Spero News

ADHD: The new stimulant threat
An estimated six million of our children are taking powerful prescription amphetamines known to speed freaks as the champagne of uppers.
Wednesday, March 01, 2006
Cathy Oats

An estimated six million of our children are taking powerful prescription amphetamines known to speed freaks as the champagne of uppers. And everybody wants the kids to take more, more, more! 

A recent report from the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), says the number of U.S. kids taking methylphenidate (brand names Ritalin, Metadate and Concerta) has skyrocketed, thanks to greedy drug companies, impatient parents, overwhelmed school systems and prescription-happy doctors. Although methylphenidate was banned in Sweden in 1968 and is considered a Schedule II controlled substance (like cocaine, morphine, opium and barbiturates), it has become the “drug of choice” in America for treating Attention Deficit Disorder — a diagnosis that teachers, doctors and parents eagerly slap on energetic kids who act up in class.

Prescriptions for Ritalin have increased by more than 500 percent in this decade, and in some schools as many as 20 percent of students are hooked on the pills. Speed freaks and cocaine fiends love the stuff, too. Some snort it, others inject it (referred to as “west coast”), some inject it mixed with heroin (called a “speedball”), while still others even mix it with both cocaine and heroin for a more “potent” high.

Kids have gotten so hooked on Ritalin that it’s among the Top 10 controlled substances stolen from U.S. pharmacies. The DEA says the drug thieves, drug pushers and drug abusers are almost always children. In 1991, U.S. emergency rooms reported less than 25 methylphenidate overdoses. By 1995, that number was up to 400 cases for children aged 10 to 14 — about the same as the number of cocaine overdoses reported in this age group. Snorting of Ritalin was blamed for three deaths.

Of the less serious side effects, children might lose weight, have problems falling asleep, have decreased appetites, exhibit zombie-like behavior, and temporarily grow more slowly while taking the medications. Other side effects can include cardiac arrhythmia, depression, psychosis, facial tics, behavior or thought disorders (exactly what it is supposed to treat), seizures, headaches, liver damage, blurred vision, drug dependence, and inclination for criminal activity.

Meanwhile, schools around America continue keeping large stashes of the stuff on hand to dispense freely to their speed-happy charges. As children become teenagers, they continue taking Ritalin and other stimulant drugs, and many believe it’s a smart drug that helps them study.

On August 22, 2002, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) published an article on the results of a study that showed methylphenidate was a more powerful stimulant than cocaine. The irony for millions of American children, adolescents and teenagers… “Just say no to drugs! By the way, here’s your Ritalin!”

Kids in School - ADD ADHA RitalinWhat Parents Need to Know
There are powerful incentives to force this drug on children. Did you know that school districts get millions of state and federal dollars to care for children who are labeled ADHD and drugged? This clearly demonstrates a possible financial incentive for schools to label/drug children. It also backs up the alarming increase and rise in labeling and drugging of children in the last decade. 

Did you know that parents receiving welfare money from the government can get additional funds for every child they have labeled and drugged? In this way, many lower socioeconomic parents (many times single mothers) are reeled into the drug by these financial incentives waved in front of them in hard times, making lifestyle changes possible. 

Did you know that by labeling your child with ADHD, you are labeling them with a mental illness listed in the DSM-IV, the unscientific billing bible of psychiatry? Did you know that a child taking stimulant drugs after the age of 12 is ineligible for military service? Did you know that the subjective checklists that are being given as criteria for diagnosing ADHD are alarmingly similar to the checklists used to determine gifted and talented children? 

Did you know that groups like Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD) and others available to parents are being supplied financially by pharmaceutical companies? This is a red flag and demonstrates a conflict of interest in the role that these groups have regarding our children’s health and well-being.

Did you know that the DEA’s statement on methylphenidate thoroughly contradicts what is being told to many parents by the many professionals who have a vested stake in the diagnosis itself? The DEA clearly stated in their report on methylphenidate, “However, contrary to popular belief, stimulants like methylphenidate affect normal children and adults in the manner that they affect ADHD children. Behavioral or attentional improvement with methylphenidate therefore is not diagnostic of ADHD” (pg 11). The DEA further states, “Of particular concern is that most of the ADHD literature prepared for public consumption by CHADD and other groups, and available to parents, does not add the potential abuse pattern or acts of abuse of methylphenidate. Instead, it is routinely portrayed as being a benign, mild substance that is not associated with abuse or serious side effects. In reality, however, there is an abundance of scientific literature which indicates that methylphenidate shares the same abuse pattern as other Schedule II stimulants” (pg 4).

Did you know that there are studies, such as the Berkeley Study, that contend that Ritalin and other stimulants further raise the risk of drug abuse? From the Wall Street Journal, Monday, May 17, 1999, by Marilyn Chase: “Nadine Lambert, a Professor of Education, followed almost 500 children for 26 years. She argues that exposure to Ritalin makes the brain more susceptible to the addictive power of cocaine and doubles the risk of abuse.” 

I find it interesting that the Berkeley Study never seems to make it into the hands of parents because it doesn’t support the theory of those using the diagnosis of ADHD to profit off our children. However, what does seem to make it into every parent’s hands are results indicating “if children go untreated (meaning they are not drugged), they will self-medicate with illegal drugs or end up as juvenile delinquents.” What most don’t know is much of the biased and unproven research (such as the Beiderman study) infecting our schools today, is being distributed by pharmaceutical companies, like Novartis, the manufacturer of Ritalin.

