To drug or not to drug — ADHD revisited

Ritalin is an amphetamine. In street lingo, it’s called speed.

by Dr. Martha Grout and Stephanie Reese — 

ADHD is the most common psychological problem in children and the second most common — after depression — in adults. The effort to treat the problem with drugs has made Ritalin and Concerta the most widely prescribed drugs for kids. Even news magazines comment on the drugging of our kids and ponder whether it’s a good idea.

Ritalin is an amphetamine. In street lingo, it’s called speed. Drug enforcement agencies worldwide classify methylphenidate (Ritalin) and amphetamine (Dexedrine and Adderall) in the same Schedule II category as street drugs including methamphetamine, cocaine, morphine, Fentanyl® and barbiturates. Schedule II includes only those legal drugs with the very highest potential for addiction and abuse. Selling speed to children is a felony, but feeding speed to children with a prescription is called treatment.

The August 2007 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry reported that Ritalin stunts the growth of children. Researchers documented that after three years on the psychotropic drug, children are one inch shorter and 4.4 pounds lighter than their peers.

In 2006, a Food and Drug Administration advisory panel ruled that the strongest possible safety warning (the so-called “black box” warning) be used on packages of ADHD drugs because of concerns the drugs increase the risk of heart attacks, strokes and sudden death.

Drugs like Ritalin are an effort to rebalance brain chemistry. A study by the National Institute of Drug Abuse in Bethesda, Md., showed that individuals who did poorly on cognitive tasks actually did substantially worse when using Ritalin or Concerta. This is a significant finding, because methylphenidate is commonly prescribed for those who do poorly on tasks.

If we tell our children that they are broken and require a pill to fix them, chances are good that they will consider themselves to be broken people, and remain victims all their lives. If, on the other hand, we tell them they are having trouble because they are missing some pieces of the puzzle, and here is a way they can find those missing pieces, then we are enabling them to understand that they are not victims and that there is something they can do to help themselves.

The pieces of the puzzle necessitate a holistic approach with an emphasis on nutrition. Many children with ADHD have diets full of sugar, wheat, corn and chemical additives. Many children and adults with ADHD have leaky gut syndrome, meaning their intestines are so damaged that they cannot process what they eat, and so become malnourished. In some people, ADHD symptoms can be reversed by eliminating processed foods and chemical food additives from their diets. Parasitic infections are common with ADHD, and good homeopathic remedies can correct them. Sleep deprivation is another piece of the puzzle that can be addressed through both behavioral and nutritional means, sometimes with specific supplements.

Sometimes an ADHD individual has been robbed of the ability to hear and process specific frequencies, because of chronic ear infections, severe allergies or damage from loud concerts. The ear becomes unresponsive and must be stimulated in order to be able to tune in to the desired sound. Attention, focus, learning and language abilities can all be improved by retraining the brain to listen using different sound frequencies, so that whatever is available is working at maximum capacity.

Non-drug therapies can help create lasting changes in attention, focus, memory, mood and sleep. Hemoencephalo-

graphy biofeedback (also called HEG biofeedback) can increase the blood supply to the frontal lobes of the brain, thereby affecting all areas of the brain. It is twice as effective in half the time as the older qEEG (Quantitative EEG) methods.


Dr. Martha Grout, M.D., M.D.(H), has two decades in emergency medicine and a decade in homeopathic medicine. Her environmentally friendly Scottsdale, Ariz., office, The Arizona Center for Advanced Medicine, is the exclusive provider of BrainAdvantage. Stephanie Reese is the program director at Dr. Grout’s office. 480-240-2600,

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 27, Number 4, August/September 2008.

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