors are unacceptable and not change the rules.
“When a child is aware of what behaviors are unacceptable and what consequences those behaviors bring, a child has a choice in behaving and it should be framed as such. It allows the child to understand that their behaviors are choices they make, and that they can choose to make different choices that have different outcomes.”
Zarqa-Lederman states that giving children choices provides a sense of independence, as well as an increase in their self-confidence related to their decision making skills.
Both Odeh and Zarqa-Lederman stress the importance of seeking professional advice from a neurologist or psychiatrist if one suspects they have ADD/ADHD.
Odeh said taking any type of medication without prescription is very dangerous and illegal, no matter what the reason is for taking the medication is.
“Aside from the fact that it is illegal to obtain these medications without a prescription, the many risks include, but aren’t limited to a slew of heart conditions, increased blood pressure, loss of appetite, seizures, paranoia, sleep deprivation, hallucinations, and dependency. Again, those are just a few,” Odeh said. “Even a one time dose can have a detrimental effect when given to the wrong person.”