Friday, December 31, 2004

A Question on Natural Medicines for ADHD

I received the following letter today. I hear rhis type of complaint a lot. I wanted to publish my response to it.


My son is add. We tried for two years the Natural Path way, which we were not seeing any change for the better.
We do not like the side effects that any drug besides the Natural way does to a child. I have friends who children are on these drugs (not natural). The side effects are unreal, should not be given to any child.

What do you do when your at a stand still to do something for the better of your child. We have read books to no end results. VHS tapes we have watch put no results. Counselling with other parents and no real results. What do we really do that does not greated Health problems later in there lives. Please let us know of any answers you know of thats positive.

Sincerely -

Here is my answer.

Hi -

I share your concern. Drugs do cause side effects, and these side effects can be a problem. As physicians, it often is upon us to make an unpleasant choice. We have to choose between the side effects that certain medications cause and their beneficial effects. This is not always easy.

With drugs like Ritalin, the side effects are mostly nuisances. With other psychiatric medications, the side effects of the drugs can be serious health risks.

The long term effects are also a concern. Again, Ritalin has few known long term side effects. Other drugs can cause serious and permanent damage.

So it is not always easy to decide whether or not a child should take medication. Often we have to weigh unpleasant alternatives.

For example, when considering giving Ritalin we have to judge which is worse for the child, loss of appetite and rebound effects of Ritalin or the years of ridicule and social failure that an untreated child experiences. Now I admit that it is my opinion, but usually I feel that condemning a child to be labeled as a failure and a "discipline problem" during his formative years in school, not to mention setting him up to be a social outcast, which has life time
ramifications, is much worse for the child than the side effects of Ritalin, which for the most part can be eliminated if the treating psychiatrist is someone with experience.

Doctors have to make the same choices when recommending mood stabilizers for conditions like Bipolar disorder. These drugs are not like Ritalin. They have known long term common and sometimes very serious side effects. But untreated, Bipolar disorder has about a 20% suicide rate. This death rate is higher than it is for some forms of childhood cancer. Yet no one questions using chemotherapy, which is basically a regimen of selective poisons, for a child with cancer. So even though we are quite aware that we will very likely be causing the child serious long term problems by placing him on a regimen of mood stabilizers, we may be saving his life.

I do share your concerns about medication. This is one of the reasons I researched natural alternatives. I wrote my findings in How to Help the Child You Love. In it I discuss the 35 or so treatments that have evidence to support that they work. I want to point out that there are probably over 100 things being pushed on the market today for treating ADHD naturally. Most are completely worthless, but some are actually harmful. Just because something is natural doesn't mean that it is harmless. (Go here if you want to know more about How to Help the Child You Love or you want to know more about ADD ADHD child treatment).

Without knowing your son or his specific problem, it is impossible for me to make a recommendation. However, if my child had been failing the "natural approach", then I would try a more conventional approach to treatment. That does not mean I would give up on a natural solution. I would still pursue the treatments mentioned in How to Help the Child You Love, since there is a very good change that once I find the right one it would partially or even completely take care of his symptoms. However, I would start him on medication. I would not allow my child to suffer while I was searching for the right natural treatment.

I hope this helps you. If you would like a more specific recommendation I will need to know more about your son. If you give me more information, I would be very happy to offer you advice about natural treatments that might be suitable for him.

Have a great New Year.


Anthony Kane, MD

ADD ADHD Advances

How to Help the Child You Love

"The Authoritative Guide on How to Manage Your ADHD Child
and Give Your Child the Best Possible Future"

Go here for help with ADD ADHD Child treatment

How to Improve Your Child's Behavior

“The definitive online course to help you to teach your child better
behavior and to help you become a more effective parent.”

Go here for child behavior help

Anthony Kane, MD

ADD ADHD Advances

Anthony Kane, MD is a physician and international lecturer. Get ADD ADHD Child Behavior and Treatment Help for your ADHD child, including child behavior advice and information on the latest ADHD treatment. Sign up for the free ADD ADHD Advances online journal
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