HYPERACTIVE AND IMPULSIVE CHILDHOOD BEHAVIOR (ADHD)
Is Medication Really the Best Treatment?
When a child is diagnosed with ADHD, parents face a difficult choice. Will they have their child treated with Ritalin (methylphenidate) or a similar hard drug? It is not an obvious choice, especially when you know the consequences such a drug may have. Yet many parents gravitate to it when the doctor or indirectly the teacher insists on its use. But what exactly is the story with methylphenidate? What is it and what are its consequences?
By C.F. van der Horst
August 5, 2016, updated August 31, 2022. Photo by Daniela Dimitrova via Pixabay
Parents Are Being Led Astray
No one wants to see their children addicted. Any right-thinking parent will work to give the child a happy life and keep him far from any type of drugs. Nevertheless, there are numerous mothers and fathers who, as a last resort, give their ADHD-labeled children hard drugs such as Ritalin and Strattera. The book Deadly Lies: How Doctors and Patients Are Deceived says: “Ritalin [methylfenidaat] is on List I of the Dutch Opium Act among other heavy drugs such as heroin, cocaine, amphetamine, LSD, XTC and heavy painkillers.” Of course, if parents realize what ADHD medication really is and does, they will never expose their children to it.
However, parents (and teachers) are led to believe that ADHD would be a disease of the brain that must be treated with heavy drugs, often for many years. They would be seriously failing their children if they did not give them pills. However, no evidence exists for such statements. ADHD is just a name for a combination of behavioral traits. Without evidence of a cause, it is rather misleading to call this behavior a disease or disorder, which would require the use of a noted hard drug. Moreover, the long-term effects of methylphenidate on still-developing brains are unknown.
Therefore, this article briefly discusses the background of ADHD and medication. In addition, here are fourteen tips that may help—without dangerous side effects.
The National Compass, a website of the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) with information on public health and care in the Netherlands, states that ADHD or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is diagnosed in children as young as 4 years old and in adolescents. The main characteristics are poor concentration, overactivity, restlessness, and impulsivity
According to an estimate by the American Psychiatric Association, APA, 5 percent of children and 2.5 percent of adults have ADHD. Curiously, there is no medical test or scientific research that proves the existence of ADHD (or for that matter any psychiatric classification). The ADHD Label Is Purely Subjective. But even though there is no scientific basis for the diagnosis of ADHD, the alleged behavioral disorder is widely promoted.
The National Compass headlines on its website: “Better recognition gets more children with ADHD into treatment.” Previously, the label ADHD did not exist and therefore could not be stuck anywhere. With all the advertising for ADHD these days, more and more children are getting this label applied to them in abundance: the disorder is being increasingly recognized.”
ADHD is a hype that has been whipped up by the pharmaceutical industry that provides medication to treat ADHD. Unlike in the US, medication cannot be advertised in Europe. In contrast, one can advertise a disease or behavioral traits considered abnormal, such as ADHD. The goal is clear: selling drugs. It is extremely clever marketing because a label like ADHD is an explanation for a problem that parents and teachers cannot solve. The label provides hope that whatever one feels is wrong with the child is going to be addressed. False hope, because we are talking about medication that does not cure. True medicine is used for a short period of time and, by doing its job, obviates its need. Medication for ADHD doesn’t address a cause at all and must be used long-term despite its dangers. Commercially, that is a very interesting scenario.
However, long-term and chronic medication use is unscientific because there is no study that has described the long-term effects. Medication ALWAYS has ‘side’ effects and that is certainly the case with these hard drugs for children.
The Hard Numbers
Drug use for ADHD is skyrocketing. The numbers don’t lie. Especially since the year 2000, the advertising of ADHD phenomena has been thriving, so that a prescription is prescribed for the slightest agitation or unruly behavior. Especially the sales figures of methylphenidate (such as Ritalin and Concerta) are unprecedented. Between 2000 and 2013, the global use of these hard drugs for children increased by a factor of 7.5 to 1.3 million prescriptions for methylphenidate alone!
Fortunately, a change has begun. The Foundation for Pharmaceutical Statistics attributes this to the Netherlands Health Council’s advice in 2014 to be more careful with the dispensing of hard drugs. Presumably this advice alone led to greater reluctance to prescribe methylphenidate to adolescents. For example, the number of users aged six to 15 fell by 2.5% in 2015. Unfortunately, in recent years, this rate gradually increased to 7.8% in 2018. A total of 78,000 youth in this age group used methylphenidate in that year. In 2014, the number was 98,000, according to the foundation. While this development is positive, it is obviously still absurd that as many as 78,000 children are receiving legal hard drugs.
