ADHD Insights: Adrenal Compromise And Copper

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Adrenal Fatigue, Copper And Too Many Stimulants ADHD or Adrenal Exhaustion Differentiated With Copper Findings

Many are treated with stimulants for ADHD because they're so tired, dull, listless and simply can't think. They can't get out of bed, they are exhausted through the day, and, of course, they manifest a significantly  compromised executive function.

Diagnosis on one level, quite right: EFD, ADD, ADHD. But if the [EFD] Executive Function Disorder is created by a different, unidentified problem than straight ADHD, the meds don't work no matter how carefully you titrate the dose. Reconsider that challenging Roving Therapeutic Window I've mentioned so repeatedly in these CorePsych articles.

ADHD is the surface symptom, not the underlying problem.

Outcome For Missed Copper Diagnosis

The outcome of missed diagnosis: overdose with stimulants, simply because they don't effectively treat adrenal compromise with consequent Chronic Fatigue.

It may look like Chronic Fatigue [Chronic Fatigue Syndrome – CFS] associated with ADHD, but could arise from an entirely different element – yes, trace element imbalances.

Copper Walks Into The Brain

Check out these few remarks on adrenal dysfunction and copper in Why Am I Always So Tired?  – by Gittleman, and see if any of this rings a clinical bell:

Copper has antifungal and antibiotic properties, while zinc [copper's balancing companion] has antiviral effects. … those with chronic viral presentations typically have low zinc and high copper, e.g. Epstein Barr, mono, hepatitis. [Slow metabolism, low zinc and copper elevation create significant intractable medical problems with mind consequences] [pg 57-59]

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome [CFS] is [often] connected to copper overload in another way. Numerous studies have suggested a strong link between CFS and adrenal gland dysfunction; some practitioners believe that all individuals who have CFS have weak adrenal function. … adrenal burnout is a common consequence of copper overload. It's no coincidence that adrenal burnout and CFS are both characterized by a feeling of adrenal exhaustion. [pg 60]

viral symptoms and associated tired body, mental racing, anxiety, exhaustion, depression, insomnia and skin problems are all associated with copper excess.1

We discover these copper excess issues associated with adrenal fatigue so often associated with chronic refractory, “untreatable” ADHD.

It's worth considering. You can't treat targets that you don't see.

Dr Charles Parker
Author: New ADHD Medication Rules – Brain Science & Common Sense
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1Prasad, AS, et al, Trace Elements in Human Health and Disease, Vol 1: Zinc and Copper. New York: Academic Press 1976


  1. […] reported copper challenges here at CorePsych in previous posts [1.adrenal/copper, 2. brain/copper] and linked to Dr Gittleman’s interesting book Why Am I Always So Tired? […]

  2. Becky says:


    (Age 45) I’m so confused. I had saliva cortisol tests done multiple times and all say my cortisol is way too low during the whole day and a little high at 11:00pm. Also neurotransmitter saliva tests done. Now I’m diagnosed ADD/inattentive type. I’ve tried alternative therapies (taking low dose cortisol, calming herbs etc.) but all seemed to backfire on me causing headaches, candida infections etc. I know I have had symptoms of low motivation, depression, hypothyroidism fatigue, ibs, food intolerance, migraines all my life. What should someone like me do? Will ADHD meds make me worse? Do I try once again to treat Adrenal Fatigue?

    Thanks so much!! Any help is appreciated.

    • Becky,
      If you have Candida history, chase it down and treat it absolutely. See my last post here, and these tests: – look at the video on OATS in that pdf… it’s outstanding and will make you want to become a Candida Killer ;-).

      Bottom line, nothing – adrenals, supplements, vitamins, medications for ADHD, meds for depression, neurotransmitter precursors work if you have candida. Answer the questionnaire, get the testing [preferably the OATS, IgG and TMA] and then go kill those buggers. If we can help give us a call for a brief chat outlined here:

  3. Graham Goodall says:

    Hello Dr Parker,

    Not sure if you are able to help me but I have been diagnosed with ME/CFS 5 years ago and I also have symptoms of executive dysfunction as you can imagine. I have only ever dealt with ‘traditional’ doctors who suggest pacing, sleep, and to avoid over exertion.

    There are many ‘alternative’ docs but I like your comprehensive approach turning over and measuring

    Have you ever helped those living with ME and if so where is a good place to start in terms of testing – I am only able to hold down a part time job but remain focused on becoming well.
    Look forward to hearing..

