Currently viewing the tag: "ADD"

One of the biggest messages I try to put forth in this blog is that human beings are amazing self-healing, self-regulating life forms.  We operate under the laws of the universe, and as such, by obeying some very fundamental principles regarding life, our ability to experience great physical health and well-being is magnified.  It doesn’t matter whether you have any particular genetic, anatomic or physiologic disposition–you can experience great health, as well as a fulfilling life, by observing basic principles.

This is as true for the “normal” individual as it is for the ADD-labeled person.  Whenever somebody comes to me with this or that problem, my first investigation as a doctor is to find out if they are observing the basics.  So that’s what I want to finish off with regarding ADD.  It’s of mega-importance that your ADD-labeled child is practicing the healthiest lifestyle possible.  But take note, and do not mistake this very crucial point: What I discuss here is NOT a treatment regimen for ADD.  I do NOT believe that an attention deficit is a disorder, therefore nothing needs treating, especially as we would think in a mechanistic sense.  Instead, what I put forth here will allow any child to thrive physically and mentally, because these are fundamental health principles.

There are no absolutes when it comes to health.  No one practice is more important than another–let’s just get that straight right from the beginning.  Instead, health is like a puzzle, and each practice is a piece to that puzzle.  I will for brevity’s sake only touch upon each puzzle piece.  If you want more, then I highly recommend reading my book, The Six Keys to Optimal Health.  In it you will find most of these points discussed in full detail, along with tips on how to best implement and maximize each practice.

First and foremost is diet and nutrition.  It should go without saying that good nutrition is paramount to a healthy functioning body, but I wonder sometimes.  Too many parents feed their children foods that are, well…suspect.  Here is a basic: foods should be whole and natural.  I’m not saying organic or hormone free or anything like that.  If that’s what you prefer, awesome!  But what I mean is “not processed”.  Lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh meats and dairy, wholesome grains, minimal sugar, minimal fast food (or none at all, like my kids), and definitely, with no exception: NO SODA!

Soda consumption should be the biggest no-no for an ADD-labeled child.  No, I don’t think soda causes ADD.  Soda is garbage for anybody, and that much sugar consistently cannot be conducive to mental sharpness.  Sad fact is that many parents will have to kick their own liquid garbage habit, too, if they want to keep their kids off it.

Next is exercise*.  Kids need to spend time playing and moving!  Period.  It is a standard recommendation for ADD-labeled kids to exercise often, and I couldn’t agree more.  Get your kids moving everyday–that’s what our bodies (and all life forms) are meant to do.  Don’t try operating outside of universal laws and then also expect good health. *Check out this interesting article on children, exercise balls, and focus.

Next, bodywork.  If you haven’t taken your ADD-labeled child to see a chiropractor, then you are doing them a great disservice.  Subluxations (misaligned and stuck vertebrae) are extremely disruptive to the nervous system and the mind.  I have seen hundreds of children go into a state of ease and calm following a chiropractic adjustment.  Time to learn more about chiropractic and give it a try if your knowledge and experience are limited.

**Throughout these posts, a regular reader and friend, has been kind enough to share her understanding and insight of primitive movement patterns and neurological development.  I am so fascinated and intrigued by this field of study that I intend to investigate it further.  She swears by its benefits, and I respect her knowledge and judgment.  I will keep you informed as I learn more.  Thank you K.O.

Sleep is next.  But we could just as well call this rest and recuperation.  If your child is not sleeping properly, then they are aging faster and breaking down more quickly.  Sleep is essential to life.  Many metabolic and regenerative processes occur while we sleep.

And don’t discount dreaming.  Although we still understand little about this ubiquitous function, I believe it has an important role in our mental brain states (no, I do not think dreams are symbolic).

If your ADD-labeled child is on Ritalin, then I would expect his or her sleep to be disrupted, particularly deep and REM sleep.  Think about that–it’s just another way that these dangerous drugs can hurt your child.  If they are also hopped-up on soda…(sigh) heaven help them.

