Q: I enjoyed last month’s article about drug overuse in the USA. But what about drugs and children? My son was given a prescription of Dexedrine for ADHD, in addition to already using Ritalin LA, and I am worried about him using both of these medications. Do you have any advice?
A: So far scientists know little about the long-term effects of using powerful adult drugs in children, making the booming pediatric market a grand American experiment. The drugs have already harmed thousands of children. In 2006 researchers estimated that 75,000 American teenagers and young adults showed signs of being addicted to stimulants like Concerta, Adderall and Ritalin. (Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 2006) The data found that more than seven million Americans had misused stimulant drugs like Ritalin in 2002. In fact, on the street Ritalin is called “the poor man’s cocaine,” “vitamin R,” “smarties,” and “r-ball.” Ritalin LA and Dexedrine are approved to treat hyperactive and distractible children as young as age three. These medicines are Schedule II drugs, which are the most addictive drugs that also have a medical purpose. These drugs can have an effect similar to cocaine, as well as 28 other known side effects! (Physician’s Desk Reference)
Within the natural health community there is widespread discussion over the use of stimulants for hyperkinetic children. Considerable evidence now exists that teachers and school officials may over-pressure parents into obtaining stimulant prescriptions for their children so they will be better behaved in school.
Physicians who have used natural methods to determine the type of treatment most applicable for children with ADD (with or without hyperactivity) find an excellent percentage of results on an empiric basis. Recently Cuthbert & Barras (2009) presented a case series report about 157 children with conditions relating to ADHD, learning disabilities, dyslexia, and dyspraxia (some of the children were diagnosed as having more than one disorder). An educational psychologist independently evaluated the children using psychometric tests before and after treatment. Accompanying these evaluations were personal histories about the children from teachers, parents, psychologists, therapists, as well as auditory and visual memory tests, indicating significant improvement for all of these children using natural, non-pharmacological methods.
I am in agreement with Shaywitz and Shaywitz writing in the Journal of the American Medical Association who state, “Furthermore, it would be irresponsible to simply use methylphenidate (Ritalin®) as a panacea for all difficulties the child might experience in school; the agent is valuable for the treatment of particular target symptoms, not as some magical potion to wash away all of life’s difficulties. In this view, the criticism is not so much aimed at methylphenidate but rather at its inappropriate and sloppy use.”
In my opinion, the last four words are the most important. They point out that Ritalin® is being prescribed for children who may not require it; that all too often current drug treatment of neurobehavioral disorders fails to recognize the multiplicity of causes in children and that the most important causes (physiological and psychological-behavioral) are being ignored.
As I pointed out in last month’s article, today’s parents and their children are the first generation to grow up with omnipresent prescription drug ads. A child turning eighteen in 2012 was three years old in 1997 when the FDA weakened its drug advertising restrictions and allowed the drug companies to run direct-to-consumer ads on television.
Most professionals are still treating childhood behavioral conditions as a single problem, such as attention, learning, socialization, tics or other symptoms. However, most children with neurobehavioral disorders have a combination of many different symptoms that include sensory, motor, cognitive, academic, emotional and immune challenges, as well as dietary and digestive symptoms. When enough of these symptoms are corrected naturally and non-invasively, children improve dramatically.
Dr. Scott Cuthbert is a chiropractor at Chiropractic Health Center in Pueblo, Colorado, as well as the author of two textbooks and multiple research articles. PuebloChiropracticCenter.com.