By Dr. Mercola
According to a 2010 US
government survey, 1 in 10 American children now has attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD
)—a 22 percent increase from 2003. ADHD makes it hard for children to pay attention and control impulsive behavior.
This is a more than 400 percent increase
in ER visits due to adverse reactions to such drugs in a mere six years! According to the featured article in Forbes Magazine1
“The population group studied was 18-34, but the rise was most dramatic among 18- to 25-year-olds, Federal officials say.
The report, which was published August 8th in The DAWN Report2, a SAMSA publication, also warned that heart and blood vessel damage has been linked with 'nonmedical' use of the stimulant drugs, based on a 2012 study reported in Brain and Behavior3.”
This, I think, should demand the attention of politicians like Senator Durbin, who claims to be oh-so-concerned about the dangers posed by supplements
. But no, hypocritical to a fault, Durbin is nowhere to be found when the issue of dangerous drugs come to the fore.
Misuse of Behavior-Modification Drugs Is Rising Dramatically
The DAWN report highlights the growing trend of prescription drug abuse
, and reveals that more than half of these youngsters—primarily college-aged—obtained the drug either from a friend or relative, free of charge. Seventeen percent purchased them from someone they knew.
Other reports also show a dramatic spike in ADHD drug abuse.
“Data from I.M.S. Health4 found that 48.4 million prescriptions for ADHD stimulants were written in 2011, a 39 percent jump from 2007. More importantly, close to 14,000 new monthly prescriptions were written for ADHD stimulants, up from 5.6 million in 2007,”
the featured article states.
Far from being recognized for their potential health hazards, these kinds of stimulants have gained a reputation as “cognition enhancers” among students and young professionals seeking to gain an edge.
Unfortunately, it’s exceedingly easy to fake ADHD symptoms in order to secure a prescription, and as noted in a 2008 study published in the Journal of American College Health5
“Of the study participants, 34 percent reported the illegal use of ADHD stimulants. Most illegal users reported using ADHD stimulants primarily in periods of high academic stress and found them to reduce fatigue while increasing reading comprehension, interest, cognition, and memory.
Furthermore, most had little information about the drug and found procurement to be both easy and stigmafree.”
Meanwhile, the potential side effects of ADHD drugs are actually quite serious. Certainly, no one should take them without being under a competent doctor’s care:
In related news6
, US health officials have launched a federal probe into the use of antipsychotic drugs on children in the Medicaid system. According to a study of data from 2004, kids using Medicaid were prescribed antipsychotic medications four times more often than those with private insurance. In 2008, more than 19,000 children under the age of five received Medicaid prescriptions for antipsychotics. Most shocking of all, the study also found that Medicaid prescriptions for antipsychotics were issued to children younger than one year old!
It’s exceedingly difficult to fathom a situation that would actually warrant giving a toddler an antipsychotic drug... After all, medications cannot address the underlying cause of aberrant behavior.
What Is ADHD, and What Causes It?
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) involves a cluster of symptoms that include inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsive behaviors. Often, children with the conditions may struggle in school and with relationships, and suffer from low self-esteem. The similar term attention deficit disorder (ADD) has largely been replaced with ADHD, as it describes two of the most common symptoms of the condition, inattention and hyperactive-impulsive behavior. Most children display a combination of these two traits, along with the following symptoms7
|Frequent fidgeting or squirming||Has difficulty playing quietly||Always seems on the go|
|Feels restless or often runs and climbs excessively, or leaves his or her seat in the classroom when not appropriate||Talks excessively, interrupts often, and may blurt out answers to questions at inappropriate times||Has difficulty waiting his or her turn|
|Frequent daydreaming||Frequently has problems organizing tasks or activities||Difficulty following through on instructions and apparently not listening|
As you can see, many of these “symptoms” could describe virtually any child, or most children, at one time or another. As such, those who display these symptoms at school but not at home or with friends are not considered to have ADHD. Ditto for children who display symptoms at home but not at school. Only children who struggle with inattention and hyperactive or impulsive behaviors around the clock are deemed to have ADHD—although a 2010 study published in the Journal of Health Economics8
determined that about 20 percent of children are likely to have been misdiagnosed...