Moreover, the situation has not been addressed, as the use of another hard drug has increased alarmingly: the number of children taking the hard drug dexamphetamine in 2017 increased by a whopping 15.6%! This may be due to the fact that methylphenidate has gotten a bad name and people are resorting to other hard drugs as a result.
Ask any person from Education and they will agree that even in the past children were periodically restless or daydreamed at times. Perhaps restless behavior expresses itself more strongly today because there is a general decay of values and manners have been downgraded across the board. As a result, some children are no longer polite and do not show their parents or teacher respect. About 20 years ago, an ADHD epidemic was set in motion. Not because children were sick or abnormal, but to create a market for medication. ADHD was not discovered as a result of a medical breakthrough or a new type of laboratory research or medical test. The precursor to the ‘disorder,’ Attention Deficit Disorder (with and without hyperactivity) abbreviated to ADD, came about by a show of hands vote of a dozen psychiatrists in an office. Because there were more votes for it than against it, ADD was included as an official ‘diagnosis’ in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-III) in 1980. In 1994, DSM-IV was published and the name changed to ADHD. Registration in the DSM meant that medication for ADHD was reimbursed by insurance companies. That fact made it extremely rewarding for drug manufacturers to promote ADHD widely. If you want to sell medication, you have to sell disease or disorders. Psychiatric circles claim that ADHD should be diagnosed only after careful diagnosis following a careful psychiatric examination. As reassuring as this sounds, it is merely hot air, because reliable research does not exist in psychiatry. Randomness and subjectivity prevail. Within psychiatry, there are no tests or studies that can conclusively prove the existence of ADHD or any other psychiatric illness.
Psychiatric Disorders Without Evidence
American psychiatrist Allen Frances, editor-in-chief of the DSM-IV, wrote in his book Saving Normal about his colleagues who collaborated on DSM-5 and even more common aspects of life as psychiatric disorders in the new edition of the DSM: “They had set out to add all sorts of new mental disorders and to relax the rules for diagnosing existing ones. There were no compelling scientific data to back up the many proposals that were eventually presented to us. Psychiatric science offered exciting new insights into the workings of the brain every day, but really none of it could be translated into how we should diagnose and treat patients [nadruk toegevoegd].”
He continued, “In aggregate, the new disorders promoted so blithely by my friends would create tens of millions of new ‘patients.’ I pictured all these normal- enough people being captured in DSM-5’s excessively wide diagnostic net, and I worried that many would be exposed to unnecessary medicine with possibly dangerous side effects. The drug companies would be licking their chops figuring out how best to exploit the inviting new targets for their well-practiced disease mongering.” In Deadly Lies: How Doctors and Patients Are Deceived Frances explained, “There is no prospect of a biological test that proves a mental disorder.”
Not only is any scientific evidence for ADHD lacking, little is known of how the medication works and especially its long-term effects.
The above issues and many more are excellently documented Deadly Lies: How Doctors and Patients Are Deceived and much more extensively in C.F. van der Horst’s latest book, The Hidden Horrors of Psychiatry: Infiltrating the School System, Businesses and Your Home. The latter book details the topic of ADHD as well as mental issues in general and the role of education in ADHD.
A Very Poor Job
In 2012, Belgian molecular biologist Professor Christine Van Broeckhoven, world-renowned for her groundbreaking research on Alzheimer’s disease, said in an interview in the Belgian newspaper De Standaard: “We use way too much Rilatine [de Belgische merknaam voor methylfenidaat], Prozac and sleeping pills, that’s obvious. In that area, we are doing a very poor job. Extremely poor. We do not yet know the consequences of this at all. I hold my heart for the long-term consequences. Anything that goes to the brain that doesn’t belong there is a risk. So simple that [emphasis added].” [nadruk toegevoegd]
In 2011, the Academic Medical Center in Amsterdam reported. More than 40,000 Dutch children with ADHD or an anxiety disorder or depression are taking Ritalin or Prozac without knowing how these drugs act on young brains. What are the effects on the developing brain? Are there risks to using at a young age, or perhaps unexpected benefits. You read it correctly: our children are being prescribed drugs whose safety is completely unknown. Indeed, as you read in the very first paragraph, these are government-recognized hard drugs.
Not surprisingly, the AMC is concerned about the permanent effects of ADHD medication. RTL reported in the summer of 2016, “It appears that Ritalin changes brain function in children forever, even after they stop taking the drug. That’s according to research from the Academic Medical Center (AMC) in Amsterdam. Worrying, the researchers call these results. Because that the drug has these kinds of effects was not known before.”
