ADHD is a diagnosis that has been given to children and adults at an alarming rate in the last twenty years. According to Dr.Mary Ann Block, ADHD, like cancer and AIDS has become an industry in medicine. Doctors, pharmaceutical companies, psychologists, psychiatrists, neurologists, pediatricians, family practitioners, tutors and schools are all involved in this multi-billion dollar industry.
The company that manufactures Ritalin, Ciba-Geigy, has revenues of over one billion dollars for the sale of Ritalin alone, to over three million people. Most are children. Currently Ritalin is a controlled substance which means that the company can only make a certain amount of the drug every year and all of the drug must be accounted for. Some support groups are petitioning to have Ritalin removed from its controlled substance status, which would make it easier for doctors to prescribe. So far this request has been denied.
The purpose of this article is to give you more information in order that you may make informed choices for your child or an adult with ADHD. Sometimes medication is needed but the principles of Vis Medicatrix Naturae compel us to stimulate the bodies own healing abilities first. This article will tell you how.
A Comprehensive Review Article published in the 1990 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry showed that 3 percent of all children had ADHD yet the rate of medication has doubled every two to four years since 1971. A survey of public schools in Baltimore County showed 5.6 percent of all elementary students are receiving stimulant medication for the treatment of ADHD. If the actual incidence of ADHD is 3 percent, there appears to be an overmedicating problem by nearly 100 percent in the treatment of so-called ADHD.
DEFINITION OF ADHD
ADHD is a psychiatric diagnosis with highly subjective symptoms that are determined by the individual making the evaluation. The effects of such labels can have a long term devastating effect on the self esteem of the individual resulting in depression as well as drug and alcohol abuse in adulthood. Careful diagnosis and treatment of the cause of the disorder is essential to a positive long term outcome. Choose an evaluator carefully.
If the evaluator believes that a child should be seen and not heard and be able to remain seated for long periods of time then the child is more likely to receive an ADHD diagnosis. If the evaluator thinks that children should be allowed to act like children, speaking out and moving about, then the child is less likely to receive such a diagnosis. The true diagnosis is based on his or her behaviour at home and or at school. If the child's behaviour interferes with either, then he or she has a problem that needs to be addressed.
A complete definition is outlined in Dr. Mary Ann Block's book "No More Ritalin Treating ADHD Without Drugs" which she has taken from the Diagnostic And Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 4th Edition.
The symptoms of ADHD have been around forever but the name of the disorder has changed numerous times as the medical profession learns more about it. A more appropriate name might be Attention Deficit Disorder With or Without Hyperactivity. This makes it easier to find the underlining cause.
The Attention Deficit Disorder without Hyperactivity is usually a processing problem where children use the right side of their brain to learn instead of the left. The school system is based on left brained learning which emphasizes logical thinking, auditory and visual learning. Right brain learning is more learning by tactile; learning best with the hands. These children are usually very creative in their ability to sing, write, draw, paint and play a musical instrument. They are also very bright and can compensate for this learning difference until the fourth or fifth grade when lecturing and writing assignments are put on blackboards. Albert Einstein, Leonardo de Vinci and Thomas Edison all had problems in school.
These children should not be labelled as learning "disabled" but rather as having a learning "difference" and learning techniques should be adjusted accordingly. Contact Dr. Block's Centre (see resources) for more information on learning techniques as well as alternative treatments for so called ADHD.
80 - 85 percent of children with ADHD receive drugs while only half that number receive behavioral and educational modifications. The biggest downside of drug therapy is that children get into the habit of taking drugs.
The current philosophy is that no one outgrows ADHD. The problem is a lifetime one. 80 percent of children with ADHD retained the symptoms at the end of eight years in spite of medication, behavioral modification and educational modification. 20 percent showed improvement at the end of eight years which is a very low success rate when is comes to treating our most important asset in society - our children.
Methylphenidate, (Ritalin) is the most commonly prescribed drug for ADHD. Its effects last only four hours. Dr. Block calls this "pediatric cocaine" as this drug has the same receptor sites in the brain, and gives the same high, as cocaine In medical research they are used interchangeably. The only difference is that cocaine is more addictive.
Short term side effects are loss of appetite, decreased growth, tics (as in Tourette's syndrome) visual disturbances, nervousness, insomnia, depression, social withdrawal, irritability, weakened immunity, anemia, abdominal pain, increased heart rate and psychotic-like symptoms. A recent rat study showed high doses of Ritalin given to mice may cause hepatoblastoma, a rare form of liver cancer. There have been no cases yet of this cancer in children; however long term studies are not complete.
