Blog Post Series 3: ADHD- Nondrug Treatments

Posted on November 30, 2010


Now it’s time to learn about the other side of the coin: the non-drug side. According to the June 17, 2008 article in the issue of the New York Times, almost a third of the 2.5 million children prescribed with stimulant drugs for attention and hyperactivity disorders have experienced troubling side effects. Some of the side effects include decreased appetite/weight loss, abdominal pain, insomnia, and personality changes. As a result of this and the fact that prescription drug treatments ONLY temporarily reduce symptoms, to no surprise, approximately two thirds of children diagnosed with ADHD have resorted to alternate forms of treatment. Because scientific research has not yet formally established the value of alternative treatments, parents should be informed that the efficiency of these treatments are based off anecdotal experiences. However, just because alternative treatments lack scientific confirmation, does not mean that they do not work!

First and foremost, we must be aware and understand that every one is different. Every  individual has their own body chemistry and physiology, in which they react to things accordingly. For this reason, when taking the non-drug approach, prepare to have patience because these types of treatments take a lot of time,observation, and are not instant. To give you a better idea of how these treatments work, with the help of Nancy Witting’s article, “Nondrug Options for ADHD,” here is a list of some of the alternatives:

Change in Diet

Of course people would automatically assume that sugar intake would induce hyperactivity in children with ADHD.  From a 2007 study, University of Southampton researchers found that,” in fact artificial coloring and preservatives can cause an increase in hyperactive behaviors.”

-In order to monitor the effects of diet changes, eliminating only one food/additive at a time, and monitoring behavior closely when you reintroduce after an elapsed period of time is best.

-Research has found that by adding vitamins and supplements to your diet, it can help the deficiency in magnesium, zinc, iron, and vitamin B6 that some children with ADHD lack.

-The Journal of the Pediatric Clinics of North America has also found more evidence that omega-3 fatty acids found in fish can also be helpful.

Biofeedback Therapy

In biofeedback therapy, children use their minds to control a body function that the body normally regulates automatically. For instance children with ADHD have sensors attached to their body and to a monitoring device in order to exercise the parts of their brain that relate to attention and focus. In doing so, they can learn how to control this bodily function with their minds. Studies published in the Journal of Neurotherapy have found that up to 86 percent of people with ADHD show improvement in attention, impulse control, and information processing speed from this therapy method. Also, studies have found a reduction of problems associated with ADHD such as seizures, nightmares, bed-wetting, and depression.
Vision Therapy

There is a theory that faulty eye movement and sensitivities can cause behavioral problems. In the treatment of vision therapy, the objective is to train the patient’s brain to use their eyes to receive information effectively, quickly comprehend it, and react to it appropriately.  Such procedures are designed to enhance the brain’s ability to control eye alignment, eye movements, focusing abilities, and binocular vision.

In a study at Northeastern State University’s College of Optometry, 62 children completed a course of optometric vision therapy. Data of symptoms were collected before and after the therapy. The final data analysis found that the average of the total scores were significantly better on post-test than on pre-test.

There are many other types of behavioral and non-drug treatments out there for ADHD, but these are just a few so that you get the idea. These alternative treatments are becoming more widely known and are being experimented with. Babysitting for a new family, I myself have just recently been informed on these certain types of treatment for ADHD from the mother of three children who are all subject to ADHD and who are NOT on medications. I was actually given certain tasks when watching after the kids to perform two of the alternatives listed above: the vision therapy and the diet change. I found all of this so interesting that I wanted to do more research on their effectiveness. Therefore, concluding in my next and last blog, I will compare the drug and non-drug approaches for treatments of ADHD and provide anecdotal experiences.

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