    • Graham,
      We do provide consults on these matters by testing more completely on a neurophysiologic level. My standard set of tests for these presentations is at this link: – The top 3 are most likely to give you additional information: OATS, IgG, TMA, and all have links to their labs. We don’t upsell testing, but charge for interpretation time. Those consult details are here through an appointment by phone, Skype:

      Likely with those three tests it would take 1.5 hours to review your history and provide specific recommendations. We’ve seen many with CFS associated with multiple psych complaints, but have never seen a “fully diagnosed” ME – even though some may have suffered with that comorbid malady undocumented. I became interested in these matters when they so often appeared with psych conditions that didn’t improve with “standard care” and patients wanted a more comprehensive review of treatment failure.

  4. Mike says:

    I work in an electric motor rebuilding shop. We used to grind copper coils clean for years! We always use a dust mask but no doubt some copper dust gets by. I could literally taste it when I got home from work!
    Maybe that’s something I need to test for as well as the “Trifecta”!

    • Mike,
      Another home run. Actually could be Cu or a variety of heavy metals. I’ve been working w a kid [10 yo] whom everybody said was bipolar, unable to attend school, freaking out repeatedly over the slightest insult and furious for hours. Refractory to mood stabilizers… looking pretty much untreatable. Father died in the car accident, mother in coma for 3 weeks, boy coma for 1 week and, to get to the point, had breathed the smoke for several minutes in the car fire after the crash. Trace Elements were loaded, loaded to the top w Cd-Cadmium and Ar-Arsenic.

      Balancing him out carefully with multiple supplements he cleared w/o a heavy duty chelation effort, and he is becoming a funny regular kid with a bite of welcome sarcasm in his eyes. Pretty amazing – and this is not bragging. I don’t take credit. I give full credit to that loving, persistent mom, and the lab that did that testing: Trace Elements. The team together, the evidence and data is what will turn that boy around.

      • Mike Collins says:

        Wow,that’s quite the story!
        I really am quite shocked at how the medical community is so quick to prescribe drugs for symptoms without doing any testing whatsoever. My doctor has never checked my thyroid or checked for anemia or sleep disorders or anything else that can contribute to mental disorders.Never asked about exposure to heavy metals, etc. I even asked him “Is there any other conditions that have ADHD-like symptoms that maybe I should get checked for?” and he said “No”. I find that very hard to believe.
        Your approach is the future for sure. That’s what most people want.(At least the chronically ill).
        I believe it’s called “functional medicine”. Is that correct?

        • Mike,
          It is the future, and it is now. Evidence matters. I’ve seen too much institutional thinking on both sides of the fence to feel completely comfortable w the “functional medicine” designation. Yes, operationally, the preferred approach to challenges should always include functional considerations… implying the full spectrum of biomedical inquiry and treatment. Often overlooked on the “functional” side of the fence [in contradistinction to the “traditional” side], however, is the real value of psych meds that save lives and families. Yes, I think functionally all the time, but I don’t want anyone to think that’s my only perspective – so I’ve chosen the more science-based, less inflammatory term, one that anyone can subscribe to: Comprehensive Medicine.

          Having said that, it’s true that the functional med folks are already thinking more biomedically than traditional folks – their measurement tools and lab strategies do provide more comprehensive information – but too often they take the inappropriate position that psych meds don’t work and drop that treatment opportunity, most often because they simply don’t know how to use them.

          Thanks for your kind remarks, and for joining me on this more comprehensive Path.

      • Drew C says:

        I have been taking 20 mg of adderall for the last 10 years. Every time I go to the pscyo it is the same thing, “keep doing what you are doing”. I don’t want to take the adderall but I can’t function without it. I know there is an underlying problem but I just don’t know where to begin. My diet is great, sleep is good. But I still wake up every morning exhausted and cloudy. Where do I begin? Please help!

        • Drew,
          It sounds like you do suffer from a comorbid adrenal challenge and the only way to remove the speculation is to do specific testing. We can provide consultation and testing long distance if it works for you – see: to schedule with Desiree a Brief Chat and I can answer a few more questions at no charge. Also see my video playlist on the PM Drop: – more links there on each of those YouTube descriptions below the videos.

          See especially #6 of 7 – The Energy Drop.

  5. What a great article.

    I’ve got ADD symptoms which I didn’t realize until I started to get a huge number of ADD/ADHD coaching clients and needed to really bone up on the disorder. I realized that one of the reasons I was so good at coaching them was that I had developed all sorts of work-arounds in my own life for executive function problems and focus problems.

    However, I also work with a chiropractic neurologist and have had a lot of physical issues that we’re working on, and medication just seemed like a really poor choice for me. I have autoimmune reactions to coffee, so the possibility of really taxing myself in terms of autoimmunity seemed high if I took medication.