In fact, the long term effects have yet to be discovered. The drug insert that comes with the medication states that it should not be used unless environmental causes of the problem have been ruled out and that the drug be used concurrently with academic and behavioral modification. It should also not be used in children under the age of six.
There is a possibility for the child to become psychologically dependent and require stronger and stronger doses for it to work. Kids have discovered that they can snort it and get a high. According to ABC's 20/20 show of October 27 1995, teachers and pharmacists are stealing it, parents are selling it and children are snorting it. Tim Benedick of the Ohio State Pharmacy Board states that Ritalin is addictive and that it is speed. Ritalin should never be discontinued without medical supervision.
Side effects of Ritalin addiction include strokes, hyperthermia, hypertension and seizures. Several deaths have been attributed to Ritalin abuse and emergency room admissions due to Ritalin abuse were 1,171 in 1994 (in the US).
This drug was popular before Ritalin but has been used less frequently in recent years. It is also a controlled substance that has been sold as a street drug. During the sixties it was commonly used as an appetite suppressant before it was discovered to be highly addictive and too dangerous for adults to take on a regular basis. Now it is given freely to children with ADHD. It has similar side effects to Ritalin.
The next most popular drug for the treatment of ADHD. Side effects are insomnia and liver damage with continued use. Its only indication for use is for the treatment of ADHD. It is a stimulant with numerous side effects. It is not recommended in children under six years of age.
IMIPRAMINE HYDROCHLORIDE (TOFRANIL)
This is a tricyclic antidepressant and popular for the treatment of ADHD. It is used for the treatment of depression as well as bedwetting. It has not been approved for use in children under six years of age. Side effects include cardiac, neurological, endocrine and digestive problems. Withdrawal symptoms can occur after prolonged treatment and following the abrupt withdrawal of the drug.
This is an antidepressant that is used less frequently than the others. The drug insert states that it should not be used in children at all. There have been reported cases of sudden cardiac death in children treated with this drug.
This is an adult medication for hypertension and is not indicated at all for the treatment of ADHD but children are being treated with it.
With the increasing abuse of Ritalin we may see more and more children on Prozac as an alternative.
The Comprehensive Review Article mentioned above, states that the long term use of these drugs did not improve sustained attention, retention of information, anger control or scholastic achievement. Hyperactive children, treated or not, attend fewer junior colleges and universities, failed more grades in high school and dropped out more frequently.
Most support groups emphasize conventional treatment for ADHD. The most popular is C.H.A.D.D. According to Dr. Block, Ciby-Geigy has funded the group with $800,000. These groups are very informative about conventional treatments. However you will have to learn from different sources, the methods discussed here .
CAUSES AND TREATMENTS OF ADHD
Dr. Ben Feingold in his book "Why Your Child Is Hyperactive" states that some children are allergic to food additives, natural food salicylates or aspirin. The most common offending foods are dairy, wheat, corn, soy, yeast, citrus, egg, chocolate, peanuts, artificial colours and preservatives. Results of a study in 1994 in the Annals of Allergy, showed 73% favourable response to elimination of these foods. Food allergies can be determined with IGG Testing such as the RAST skin testing, ELIZA blood test or food elimination according to Dr. Breneman's work. Note that IGE testing, routinely done by MD's, is a test for food anaphylaxis and is therefore not accurate for long term allergies or food sensitivities. Watch out for food withdrawal symptoms, such as irritability, within the first 2-3 days after avoidance. Food rotation every four days prevents further food allergies from developing.
The mineral content of food, even organic food, has dwindled terribly in the last 50 years. In an effort to relieve mineral deficiency the body will absorb heavy metals which are now readily found in our environment. Common deficiencies include calcium, magnesium, essential fats and all the B vitamins.
Basic supplementation should include: B1,2,5,6,12, folate, calcium, magnesium, zinc, carotene complex, vitamin C, vitamin E, Evening Primrose Oil, and Flaxoil (essential fats are important in brain development and general cell membrane function). Dosages will vary according to the age of the child. Dr.'s Block and Dr. Lendon clarify this in their books or see your local naturopathic physician.
This is a state of lowered blood sugar due to lack of eating, eating high sugar content foods or in response to stress when the adrenal glands are forced to overwork. The symptoms are many and include the common symptoms of ADHD. Small meals should be eaten frequently and many children do much better with a protein breakfast (meat or eggs, if tolerated).
Complex carbohydrates such as raw vegetables, beans and rice maintain the blood sugar for longer periods of time. Whole cooked cereal in the morning is preferable to any of the packaged cold cereals. Snacks of proteins such as soy, nut butters, meats or white cheese are good in-between meal snacks. Stop all processed foods, including all soft drinks especially diet ones. Make sure water is ingested up to 8 glasses a day. Dr. Block recommends using Alka- Seltzer Gold to neutralize food reactions when they are severe and eating doesn't remedy the situation or when the child refuses to eat.