Next is minimizing toxins.  Lot’s of things are toxins, but the ones I find most prevalent and damaging are…drum roll pleaseprescription and over-the-counter drugs.  Nothing wrong these meds periodically when needed, but as a society, Americans are way too over-medicated.  Just look at the Ritalin numbers: 90% consumed in the U.S.  Sad.

Finally is the mental health.  When it comes to your ADD-labeled child, they want what every child (and every person, for that matter) wants–love and acceptance for who they are.  So, again, help them find what they love–they know what it is, because they do it all the time.

Be it sports, be it music, be it socializing, be it fashion–find it, nurture it, and help them be inspired by it.  Pressuring your kid–directly or passively–is not going to help.  When a child senses that you are worried, frustrated, or disappointed, they know it; and trust me this only will add to their stress and inability to perform.  Let them know you love, honor and support them in whatever they love doing, and they will reward you by excelling.  No, they may never excel in school, but plenty of people live amazing lives that were not the result of traditional schooling.

There you have it–like pieces to a puzzle.  Each one important, but neither more-so than any of the others.  In fact, they work synergistically, but I’ll leave that topic for you to read in my book.

Once again, I sincerely hope I’ve helped people facing some tough decisions regarding their own ADD-labeled child.  If I can have helped you see your beautifully unique and gifted genius in a new light, then I am pleased.  If I’ve influenced you to reject the dangerous chemical poisons that the ADD establishment wants to numb your child on, then I am honored.  If I’ve given you some ideas on how to inspire your child to be all that they can be, then I am utterly grateful that I could contribute.

Thank you for reading.

I’ve spent the entire month of December commenting on ADD.  I neither think it’s a disorder nor do I see the current medical treatment for this non-disorder as being on track in any capacity.  So what would be my solution?  Well, I always say that ADD is just another way of saying “genius”.  Inside every person lies a genius–the secret is to find and nurture what that genius is.

Studies have shown that highly creative people have a greater propensity for mental illness in their families.  No surprises there, as many have the perception that creative genius and mental disorders go hand-in-hand–think Vincent van GoghA recent Swedish study, however, has shown that highly creative healthy people have similar brain chemistry features as schizophrenics.

The similarities are in the levels of dopamine receptor activity in the thalamus (the area responsible for sorting information before it reaches conscious thought).  People in the study that had the lowest dopamine receptor activity also had the greatest ability for divergent thinking (e.g. finding many solutions to a problem).  Previous studies have also shown that schizophrenics have lower dopamine activity in the thalamus.  But more importantly, who sees the connection to ADD?

If the current thought on the pathophysiology of ADD is correct, then the brain of an affected individual also has diminished dopamine levels.

Disorder?…or genius?

I’m not making a statement on whether the current thought on dopamine levels in ADD is right or wrong.  I am simply making the point that we do not yet know every working detail of the brain.  Treating what is seen today as a brain disorder with very powerful drugs has to have ramifications.  And when we consider that this pharmaceutical treatment is being tested on our children (you better believe the kids are guinea pigs—read my previous posts…and here….and here), it makes anyone wonder how this must be affecting and shaping the developing brain.  I’m sorry, but I just can’t advocate this kind of experimentation on children.

I contend that having an attention deficit is common to all people at one time or another—no health professional or serious thinker will dispute this fact.  The question, then, is whether the ADD-labeled child actually has a “disorder” that is disrupting his or her life.

Answering this question really takes thinking outside the box. Consider that we are all, to one degree or another, subordinate to societal norms and parameters.  But norms change. Case in point: Fifty years ago it would have been unheard of for cursing to be a viable part of mainstream communication. To do so repeatedly might have led the cursor to be branded with his own diagnosis of mental illness. Today, however, cursing is not only “in”, it appears to be making great strides within the mainstream, inserting itself into the common language.

My point is this: Yesterday’s norm is today’s old-fashioned behavior. Staying focused in a 19th-century classroom setting is hardly a virtue today. Education is bound to change as we have seen gross inadequacies of our educational system. Perhaps then we will see that children who are currently considered problems in the classroom simply have a different way of learning. Perhaps they are inspired by things not taught in the classroom—that was most definitely my experience up until college.

albert-einstein-62931_640 (Copy)Perhaps your ADD-labeled child is a genius musician, or welding artist, or skateboarder, or party promoter, or social networker, or computer programmer, or business person, or something else we don’t even know exists yet. How will we freakin’ know if we numb and shape our children’s brains with hard-core drugs?

