Just how effective is prescription medication in the treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder?
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is a disorder wherein an individual demonstrates an inability to focus their attention completely to the same degree as individuals considered to be normal. They are easily distracted by a host of stimuli; they are unable to screen out some stimuli in order to concentrate on other stimuli. To do so is considered a natural capability of the brain, eyes, ears, and other senses, therefore is the inability considered to be non-normal, or a disability. ADHD differs from ADD in that it contains a hyperactivity component that further debilitates the ADD native from coping with or compensating for his/her disability.
Since its recognition in this last 30 years or so, the orthodox medical establishment has, of course, sought drugs to compensate for this disorder. This is, in part, because the orthodox doctor's first rule of thumb seems to be, and continues to be, medicate first, solve second, prevent last. I'm not saying this is wrong, but there is such a thing as carrying something too far.
Before I touch on my opinions of how alternative medicine can benefit natives with this disorder, let me share some basic medical facts on the various drugs used in the treatment of this disorder and my experiences with these drugs as the parent of an ADHD male who has been treated with Ritalin, Imipramine, Doxepin, Catapres, and Prozac between the ages of 10-1/2 and 16yo. I will also include some insight as the family friend cum babysitter of another ADHD male child and insight from my son, when 18yo, as to what he himself remembers of those periods when he was under medication.
ADD/ADHD is currently being treated with three "groups" of medications, in a specific order of preference (by the medical establishment). Doctors generally begin by using Group One Medications then, if and when these prove inadequate, moving to Group Two Medications, then to Group Three Meds. Statistically speaking, about 70-80% of children will respond to one of the meds in either Group One or Group Two (or a combination of these) and 20-30 percent will be "non-responders". More on non- responders later in this article.
Group One Medications are stimulants and are supposed to work by increasing the concentration of the neurotransmitter, norepinephrine, at the nerve interface. Examples include Methylphenidate (Ritalin), Dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine), and Pemoline (Cyclert)
Of these three, my son was only on Ritalin. He was in the Fourth grade and, during a blow up at school, had made his first suicide threat. Since his verbalization was more towards killing himself than just suggesting harm to others, this suicidal "ideation" (meaning a carefully thought out plan of action) was acted upon with considerable hysteria by the school and counseling personnel. Whilly nilly my son was ensconced in a psychiatric hospital as an inpatient, in the pediatric wing. At the end of a week of observation and analysis, it was the recommendation of the staff that he be prescribed Ritalin. He was medicated for two days in the hospital before being released, with the recommendation that because he had shown a complete arrestment of his ADHD traits under Ritalin he should continue on it indefinitely.
Ritalin, however, as a stimulant (think Speed), also acts as an appetite suppressant. I took Speed once, for a week, unknowingly. While in Germany, a friend recommended it for weight loss and gave me the bottle, acquired locally. I found I was running at super speed, ate little, drank dozens of cups of coffee throughout the day, and was so wired I frequently went back to work in the evenings (I had a key) because I was not sleepy. By the end of the week, though I had lost a few pounds, I basically crashed, exhausted, and only after I had discontinued the stuff did I later learn what I had been taking.
(IMPORTANT NOTE: Whenever making comparisons between drugs using patients who are under 21yo, the primary variable of comparison should be body weight, IMHO, NOT height, age, race, gender, or any other factor. This should be obvious, if you think about the published cautions on alcohol and driving, which suggest the amount it is safe to consume depending on weight.)
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