    We just recently discussed the possibility that I might be experiencing copper toxicity from my IUD! However, we’re trying a few other simple things first (increasing water intake, doing spinal rehabilitation to increase nerve conduction to various organs, exercising 30-60 minutes each day). We’ll reassess in three months. The copper IUD is on the list of things to assess next (via saliva and hair sample analysis).

    I’m so glad that you’re looking at this issue through this multi-faceted lens. The topic is complex and deserves a nuanced assessment.

    • Great job Lora,
      This is such an interesting time to be on the Path of brain/body discovery – a book you might want to take a look at is Why Am I Always so Tired by Gittleson[?] – and if you haven’t see my recent playlist here’s an easy link to use med problems as instruction tools:

      Thanks for your input – the hair thing still seems pretty odd, but, BTW, it works!

  6. […] ADHD Insights: Adrenal Compromise And Copper ( […]

  7. disqus_koIy1oMi1V says:

    What could a combination of Copper or other heavy metals, coupled with stimulants or other medications, added with weeks of soot inhalation do to a compromised immune system?

  8. disqus_koIy1oMi1V says:

    ADHD & many stimulants coupled with too many biochemically produced medications for Treating any Symptoms vs. Finding the Problem leaves far too much room for further compromising already compromised body/brain/blood systems. Immune System, Gastrointestinal, cognitive/executive, so on and so on.

    Any unidentified problem other than straight ADHD that goes ‘untreated’ or un-diagnosed, does indeed become manifested, sometimes is exasperated, with worse possible outcomes for whatever that condition may be. Whereas the stimulants or other medications instead cover up the primary condition that’s being inadvertently missed.

    • These challenges, as you so correctly report, are far more common than currently appreciated… with the result that many spend thousands of dollars on treatments that miss the several marks because the simply aren’t considered… because, of all things, they just aren’t popular. Sounds like the 7th grade.

  9. disqus_koIy1oMi1V says:

    Interesting. Both my child and I had “Adrenal Insufficiency”. He suffered from “medication adverse reactions” not once were we tested for copper, and I have CFS/Fibro/immune dysfunction. It would seem feasible that my kid could possibly have the same issues. Why must it take so long to find the accurate diagnosis, adequate treatments, and attempts to obtain a Quality of life without seeing so many doctors who choose to use medication as a first line of treatments for what very well are secondary conditions caused by the delayed, or misdiagnoses of the primary conditions? An educated proactive self advocating patient is the only way to maintain Self driven recovery.

    • The world is only slowly catching up with the science. I just saw someone yesterday that had exposure to 1. copper pipes her whole life, 2 copper IUD for about 10 years, and 3 get this: worked in a copper plant as a supervisor for about 10 years. Results aren’t in, but symptoms argue strongly for Tissue Mineral Analysis.

      And you are quite right: It’s my mission, through this citizen journalism to inform the public, they won’t get it though the popular press, and to many wait for the institutional thinkers to come around. There is no harm in testing, only the challenge to understand it.

      • disqus_koIy1oMi1V says:

        Interested in learning more about “tissue mineral analysis”. My grandfather worked in a copper plant for many years as well! He suffered with severe migraines.Genetically speaking, wondering if the familial predisposition of neurological conditions, severe migraines, immunologic deficits, autoimmune conditions etc, have somehow been passed on through the “Blood” brain barrier thresholds-having some relativity to “Copper exposure” over extended amounts of time.

        Being a possible existing connection that was un-recognized or tested for, perhaps Dna/genetic testing of family members at this point could clarify the cellular structure or any mutations that could indicate sensitivity to such elements as Copper, or others that are found in our pipelines, our soil, our drinking water etc.

        Thank you for bringing this forum to the public citizens. Your knowledge and expertise is eye opening for many Dr Parker, You are at the helm of bringing the challenge known as progress with a willingness to inform, inquire and question that which is yet to be understood 🙂

        • Copper toxicity takes, as you might suspect, many forms. Psychosis, hallucinations and depression lead the most obvious presentations, but another pervasive and increasingly appreciated problem is dramatic fatigue with adrenal compromise.

          • Mike Collins says:

            Very interesting!

            I’ve been working in a electric motor rewind shop for over 20 years. All my co workers have been there for longer than that. We used to grind field coils clean so we could reuse them. We still do occasionally. You could practically taste the copper that got past our dust masks.

            Now I know why we are all crazy!! It’s not just me!

          • Mike,
            Just as this article documents I’ve seen several completely psychotic with copper a substantial contributor! Ouch! Wear those masks!

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