Is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) an Actual Disease?
The following excerpts are from an article written by Jane Sheppard on healthychild.com
Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) is the fastest growing diagnosis given to children and adolescents in the United States. We all know about it – the “problem-child” label placed on children who display difficulties learning or paying attention, or who may be judged as being overactive with behavioral problems. Parents and teachers perceive these children as unmanageable or hard to control.
What may be happening in a child’s brain to cause them to be affixed with this label? First of all, let’s eliminate any misperceptions that ADD or ADHD is an actual disease. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder has never been proven as a disease, even after 25 years of research. No abnormality or dysfunction has ever been found in the brain, and there is no concrete medical disorder or disease. According to Rita Kirsch Debroitner, R-CSW and Avery Hart, MA in the bookMoving Beyond ADD/ADHD – An Effective Holistic Mind/Body Approach, “saying that someone has ADD, with or without hyperactivity, is like saying a person has RND, Runny Nose Disorder, with or without fever.”
ADD or ADHD are labels that mental health and primary care physicians have used to describe a situation that they see frequently. The labels give them a way to talk about it and provide a simplistic explanation for an extensive array of “problem” behaviors that are likely to have an equally wide range of different and complex causes.
Fred A. Baughman Jr., MD, adult and child neurologist and author of The ADHD Fraud-How Psychiatry Make Patients of Normal Children, states with absolute certainty is that ADHD is not a disorder/disease. Referring to psychiatry, he says: “They made a list of the most common symptoms of emotional discomfiture of children; those which bother teachers and parents most, and in a stroke that could not be more devoid of science or Hippocratic motive–termed them a ‘disease.’ Twenty five years of research, not deserving of the term ‘research’, has failed to validate ADD/ADHD as a disease. Tragically–the “epidemic” having grown from 500 thousand in 1985 to between 5 and 7 million today–this remains the state of the ‘science’ of ADHD.”
Then what is really going on? I don’t want to minimize what is happening with children who really do have a problem. I just want to point out that most children given this false “diagnosis” of ADD/ADHD are perfectly normal, but misunderstood. They are simply healthy, highly active, distractible, exuberant, strong-willed kids who can be very irritating to teachers trying to teach within a rigid system. However, many parents are at their wits end with trying to find help for their children who really are “out of control”. Some children do have serious learning and behavior problems that need to be addressed. However, placing a label on them, telling them they have a brain disorder and giving them dangerous drugs is harming rather than helping them.
Giving Children Labels
Children are naturally active, exuberant, easily distracted and, at times, very uncooperative. Unfortunately, this society does not understand and honor the truly amazing exuberance of a remarkable child. Our public schools are not designed to embrace these qualities in children. Nor do they honor a child’s unique learning style and developmental readiness. Children are made to sit still at a desk for hours at a time, work on a task within the time allowed, memorize everything the teacher says is so, and be quiet little robots in order to not be distracting. When children can do this, they are considered “normal”. Those who do not comply in this stifling environment or become “fidgety” are given the problem-child label or ADHD “diagnosis”. They do not conform to society’s idea of how children should act. They are considered a disruption and an inconvenience to parents and teachers.
However, these children are usually very creative, curious and intelligent. They may have their own unique learning style. They want to learn and are quite able to do so, but cannot adapt to the typical school environment. Usually, when children are allowed to develop their own natural, innate learning abilities to the full extent in an unconstrained environment and know that their parents and teachers believe them to be capable, they will excel.
Known or Suspected Causes
What may cause a child to be more distracted or hyperactive than usual? There are many known or suspected causes, including exposure to toxins, alcohol or drugs before birth, poor nutrition, chemical or food allergies, toxins in the environment, metal toxicity and yeast overgrowth. Childhood vaccinations are linked to learning disabilities and attention problems. Routine watching of television can also be a contributing factor. Studies have linked TV to increased hyperactivity. Sadly, it is very common for children to sit in front of the television set for hours at a time.
Are Drugs The Answer?
The high numbers of children being prescribed mind-altering stimulant drugs are staggering and tragic. Since there is no bona fide disease or disorder of attention deficit, the poisoning of normal children with toxic drug treatment is not only unethical, it may even be criminal.
The drugs prescribed for ADHD (including Ritalin and Dexedrine) don’t help a child to learn better; they just calm them down. With drugs, children become more compliant and easier to control, but suffer from serious side effects. These side effects include nausea, stomach aches, headaches, facial tics, insomnia and depression, loss of appetite and weight loss. Children on Ritalin can become robotic, spacey, listless, anxious and emotionless.
According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), there has been a 1,000% increase in drug abuse injury reports involving Ritalin for children in the 10-14 year age group. The DEA classifies Ritalin and Dexedrine as Schedule II drugs, along with opium and morphine, both addictive drugs. Children without prescriptions are buying or stealing these drugs from children who have prescriptions. More importantly, it is a tragedy for children to believe that something is wrong with their brain and that a pill is the only thing to make them “normal” and be able to control themselves or function properly. This way of thinking strips children of all power and ability to make their own decisions and think for themselves. Another problem with drugs is that they do not address the cause of the problem; therefore it continues and even gets worse, due to more toxic assault on the body.
Why does the medical industry continue to prescribe these dangerous drugs to children? Why do parents accept these prescriptions? One answer may have to do with big profits. There are huge profits for pharmaceutical companies in the drugs themselves and making this into something that needs a medical diagnosis provides more business for doctors. Understandably, parents want desperately to see their child “functioning well” and welcome the drugs as an easy answer. Yet, another answer is simply that the drugs do calm children down. However, in using these drugs, there is too big a price to the child’s physical health and mental state.