Diet’s Far Reaching Effects
Parents are up against the wall with this problem. Most don’t know that today’s diet is the main culprit of the ADHD epidemic. And most have never heard it said that simple meal modification and food supplement treatment may be of equal efficacy to Ritalin treatment. (Harding et al. Harvard Medical School) 

Did you know that the brand of ice cream, cookie and potato chip you select, and the type of fruit or vegetable you choose can have a direct effect on you and your child’s behavior, health and ability to learn? How about that your irritability, hyperactivity and hives could be triggered by certain chemicals in the products you purchase? Although conventional medicine has told us for years that diet has no role in ADHD, Benjamin Feingold, M.D. suggested 30 years ago in a speech to the AMA that additives — artificial colors, flavor enhancers, thickeners, bleaching and anti-caking agents, and preservatives — are to blame for the problem.

From 1979-1983 one million school children in New York City were involved in a study based on the Feingold diet. Over the four-year period, the school eliminated artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives and reduced the amount of sugar in the cafeteria food. This resulted in a 41 percent increase in National Test Scores.

Studies today continue to confirm the Feingold diet. Boris et al found that 55 percent of the children responded favorably to elimination of all food dyes and additives subsequently reacted negatively when fed a single dye such as tartrazine, or yellow dye No. 5, at various levels. The behavioral changes noted were irritability, restlessness and sleep disorders. A year later, Boris et al evaluated 26 children at Cornell Medical Center and found 73 percent (19 children) responded favorably to a multiple-item elimination diet. If a child reacted to an item, it was withdrawn and subsequently challenged to confirm the reaction. All 19 children reacted to a number of foods, dyes and preservatives. 

Girardi et al, at the Yale University School of Medicine, studied differences in the response to sugar in 17 ADHD and 11 normal children. After an all-night fast, the children drank a glucose beverage containing eight times the amount of sugar the brain can use in an hour. Then three hours after their sugary meal, both groups were given a battery of tests to measure cognitive performance. The normal response to a sugar onslaught is an outpouring of insulin, which quickly reins in rising blood sugar. The adrenal glands then release noradrenaline and epinephrine (catecholamine hormones) to counterbalance the rapid drop in glucose.  

Results showed ADHD children had only released half the amount of catecholamines as the normal children. ADHD children’s PET scans showed markedly reduced brain activity caused by insufficient glucose for processing information. Not surprisingly, their test scores were much worse than those of the children who did not have ADHD. 

Sugar did not affect all the ADHD children uniformly, however. Many became increasingly hyperactive, with the research teams concluding that the children were jumping around in an unconscious biochemical attempt to get their brains to pump more noradrenaline and epinephrine.  

Other children in the Girardi study became calm after the sugar surge; their bodies locked onto another of sugar’s effects — carbohydrates, especially sugar, raise serotonin levels in the brain, which cause drowsiness. Protein, on the other hand, raises catecholamine levels and is arousing. Parents can test children’s response to sugary foods first thing in the morning and after a protein-containing meal to determine the child’s response. In most cases, it is best to feed the child complex carbohydrates and eliminate simple sugars. Emphasis should also be placed on protein foods for breakfast and lunch, and complex carbohydrates for dinner. Adjust snacks based on when they are to be eaten.  

By customizing the diet and supplementing with missing nutrients, the faulty communication in a child’s or adult’s brain can be repaired and behavior modified. The right diet and supplements can make drugs unnecessary for kids with ADD/ADHD.

Nutrition: The Best Medicine
Nutrition is the best medicine. A complete program for a person with ADD/ADHD includes supplements as well as careful meal planning. Noticeable improvement is often seen with the following supplements: 

1. B-complex vitamins: Most commonly deficient in ADHD children. Help with correct brain function as they are important for the production of the catecholamines (mentioned above).

2. Choline/Lecithin: Needed for proper mental functioning and brain energy. Precursors to acetylcholine, the memory neurotransmitter and catecholamines of the brain which enhance the creation of new neural pathways for ease in learning.

3. Vitamin A, C and E: Help prevent and treat ADHD by protecting the nervous system from free radical attack, helping the body make neurotransmitters, and important for helping the body clear damaging metals out of the system (lead, aluminum, cadmium).

4. Amino Acids: Research indicates that people with ADHD are deficient in amino acids. Amino acids allow smooth, balanced cognition and fluid transition from thought to disciplined action. They also aid in the reduction of stress and cognitive overload.

5. Essential Fatty Acids: Support and promote the building of the body’s neural pathways especially needed by those easily distracted and who find it difficult to sustain and direct attention.

6. Minerals: ADHD children are most often deficient in iron, magnesium and zinc. Iron is the most common of all nutritional deficiencies in U.S. school children, and it is associated with narrower attention span, decreased resistance and lowered activity levels, which all respond well to supplements. Adequate levels of these minerals (and others), particularly zinc and magnesium, prevent the buildup of metals in the system in the first place. Lead and aluminum are found in cigarette smoke, while aluminum is found in the cans of the fizzy drinks kid love and drink so much. These actual metals are linked to problems with learning, behavior and the nervous system.

In Closing
A proper diagnosis with treatment that seeks to eliminate bad health habits along with a supportive home and school environment can enable a child with ADHD to effectively manage their condition and fulfill both their academic and personal potential. I encourage you, as parents, to research options and speak to your doctor about your concerns. In my opinion, simply suppressing the effects of the causes or bad habits with drugs is not the optimal approach.

Cathy Oats is co-founder of Wellness International Network, Ltd. (WIN), headquartered in Plano, TX.  WIN, its officers and employees are not engaged in the practice of medicine. The information contained herein has not, to WIN’s knowledge, been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. WIN does not sell or market its products with intent to diagnose, treat, cure, mitigate or prevent any specific disease or class of diseases. If you have a medical condition, see a qualified health professional. Outside sources stating medical or scientific opinions and other publication contributors provide information deemed to be of a general interest. Originally published at The Crossroads Initiative.

Copyright 2006 Spero