Violation of UN Convention on the Rights of the Child
Providing Ritalin violates Article 24 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which recognises “the right of the child to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health and to facilities for the treatment of illness and rehabilitation of health.” Article 33 of the same treaty promises “to protect children from the illicit use of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances as defined in the relevant international treaties.”
In 2011, a judge in the Netherlands ruled that a mother was not permitted to administer Ritalin to her daughter. The lawyer, Lucy Habets, argued, “Ritalin has also been called ‘Kiddy cocaine.’ There are many studies showing that its use is highly questionable, especially in the long term. The studies are such that, in any case, great caution is in order when prescribing it. ‘Make or break children,’ that seems to be the choice for Ritalin.” Although this ruling was later challenged again, it shows how little hard scientific support exists for the dispensing of these hard drugs to children, otherwise the judge could never have made this ruling.
Criteria for ADHD
Harvard-psychiatrist Peter Breggin wrote: “The criteria for Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) focus on behaviors that adults find frustrating and disruptive. Conflicts between children and adults are redefined as diseases or disorders of children. Treatment with stimulants such as methylphenidate (Ritalin) will induce greater docility in any child (or animal) without actually improving behavior or academic performance. Parents are unaware that they are trading behavioral control for toxic drug effects. The label ADHD is given to children who are in reality deprived of proper adult attention. These children require better adult attention for their basic needs.”
The Worse, the Lighter
At times, children can be difficult. That ‘difficult’ gets worse to the extent that, as a parent or teacher, one does not know how to deal with it. It then becomes an unsolvable problem. A father or mother must be at their wit’s end that they proceed to give a hard drug to their children—with all its consequences. Physicians who prescribe them should know better. All children need help and especially love; some more than others. While some can be absolutely troublesome at times, in most cases, with the right tools, this can be addressed. A good rule of thumb is: the worse the problem, the lighter the approach should be.
What Can You Do? 14 Practical Tips
There are a number of things you can do with children, whether diagnosed with ADHD or not:
- For starters, that is, before starting medication, the aforementioned Professor Allen Frances recommends applying ‘watchful waiting.’ In many cases, children’s problems resolve themselves.
- Avoid giving medication and especially hard drugs such as Ritalin, Concerta, and Strattera. These drugs have serious side effects, including suicide.
- Sugar is a major issue. Our children are getting an awful lot of refined sugar these days and coupled with inadequate nutrition, it can cause tremendous restlessness. Parents are sometimes surprised at the results when they rigorously withhold sugar from their children. Natural sweeteners such as the natural fruit sugars in fresh fruit and possibly stevia and a little honey are better alternatives.
- Test your child for hypersensitivity to the many chemicals (sweeteners, dyes and fragrances) found in our food. According to Lidy Pelsser, PhD, researcher at the Center for ADHD and Nutrition, 60% of children get behavioral disorders from their daily diet. An elimination diet (RED) could provide relief.
- Provide whole food, organic diet with plenty of protein, fresh fruits, and fresh vegetables.
- A dietary supplement containing magnesium can calm children.
- Adequate sleep is very important.
- Have kids contribute to the family according to their ability. Make them feel like part of the family and let them contribute to it with chores such as dish washing or carrying a few of the groceries.
- Watching TV and computer games are killing the child’s imagination. The child does not learn to entertain him- or herself, but must be entertained. They become introverted because of it. Limit these activities greatly. Wherever possible, playing outside with neighboring children is the best activity.
- Give your child the attention and love they deserve, but don’t overdo it. You are also entitled to time for yourself or your partner. The child, as part of the family, needs to understand that. Explain these issues. A child understands much more than most people realize—perhaps you can remember this from when you were a child yourself.
- Be consequent.
- Although a child does not have the same rights as an adult, they do have the right to their own opinion. Respect that opinion, but keep in mind what is best for the family as a group. Explain your decisions. Understanding and patience are essential.
- If the child whines and drones, direct attention outward. Take a walk and make it observe things it hasn’t seen before. Reward your child for good behavior and make it a game by, for example, doing something fun when they clean up their room (and not doing it when they don’t). Rewarding positives is more important than punishing negatives.
- Patience is a key factor. In most cases, behavioral problems, like those of puberty, go away on their own.
Want to Know More?
How can hard drugs be allowed as medication for ADHD? In what way does the pharmaceutical industry go about selling medication? How are physicians being influenced? And what can you do to raise your children in a healthy way?
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