Dramatic Increase in Diagnosis
The United States has seen a huge increase in the diagnosis of ADHD in children ages four to 17; in fact, there has been a 16 percent rise since 2007. More shocking, we’ve seen a 53 percent increase since 2001—which means about 6 million U.S. children diagnosed and around 4 million taking prescription medication as of 2011. And it’s not just school-aged kids that are on meds, adults between the ages of 20 and 39 are filling nearly 14 million prescriptions for ADHD each month.
Symptoms of Normal Behavior?
In his article, “Misdiagnosis, Anywhere,” psychiatrist Dr. Peter Breggin presents excellent food for thought: The typical symptoms of ADHD—hyperactivity, impulsivity and inattention—are actually quite common and normal behaviors for young children. He also points out that if these behaviors (not symptoms) become excessive, then it’s appropriate to look at the root of the problem instead of choosing a quick fix. Dr. JeriJo Vandenhoven, D.C., Chiropractic Director of Chiro One Wellness Center of Lansing, agrees with Dr. Breggin, “People want an answer and sometimes the ‘simple’ solution is to say they have this disorder and put them on medication,” she states.
Consider the Cause
Dr. JeriJo strongly recommends parents (and doctors) consider other factors and causes of behavior before placing a child or young adult on medication. “In some cases, other factors are not addressed—such as nutrition, family environment, school or social stresses—before placing a child on medication,” she explains.
One less obvious factor that may cause behavioral changes or issues in children is nutrition. “Fast food, processed food, sugar-filled food, additives and chemicals have become common place in the United States,” she describes. “We know these directly affect health, development and behavior, and interestingly, we’ve seen an increase in ADHD-like behaviors in kids with poor nutrition.”
Medicate with Caution
Dr. JeriJo warns parents to be prudent with medications and only choose this as an option when absolutely necessary. “Medications alter the body and brain chemistry and the child could face long-term health issues from misusage or side effects,” she cautions. Prescribed use of common ADHD drugs like Ritalin and Adderall have been connected to weight loss and stunted growth. There’s also some evidence these medications may affect children’s social and creative development.
If you’re worried your child may be displaying some of the symptoms common to ADHD, talk to your partner and doctor about addressing other factors that may be causing these behaviors and consider natural treatment options before medication, if possible.