No parent takes the decision lightly to allow their child to take speed. But, 1 in 9 US children are currently on amphetamine or similar medications for attention issues. Child ADHD rates in the US (10%) are significantly higher than other industrialized countries (e.g. France’s 0.5%). So why do US parents think amphetamines are a good treatment option? Much of this is due to clinical studies informing primary care doctors of their safety and effective means to an end.
A recent publication is casting doubt of the safety of ADHD medications including methylphenidate (Ritaline), and amphetamine/ dextroamphetamine (Adderall). Researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital concluded that drug approval studies largely ignored safety concerns of these meds.
According to the researches, there have been 32 clinical trials on the 20 approved ADHD meds by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA); of these only 5 studies (25%) focused on safety. They also report that each ADHD drug had been approved after trials averaging 75 patients with and four weeks in duration.
Since only a small population of children have been tested and no longterm safety studies performed, it is important that parents first seek alternatives to ADHD meds before committing their usage. These medications alter a child’s brain neurochemistry in a way that may result in greater focus and improved attention. Unfortunately, they do not “cure” ADHD, but they do carry serious risks including neurological tics, headaches, irritability, insomnia, decreased appetite and even delayed growth.
When searching for less invasive alternatives to ADHD meds consider:
Decrease the sugar: research has shown that sugar stimulates that same brain areas that are often over-active in ADHD children. Additionally sugary foods lead to a roller-coaster blood glucose ride with a temporary boost and then a severe drop. Along with elevating blood glucose levels, sugar also stimulates hormones and neurotransmitters that directly effect attention and behavior.
Eat less grains: Diets high in fiber, protein, and healthy fats offer greater chemical stability over those with lots of grains. Many children (and adults) have sensitivities or allergies to wheat and other gluten containing grains. Additionally the more corn and other grains you eat, the less substantial food you consume. Skip the extra grains and have some more vegetables or fruits.
Avoid food sensitivities: Food sensitivities are not as life-threatening as food allergies, but they stimulate the immune system in a way that can result in neurotransmitter imbalances, hyperactivity, moodiness, inattention, lack of focus, poor sleep, among many other issues. A blood or finger-stick test can evaluate 96 foods to determine your body’s reaction to them. Once you know what your sensitive to, you remove them from your diet for 1-2 months and then challenge yourself with a sizable serving of a food and see if you have a reoccurrence of your undesirable symptoms.
Balance neurotransmitters: The nervous system communicates by releasing small chemical molecules called neurotransmitters. Many popular prescriptive medications alter neurotransmitters levels in order to have a desirable effect. Neurotransmitters are measurable by non-invasive means and once specific imbalances are identified a personalized treatment program can be prescribed that may include amino acids, botanicals, and nutritional supplements.
Even if your child requires an ADHD med to keep them functioning in school, incorporating the alternatives above can reduce the amount and duration of the medication which can result in less side-effects and greater long-term safety.