ADHD the epidemic of misdiagnosis and overmedication in children

by | Jun 7, 2013

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Thomas Power from director of the Center for Management of ADHD at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and US NEWS writes, recent findings that 11 percent of children have attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder raise legitimate concerns about over diagnosis, leading to questions about possible overuse of medication. This is a concern particularly in affluent communities, since rural and some inner-city communities are often underserved and underdiagnosed.
Natural News says: In one school in San Diego, 65 percent of fifth graders had been diagnosed with ADHD and put on medications. Even “normal” kids are subject to random drugging so they act like the adults in charge of them want them to… dull, placid, and compliant.
The fact is that up to 20% of American school-aged children are now on behavioral medications, according to child neurologist, Fred Baughman, Jr. MD. Parents are told to place their children on poisonous medications or their child will be refused attendance at school and have even been threatened with charges of “medical neglect.”
But ADD and ADHD are not medical conditions. There is no X-ray, brain scan, blood test, or any other medical test that a doctor can look at and say “yep, that’s ADHD alright. Just look at this X-ray. ADHD, right there, plain as the nose on my face.”. But with just 5 minutes at the right doctor’s office a parent can walk out with a deadly schedule I or II pharmaceutical prescription and a permanent medical record of ADD/ADHD diagnosis for their child.
Another fellow writes, Figures released last week showed prescriptions of Ritalin have quadrupled in the last decade — from 158,000 in 1999 to 661,463 in 2010 — with children as young as three taking the powerful medication. This massive growth comes despite warnings from experts that the more children take ADHD drugs, the more ‘rare’ but lethal side-effects, such as suicidal thoughts and psychosis, become common.
Side effects of ADHD drugs shock parents
Concerned parents weigh in following a Star investigation that found nearly 600 cases of Canadian kids suffering serious, sometimes fatal side effects suspected to have been caused by ADHD medications in the past 10 years.
Peter Kinderman, a chair of the BPS, says: ‘Children are being prescribed medication as a quick-fix rather than being given full assessments and psychological therapies, which may take longer and cost more but ultimately are better in the long run.’
Indeed, recent research proves that drug-free approaches can dispel the symptoms of ADHD.
Children on ADHD medication can be exposed to serious risks. Suicidal thoughts are among a battery of known side-effects of Ritalin-type drugs. Others include stress and anxiety, cardiovascular complaints, decreased appetite, stomach problems, dizziness, tics, skin problems and bruising. In 2009, the EU regulator, the European Medicines Agency, said all patients should be monitored for psychiatric symptoms during treatment. The agency added that, given the lack of information on the long-term effects of Ritalin, children should have treatment stopped once yearly to see if it is still needed.
‘Children who are anxious may misbehave and be fidgety, but those symptoms must not be mistaken for ADHD’
But experts say the rules are being widely ignored, often because healthcare professionals’ workloads are already too heavy to take on the job of monitoring children regularly.
Dave Traxson, an educational psychologist who works across schools in the West Midlands, adds that psychiatrists are also flouting NICE guidelines, which stress that children who show evidence of anxiety should not be put on Ritalin-type stimulant drugs.
‘Children who are anxious may misbehave and be fidgety, but those symptoms must not be mistaken for ADHD,’ he says. ‘The last thing you want if you are feeling anxious is to take a stimulant drug.’
The guidelines also advise that children on these drugs be weighed every six months, as the medication can severely shrink their appetites.
How do we prevent misdiagnosis and overmedication?
Thomas Power, US NEWS, writes that a highly successful treatment for children who are inattentive and/or disruptive (regardless of whether they have ADHD) is behavioral parent training. Many studies have demonstrated that such training is effective with children between 3 and 11 years. Less research has been conducted with adolescents and adults, but cognitive-behavioral therapy strategies have been shown to be highly promising.
Behavioral parent training tries to change environmental conditions that trigger and sustain inappropriate behaviors. This approach emphasizes the use of positive reinforcement (rewarding) for responsible or adaptive behaviors. Punishment can be appropriate when delivered less often than positive reinforcement and in a calm, non-physical manner (e.g., loss of privileges). Similar strategies can be applied in school.
Carrie Demers, MD writes; From a holistic point of view, chemical overstimulation of the nervous system isn’t healthy. Fortunately, there are many natural treatments that are effective both alone and in conjunction with drug therapy. Although my answers here are framed by the case of a child, they are applicable to teens and adults as well.
Diet and Nutrition
Despite multiple studies in the last 20 years suggesting that diet and food additives can exacerbate hyperactivity; the current medical stance is that there is no causal link between food and ADHD. In my own practice, parents who have reduced their child’s intake of sugar, refined foods, and foods with chemical additives (food dyes, preservatives, MSG, etc.) report significant improvement in their child’s behavior over four to eight weeks. These children are also less disruptive and more focused when they eat plenty of cooked vegetables and whole grains, along with moderate amounts of protein and organic unrefined oils.
Board-certified in internal medicine, Carrie Demers, MD, is the director of the Himalayan Institute Total Health Center.



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