Is Ritalin® necessary?

Ritalin®, a drug that needs no explanation to teachers or any parent dealing with a child diagnosed with attention deficit disorder (ADD), or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD.) There are almost one million children receiving Ritalin® in this country, and the use of the drug has increased by 25 percent in the past five years.

For those of you unfamiliar with Ritalin®, it is a Class-2 controlled substance listed in the same category as cocaine, codeine, morphine, and amphetamines. According to the criteria in the DMS-III-R used by the American Psychiatric Association, and the more common reference The Physicians Desk Reference, Ritalin® is addictive.

The effectiveness of Ritalin® in controlling the so called wild child was discovered accidentally­­ as is the case with so many drugs. The mystery surrounding Ritalin® and why it works remains to this day. Why does a drug that is equivalent to a high, have the ability to slow and quiet the minds of these hyperactive children? The answer actually is clouded in the mystery of the uncharted territory of the brain and brain chemicals.

Questions continue to abound surrounding the mystery of ADD and ADHD, and the best way to manage the symptoms. The good news, we have made some progress in understanding that these children are not just unruly and impossible brats by nature. The bad news, the options for treatment as far as traditional therapy, Ritalin® and other similar drugs. How difficult it must be for a parent to make these kinds of decisions. Yet these children are so disruptive in school, without treatment they are repeatedly sent home, or simply fail at everything they try due to their inability to focus­­ literally on anything! And, how terrible for the child. What must they be thinking and feeling as they find themselves unable to function in their world.

Are their other answers for these children? I have worked with parents of children diagnosed with ADD or ADHD. The results have been mixed at best. The more holistic approach to treatment is based on the premise that these children have severe allergies, not to just foods but environmental elements as well. We cannot remove our children from the classrooms or expect them to live in a bubble but given the severity of the problem it seems there ought to be some middle ground.

From my personal experience, I have had parents report that their children perform better in school, have fewer behavioral problems, and need less medication when the diet is free of dairy, corn, wheat, caffeine and highly processed foods and sugar. Needless to say, given the institutional style food we feed our children this is difficult at best. Not to mention the peer pressure the children are under to be one of the group.

Where is the middle ground? We cannot hope to control everything our children eat or do, or every environment they are subjected to, but do we really have to have pop machines in the schools? Mountain Dew, that yellow colored vial liquid has three times the caffeine that one cup of strong coffee has; colas are not far behind.

I've also had various teachers talk about the very moldy dirty carpet in the classrooms that not only seems to cause the children problems but they too seem to be suffering an increased incidence of related sinus and allergy problems. Do we really need carpeted classrooms?

The problem of ADD and ADHD is not a simple one our children face. If you are interested in reading more about a holistic approach to these disorders, there are several books in our public library. Two books by Doris Rapp MD, Is This Your Child? and Is This Your Child's World? explain in more detail the diagnosis and the problems related to Ritalin® use. Also, The Pain & Stress Center in San Antonio, Tex. publishes a helpful catalog of books and other information dealing with ADD & ADHD diagnosed children: (800) 669-CALM.

Till next time, Rebecca.

Posted to Zephyr Online February 20, 1999
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