I saw this article in yesterday's New York Times about treatment for A.D.H.D. I had no idea that 2.5 million kids in this country currently take drugs to treat A.D.H.D. symptoms. That's a lot of kids. Tara Parker-Pope, the article's author, is quick to point out how many lives have been positively affected by these treatments, and I'm sure that this is true. But Parker-Pope also addresses the 2006 FDA decision that warnings be included with many of the popular drugs used for treatment of A.D.H.D. "...[M]any parents were alarmed when the Food and Drug Administration ordered...that stimulants like Adderall, Ritalin and Concerta carry warnings of risk for sudden death, heart attacks and hallucinations..."
You bet many parents were alarmed.
Parker-Pope goes through a list of alternative therapies that parents have tried and doctors have investigated, with varying degrees of success. And while she acknowledges that alternative therapies are harder to study, because they are so often used in concert with one another, she points to this 2007 study in the U.K.'s The Lancet as tangible evidence of a successful alternative treatment.
Apparently, diet plays a significant role in either increasing or decreasing hyperactivity symptoms. The study "examined the effect of artificial coloring and preservatives on hyperactive behavior in children. After consuming an additive-free diet for six weeks, the children were given either a placebo beverage or one containing a mix of additives in two-week intervals. In the additive group, hyperactive behaviors increased."
I find this really interesting, and in line with the idea that eating more organic and less processed foods is truly beneficial to our health. We do not have much regard in our culture for alternative treatments or holistic healing, but perhaps some of that is changing, thanks to studies like these. I would never argue against medication or its benefits. But I do believe that it can be used more sparingly than it currently is and that it can be used in conjunction with other healing methods.
If this is something that interests you, you can check out The Integrative Pediatrics Council where you can find a list of doctors who support alternative treatments. Parker-Pope spoke to the Council's Chairman, Dr. Lawrence D. Rosen, chief of pediatric integrative medicine at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey who said "'I do prescribe medications in my practice, and there are kids whose lives have been saved by that...But it’s a holistic approach that is very different than one pill, one symptom. We’re addressing not just the physical, chemical needs of kids, but their total emotional and mental health.'"
It is this truly holistic approach that interests me, rather than only using drugs to treat symptoms. I think too many of us are on too many drugs. We're on so many drugs that our drinking water is contaminated with the presence of literally dozens of pharmaceuticals. If we start caring for our minds and bodies, if we start being mindful of how we live and what we ingest, we might find that we have fewer symptoms to treat in the long run.