The cause of ADHD remains elusive, and according to psychiatrist Leon Eisenberg, who was hailed as the “scientific father of ADHD,” the disorder is “a prime example of a fictitious disease.”
Eisenberg made this confession in a 2012 interview with the German paper Der Spiegel, just seven months prior to his death9
at the age of 87.
Still, behavioral problems, just like emotional problems, do exist. The question is, why does it seem to affect so many these days?
One plausible theory places the blame, at least in part, on exposure to environmental toxins. For example, a 2006 study10
found that a mother's use of cigarettes, alcohol, or other drugs during pregnancy could increase the risk for ADHD. The study also suggested that exposure to lead and/or polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) can cause ADHD symptoms. Pesticide exposure
has also been linked with ADHD.
Unfortunately, few are focusing on basic nutrition, which I believe is a key factor. We know that the food choices of most children and adults today are incredibly poor, and how can you possibly expect a child to have normal behavior if he is fed refined grains, sugars, and processed foods loaded with chemicals and largely devoid of natural nutrients? Four dietary factors of particular concern are:
- Too much sugar
- Gluten sensitivity
- Too few beneficial bacteria
- Omega-3 deficiency
Too Much Sugar and Gluten Can Trigger ADHD Symptoms
The number of children being harmed, perhaps for life, by unnecessary drugging is truly heartbreaking. Especially when there are so many simple and safe, not to mention healthier, alternatives. Many are reluctant to adopt unproven strategies, but the great news is that many of these non-drug alternatives are indeed supported by science. Besides, why would you opt for a drug that issimilar to cocaine
as the first-line of treatment for your child—or for yourself?!
The two most oft-cited dietary villains that can trigger ADHD symptoms are sugar and gluten. This automatically makes grains of all kinds a primary food to avoid, as most grains not only contain gluten, but also turn into sugar in your body. There is evidence11,12
suggesting that gluten sensitivity may be at the root of a number of neurological and psychiatric conditions, including ADHD, is quite compelling. As stated in one 2011 study13
“Celiac disease is markedly overrepresented among patients presenting with ADHD. A gluten-free diet significantly improved ADHD symptoms in patients with celiac disease in this study. The results further suggest that celiac disease should be included in the ADHD symptom checklist.”
Gluten is a protein found in grains such as wheat, rye and barley. In those with celiac disease, gluten triggers an immune reaction that damages the small intestine and prevents absorption of nutrients. People with gluten sensitivity, which may comprise 10 percent of the US population or more, experience many of the same symptoms that celiac disease causes, including headaches, fatigue, muscle and joint pain, gas and more.
Scientists now recognize the deep interconnectedness between your gut and your brain, and there’s little doubt that chronic inflammation in your body can wreak havoc on your brain function. Hence, reducing inflammation in your gut is imperative when addressing mental health issues,14
and it’s quite common for people to experience a wide variety of mental and emotional health improvements once they eliminate gluten from their diet.
Behavioral Problems Are Closely Linked to Poor Gut Health
The gut-brain connection
is well recognized as a basic tenet of physiology and medicine, and there’s a wealth of evidence showing gastrointestinal involvement in a variety of neurological diseases, not just ADHD. Your gut and your brain are actually created out of the same type of tissue. During fetal development, one part turns into your central nervous system while the other develops into your enteric nervous system. These two systems are connected via the vagus nerve, the tenth cranial nerve that runs from your brain stem down to your abdomen. So in a very real sense you have two
brains, one inside your skull and one in your gut, and each needs its own vital nourishment.
As explained by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, a medical doctor with a postgraduate degree in neurology, toxicity in your gut can flow throughout your body and into your brain, where it can cause symptoms of autism, ADHD, dyslexia, dyspraxia, depression, schizophrenia and other mental disorders.
Link back to Mercola.com for more on this topic plus a good video.