Pediatric Power: Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

Pediatric Power: Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

ADHD is becoming one of the most common diagnoses given to children today. Among the approximately 38 million U.S. children ages 5-14, more than one-and-a-half million are currently taking Ritalin regularly for this condition. This represents a 250% increase since 1990.

The rate of Ritalin use in this country is at least five times higher than in the rest of the world. ADHD has become America's No. 1 childhood psychiatric disorder. Experts believe that more than two million children (three-to-five percent) have ADHD. The National Institute of Mental Health estimated that approximately one child in every classroom will experience it.

If you are thinking that these statistics seem staggering, you are right. ADHD is a condition too commonly diagnosed and often misdiagnosed. Psychiatrists nationwide report that approximately 50% of the children sent to their offices as ADHD referrals are actually suffering from another ailment (learning disabilities, depression, anxiety, etc.). Others are simply normal kids, many of whom are highly intelligent.

There is an ADHD checklist professionals use as the basis for their diagnosis. Included are such crimes as:

- Inattention: loses things; is easily distracted; pays little attention to details, makes careless mistakes; has short attention span; is forgetful in daily activities.

- Hyperactivity, impulsivity: fidgets, squirms in seat; talks excessively; blurts out answers before questions are completed.

These symptoms, however annoying or difficult to deal with, hardly seem worthy of plating a child on a potentially dangerous drug. The biggest problem of all lies in the diagnosis. The extensive testing that should be completed prior to labeling the child as ADD or ADHD is often not completed.

And, not only is this testing not finished, but often the children are in the doctor's office for less than an hour prior to being prescribed medication. Drugs such as stimulants like Ritalin, Dexedrine, and Cyclert. Or antidepressants like Tofranil, Norpramin and Elavil. These medications -- like all drugs -- have side effects including: insomnia, irritability (for which it is being prescribed), dizziness, and other more serious ailments.

Teachers and parents are demanding a "quick fix" and medical doctors are willing to prescribe it. If the pediatrician should refuse, parents will simply take the child to a doctor who will. The sad part is, there are no definitive long term studies to determine whether this stimulant is causing harm to children.

Additionally, much of the public is unaware of the monetary connection between a parent advocacy group, and Ritalin's manufacturer. After a year-long investigation, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) determined that financial ties exist between Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Disorders (CHADD) and Ciba-Geigy, maker of Ritalin. They discovered that Ciba-Geigy funded much of CHADD's $2 million budget.

In 1993, the U.S. used 85% of the world's supply of the drug, methylphenidate, commonly known as Ritalin. Sales in 1995 alone topped $350 million, and its use continues to rise. A very powerful drug, Ritalin is classified by the DEA as a Class II controlled substance. This places it in the same category as cocaine, methadone and methamphetamine, with similar side effects.

Teenagers have discovered Ritalin as a new way to get high. It has emerged on playgrounds and campuses. It is known as "Vitamin R" and is sole for $3-15 per pill. It is then crushed and snorted like cocaine, or cooked and injected.

It is sad to see these types of abuses -- pushing and prescribing -- occurring in our culture. Children who are passionate, energetic, and healthy are being penalized for expressing themselves.

Children need to be routinely checked for VSC as they are often not able to articulate the devastating effects of subluxation. Unable to describe the stress and tension they feel in their nervous system, it becomes expressed in other ways. The nervous system dysfunction can lead to disruption of the body chemistry. This disruption can manifest itself as the symptoms of ADHD. As chiropractors, we can and should help these children who are so in need of a solution.

We live in a world of fast food, fast cures, due dates and deadlines. Parents are often impatient and sometimes unwilling to seek out the proper diagnosis. Preferring the easy solution, they are turning to Ritalin with alarming frequency. Rarely is it suggested that children receive behavior modification therapy, special help in school, and the chiropractic care they really need.

In today's society, it is common for both parents to work. The children are shuffled between school, a babysitter and the TV to keep them occupied. Taking a daily dose of Ritalin seems like a simple solution to a complex problem.

This may have been what musician Kurt Cobain's parents thought when they placed him on Ritalin as a young child. After becoming so wound up at night from taking Ritalin, he was unable to sleep. This resulted in the doctor's prescribing barbiturates for him. Taking pills to change his state became a way of life, perhaps the start of what resulted in a very unhappy existence. After failing at several suicide attempts by overdosing on pills, he finally shot and killed himself.

This story is all too familiar. It's unfortunate Cobain's parents were never told about the devastating effects of subluxation upon the nervous system. His life could have been drastically different had they known.

The positive effects of chiropractic on children with ADHD is amazing. Under chiropractic care, they bring home good reports from school, many for the first time ever. Patients are thrilled to stop taking their daily doses of Ritalin. Their self-esteem raised, they find a new lease on life.

People need to stop looking for an "outside-in" solution to an "inside-out" problem. Generally, children are now being given the message that they need to take drugs in order to be healthy. They don't realize that health truly comes from within, or that they have the control to direct this energy in a positive manner toward success and happiness in their lives.

It's obvious that we have a big job to do. But by working together, we will have a profound impact on the future of our society.

The Chiropractic Journal.

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By Stuart Warner

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