Solutions and Alternatives to Drugs
Diet and Nutrition – A Huge Part of the Problem and Solution
Children have specific and complex nutritional needs that are not met with the standard American diet. It is absolutely essential to take a look at what a child is eating. As Sandra Hills, N.D. and Pat Wyman, M.A., the authors of What’s Food Got To Do With It?, point out “health and your child’s wellness mean much more than having a child who can remain quiet long enough so the adults in his or her life can get something done”. They go on to say that “learning requires optimal health and brain function; if a child is eating the wrong foods or those foods which are deficient in the proper nutrients, his or her ability to learn will be compromised.” There is no question that food affects behavior, memory and learning ability. Diet and nutrition may be the cause and the remedy of a learning disability or the behaviors associated with the ADD/ADHD label.
A typical child’s diet contains large amounts of packaged foods with unnecessary, harmful ingredients. These over-processed foods are vitamin and mineral deficient and full of pesticides. If you shop in a typical grocery store, 85-90% of foods you buy are refined and processed. Our soils are depleted of essential minerals. In addition, freezing, frying and overcooking minimize the vitamin content. Too many children begin their school day with sugary donuts or other sweets and continue to eat them throughout the day. Sugar can affect a child’s ability to pay attention and can cause them to be overactive and irritable.
In 1979-1983 one million school children in New York City were involved in a study based on the Feingold diet. Over this four-year period, the schools eliminated artificial colors, flavors and preservatives and reduced the amount of sugar in the cafeterias’ food. This resulted in a 41% increase in national test scores. For more information on the Feingold Diet, contact the Feingold Association at http://www.feingold.org.
Sugar can be a contributor to learning disabilities and hyperactivity (as well as a destroyer of general health and immunity). It literally robs the body of important vitamins and minerals, particularly the B vitamins, which are needed for thinking, coordination and memory. A child’s blood sugar will drop about 20 minutes after eating sugar, leading to a lack of oxygen to the brain. This can cause forgetfulness and affect ability to concentrate. Sugar increases adrenaline levels, which can also interfere with learning as well as increase anxiety and irritability. Sugar can be an addiction as severe as any other drug addiction. Many children are addicted to sugar, eating it regularly instead of the important nutritious foods their bodies and minds need to function well.
Allergies and Environmental Illness
Many kids who are considered to have behavior or attention problems may actually be suffering from food or environmental allergies, which can cause “abnormal” learning patterns and the inability to focus. Some of the signs to look for in detecting allergies are red cheeks, red ears, eye circles, puffy eyes, eye wrinkles, bloated belly, rubbing nose and mottled tongue. It takes some detective work to find the specific cause or causes of a child’s problem. Pasteurized cow’s milk can be one of the biggest culprits of allergies in children, and may be one of the contributing factors in the development of behavior and attention issues in some children. It may be prudent to remove all pasteurized milk products for at least a month to see if there is improvement.
Molds, dust, chemicals used for cleaning, perfumes, pesticides and other toxics may be the cause of your child’s problem. Environmentally sick schools or homes can cause a child to become very sick and display behaviors associated with the ADD/ADHD label. Doris J. Rapp, M.D., a leading specialist in Environmental Medicine and founder of the Practical Allergy Research Foundation has a wealth of information on the causes and solutions to environmental illness on her website and through the Foundation.
Additional things to look out for are chocolate, nitrates (found in hot dogs, bacon and luncheon meats), MSG, caffeine, artificial colors and preservatives, and any foods with hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils. Read the labels on almost all packaged foods and you will find some of or all of these ingredients listed.
Metal toxicity is suspect in learning disabilities. In his book Healing Through Nutrition, Melvyn Werbach, M.D. talks about several studies which closely tie metal toxicity to learning disabilities. He says the findings suggest that aluminum toxicity may play a role in learning problems. Aluminum toxicity can come from vaccines, drinking from aluminum cans, water with high aluminum content, eating foods with pesticides and additives in the soil, deodorants containing aluminum (most do), and heavy pollution. Arsenic, mercury, cadmium and lead are other toxic metals. Aluminum and mercury are present in childhood vaccines.
Even low-level lead exposure impairs children’s intelligence. Lead is present in certain paints, enamels, glass, ink printing materials, lead crystal, crayons and some drinking water. Even if the water itself does not contain lead, it still may be leached into the water from lead plumbing so it is important to check the water at your child’s school and your home. You can purchase a lead test kit for the paint in your home. There is a blood test available to test the level of lead in your child’s bloodstream. The long-term effects of lead poisoning include learning disabilities, decreased growth, brain damage and even death in children. In children with elevated blood levels of lead, symptoms include stomachaches, loss of appetite, decreased interest in play and excessive activity, fussiness or irritability.
An overgrowth of yeast in the body may be a contributing factor of learning disabilities, attention deficit, and hyperactivity in some children. Yeast overgrowth can occur when repeated doses of antibiotics are given to children. Antibiotics weaken the immune system by destroying the beneficial bacteria, allowing yeast to grow rapidly. Yeast feeds on sugar so an overgrowth can be suspected in a sugar-addicted child. William Crook, M.D. writes about this in his books The Yeast Connection, The Yeast Connection Handbook and his booklet Hyperactivity and the Attention Deficit Disorder. Getting the yeast under control may be a major step in recovery.
Read our Guide to Drug-Free Solutions for Children’s Behavior Problems to find out more about all the possible root causes that can contribute to children’s behavior problems with resources for non drug solutions.
Our guide will lead you to resources from doctors, leading experts, and parents who have had similar experiences.
We will go over various factors and situations that may be contributing or causing the behavior problem. Each factor has a link to vital information on what can be done about that particular situation. We provide links to experts, videos, articles, and helpful