Q: My grandson has been diagnosed with ADHD by his GP. He has always been a very lively lad but since starting secondary school last year has found it difficult to concentrate on his school work and lately has become disruptive in class. Her GP mentioned him taking Ritalin but I would be interested in looking at more natural alternatives. I would be grateful for any advice you can give me. Thanks for your time.
A:Thanks for your email. It seems a pity that GPs are not looking at the reasons behind behaviour problems instead of offering medication that does nothing to rectify the underlying biochemical imbalances if the reason is physical. Prescriptions for Ritalin have more than doubled in the past decade. In the UK there has been a seven fold increase since 1997. In Ireland the HSE spent 2.5 millions in 2012 on ADHD medications, the highest spend being on Ritalin at 1.3 million.
Ritalin works by stimulating the part of the brain that controls our mental and behavioural processes. This drug does not come without side effects. It has also been known since 1986 that methylphenidate, the generic term for Ritalin, causes shrinkage of the brain. A study that appeared in Psychiatry Research (Vol. 17, 1986) states: "The data in this study are suggestive of mild cerebral atrophy in young male adults who had a diagnosis of HK/MBD during childhood and had received stimulant drug treatment for a period of time." The power of methylphenidate is closer to cocaine than aspirin.
I would certainly not consider giving any young child a drug like Ritalin due to its side effects, long term repercussions and because the causes of ADHD are not being addressed. Sometimes children find the transitions to Secondary school difficult as it comes with its own challenges. The transition from childhood into adolescence can also be problematic for some children when they lack the vitamins, minerals and essential oils that they body needs in order to step into this new stage. I would suggest addressing your grandson’s diet, making sure that he is getting sufficient protein from lean cuts of meat (meat is high in zinc), incorporating a wide range of vegetables and some fruit into his diet and also takes a high quality krill oil supplement which helps with brain development and with mood. I would also monitor his exposure to smart phones and to the internet which can be quite addictive, causing dopamine rushes to the brain flooding his immature brain with feel good chemicals. This can lead to a lack of concentration in school as the brain is used to being overtly stimulated by cyber images. I would look at his sleeping levels as a growing boy needs enough sleep to be able to concentrate the following day. His mother could try massaging magnesium oil onto his feet at night before sleep and make sure that all electronic equipment is out of bedroom when he goes to sleep. It's also a good idea for him to spend time outside and to perhaps encourage him to take part in a sport. I would also advise him to drink sufficient fluid as dehydration has a stress effect on the brain and can cause children to act up and misbehave.
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