I’ve avoided attacking parents in these posts because I understand how difficult it must be to make decisions when the cultural health authority dictates how it is. But, now, I must say: Parents, why would you even consider giving any mind-altering drug to your child when you don’t know how it might affect their brains in the long-term? Why would this even be a consideration? Is it because you don’t know what else to do? I’ll accept that. But you’re reading this now; and if you haven’t read the previous posts, then please do so. If it comes down to the choice between tampering with your child’s brain or doing everything you can to tap into his or her hidden genius, then c’mon…is this really a difficult choice?

student-315029_640 (Copy)Every child has a genius inside waiting to be expressed. Some know it from day one, but most of us have to find ours. It can be a godawful labor trying to focus on something that…is…just…as…interesting…as…a bag of rocks (which is certainly interesting to a geologist!). Help your child find his or her genius—it’s there! Then relate all academic material to their inspiration, their loves. I guarantee that your child will be able to focus when seeing how it relates to what he or she loves. Just as every person has trouble focusing at one time or another, every ADD-labeled kid has things that they do that present no attention problems whatsoever—this is also an indisputable fact.

I hope these posts have given you adequate information to make good decisions. Remember that ADD is just another term for “untapped genius”. Next post, we’ll see some people that have done something with their lives despite being labeled ADD. Your ADD-labeled kid may just be the next one on that list.

Last post we discussed the dangers of Ritalin and other central nervous system stimulants in treating ADD.  As disturbing as the rise in Ritalin prescriptions over the last twenty years has been, an even more upsetting trend has begun over the last decade–the use of antipsychotic medication to treat ADD.

Antipsychotics, the big guns, for people (children) with “serious” mental health issues–schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and so forth–are tranquilizing psychiatric meds used to treat psychosis (including delusions or hallucinations, as well as disordered thought).  There are two types of antipsychotics–typical and atypical.  Atypical antipsychotics are newer and have less severe side-effects, but all antipsychotic medication comes with heavy dangers:

Antipsychotics are some of the biggest selling and most profitable drugs, netting $22 billion in 2008.  That might be why we have seen an increase in off-label (not approved by the FDA) prescribing.  Many states have been reporting high amounts of Medicaid reimbursement for doctors’ prescribing these potent meds–Texas and Florida to name two.

According to one major study, between 1995-2002, nearly 5.8 million childrens’ doctors visits resulted in antipsychotics being prescribed.  Almost one-third of those were doled out by non-mental health practitioners.  53% were given to children for behavioral indications or affective disorders, conditions for which antipsychotics have not been carefully studied in children.  The overall frequency of antipsychotic prescribing increased from 8.6 per 1000 US children in 1995-1996 to 39.4 per 1000 US children in 2001-2002.

Can anyone think of a reason besides the obvious financial incentive to prescribe antipsychotic medication to children labeled ADD?  Try this: Perhaps the stimulant drug solution to treat ADD, so prevalent over the last two decades, isn’t providing the results that we’d hoped for.  One study has shown that long-term benefits are non-existent in those taking Ritalin.  Why, then, perhaps stronger drugs will do the trick.  I’m just waiting for the chemotherapy solution for ADD.  You think I’m joking…

Watch the video below for more info on the dangers of antipsychotic use in children.

So what’s the big deal about ADD anyway?  Why do I care about this “disorder” at all?  Why care about a diagnosis that has become so common that the number of children labeled with it has nearly tripled since the 1970s…why?  I care because the primary treatment for children branded with ADD is dangerous stimulant drugs.Ritalin, or methylphenidate, was first synthesized in the 1940s and identified as a stimulant the following decade.  In the 1960s, doctors first started prescribing Ritalin for hyperactivity, or minimal brain damage, as ADD/ADHD was called then.  The 1990s saw an explosion of Ritalin prescriptions, as ADD became the widely diagnosed condition it is today.