Rule out hypothyroid and hyperthyroid conditions. Hypothyroid conditions are best diagnosed using Dr. Broda Barnes technique of evaluating basal body temperature. Dr. Block finds hyperthyroidism in a small percentage of cases, so she routinely screens for this.
HEAVY METAL TOXICITY
Aluminum and lead are the big culprits here. Hair analysis is diagnostic. Avoid mercury amalgams in the mouth and you may consider having them removed. Nutrients such as vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, zinc, garlic and a high fibre diet help to chelate heavy metals from the body. Sources of aluminum to avoid are pots, deodorants, baking soda, and soda pops. It is very difficult to avoid aluminum in our food because it is commonly used in many types of processing such as in pickling.
We live in an overstimulated society where children are brought up with the TV as a baby sitter; Nintendo rather than romping in the woods, eating in fast food restaurants where the service is fast (and they want you to eat fast too), movies which are speedier, scarier and more violent than ever, fluorescent lighting in schools, larger classrooms, more exposure to non-ionizing radiation from computers, microwaves and power lines. Our society places little value on tranquility, quiet solitude and the simple joy of nature. Kill your TV for starters or at least do a TV fast for at least 2 weeks for the whole family and see who is the most addicted.
Like parent like child. There are many adults who are only now being diagnosed with ADHD who have had it their entire lives. Whole families may be leaping about, staying up late, all talking and jiggling at once according to Dr. Lendon Smith. These parents may think that a relatively calm child is sick.
Inadequate nutrition during pregnancy (including alcohol, drugs and smoking), emotional stress during the pregnancy, and stress at birth may all play a role. Breast feeding provides the baby with the best nutrition in terms of immunity and studies have verified that breast fed babies are smarter than bottle fed babies.
INFECTIONS (MENINGITIS, HIGH FEVERS)
These infections have been shown to predispose children to problems and are important symptoms in treatment using homeopathy.
Fluoride inhibits the enzyme phosphatase which is responsible for the assimilation of calcium and other minerals. Check to see if your local water is fluoridated and, if so, use only reverse osmosis water in all your cooking and drinking. I recommend this in most cases because of other water contaminants such as copper, lead, aluminum and asbestos. I do not recommend the use of any fluoride in toothpaste, in the treatment of teeth or in vitamin drops.
This is a topic that is outside the scope of this article except to recommend that you obtain an information package from Health Action Network Society at 1-888-432-4267 before you start or continue to immunize.
Yeast overgrowth in the gut according to Dr. Crook, author of "The Yeast Connection", is a contributing factor in the manifestation of ADHD. Dr. Block has also seen bacterial, parasitical and malabsorption problems in the gut which contribute to ADHD. For diagnosis and treatment, read Dr. Crook's book and see a naturopathic physician. Diet changes include a yeast- and sugar- free diet.
I suggest my parents of children of all ages to read "How To Raise Your Acting Out Teenager" by Bayard and Bayard. Techniques in this book are aimed at creating boundaries for children, teenagers and parents and then maintaining consistency.
This is a very effective adjunct treatment for ADHD. "Ritalin Free Kids", as outlined in the resources section is an excellent source of information for this type of treatment.
Many naturopathic physicians use homeopathy in their practices in addition to all the above recommendations. I hope that you now feel better equipped to pursue research on this difficult problem for you and your family. Remember if you start with one change a month, you will have undergone 12 changes by this time next year and I am positive you will reap the rewards of such changes.
ADD: The Natural Approach by Nina Anderson, Howard Peiper
Feed Your Kids Right by Dr. Lendon Smith
No More Ritalin Treating ADHD Without Drugs by Dr. Mary Ann Block
Ritalin Free Kids by Judith Reichenberg-Ullman, Robert Ullman
The Yeast Connection by Dr. Crook
Hypothyroidism by Dr. Broda Barnes
The Feingold Association
Alexandria, VA 22306
Sensory Integration International
1402 Cravens Avenue
Torrance, CA 90501-2701
1120 Royal Palm Beach Blvd #283
Royal Palm Beach, FL 33411
The Block Center
1721 Cimmaron Trail
Hurst, TX 76054
Send a self addressed envelope and they will send you a catalogue of their services and programs.
Dr. Pincott has been practicing naturopathic medicine since 1985 and is currently practicing in Campbell River. She can be contacted at 250-286-3655, 1-800-898-6699 or www.DrPincott.com
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