Ritalin is produced and consumed primarily in the United State, with 85% of all prescriptions going to American kids.  Strange that the consuming public has yet to catch on to this anomaly.  Hmmm…ADD said to affect 3-5% of kids worldwide, but why is the U.S. the highest consumer of doctor prescribed speed for this disorder???  A newer, time-released version of Ritalin has been on the market for the last decade; it’s called Concerta.

Ritalin and Concerta work by increasing dopamine levels in the brain.  Dopamine is the neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of pleasure and the reward system.  The compound methylphenidate is very similar to amphetamines, including methamphetamine (meth, crystal, crank), as they all belong to a family of chemicals called phenethylamines.  The all act as central nervous system stimulants.  The methylphenidates, however, actually resemble cocaine more in their structure; yet all three substances–cocaine, amphetamines, and Ritalin–all basically do the same thing; they just do it a bit differently, pharmacologically that is.

Like all the other stimulants just noted, Ritalin has a high potential for tolerance and dependency.  As tolerance increases, so does the need for greater doses to achieve the same desired effect.  The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) knows this, as they pointed out at their 2000 Congressional Testimony before the Committee on Education and the Workforce: Subcommittee on Early childhood, Youth and Families.  In response to a 1995 petition by Children and Adults With Attention Deficit Disorder (CH.A.D.D.) and the American Academy of Neurology to lower the regulatory controls on methylphenidate, the DEA conducted an extensive review of the use, abuse liability, actual abuse, diversion, and trafficking of methylphenidate, the DEA said:

The CH.A.D.D. petition characterized methylphenidate as a mild stimulant with little abuse potential – this is not what our review found (emphasis mine) and the petitioners subsequently withdrew their petition. In December 1996, the DEA held a conference on “Stimulant Use in the Treatment of ADHD”. We gathered experts in the fields of ADHD research and treatment, psychiatry, social work, ethics and law enforcement who offered their expertise and unique perspectives to the many controversial topics related to ADHD and its treatment. In addition, the DEA participated in the 1998 National Institutes of Health (NIH) Consensus Conference. In 1998 and 1999, the DEA was invited to the Council of Europe to participate in joint meetings with the Pompidou Group and the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) to discuss the control of stimulants in Europe and the diagnosis and treatment of ADHD with stimulants. Today, I will present a summary of the data we have gathered about the use of Ritalin and like drugs. These data show:

    • The number of children diagnosed as having ADHD is unknown.


  • Psychostimulants are effective in treating the symptoms of ADHD. Long-term studies looking at the effects of using these drugs are very limited.



  • The medical use of stimulants in the treatment of ADHD in children continues to escalate.



  • The expansive use of these drugs for childhood behavioral disorder in the United States differs significantly from medical practices in the rest of the world (United Nations data)



  • The NIH Expert Panel (1998 Consensus Conference) concluded that the variability in physician diagnosis of ADHD as evidenced by areas of extremely high and low distribution and prescribing rates of stimulants is suggestive of both over and under-diagnosis (Expert Panel, NIH Consensus Conference).



  • Poison control data, emergency room data and high school surveys all indicate that the abuse of methylphenidate has increased significantly since 1990. !!!!



  • A number of questionable practices have contributed to the diversion and abuse of stimulant medication including improper diagnosis, lack of adequate information to youth, parents, and schools regarding the abuse potential of these drugs and lax handling of medication (Consensus statement, 1996 DEA Conference).


And in 1997 the United Nation’s International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) has also expressed similar concerns:

  • the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) has observed that world-wide use of methylphenidate has risen from less than 3 tonnes in 1990 to more than 8.5 tonnes in 1994, and continued to rise in 1995.
  • The United States accounts for approximately 90 per cent of total world manufacture and consumption of the substance. The unprecedented sharp increase is due to its controversially extensive use in the treatment of ‘attention deficit disorder (ADD)’ in children. Some other countries have also reported more moderate increases in the use of methylphenidate for this purpose.
  • The INCB shares the concern of the United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) about the increased use of methylphenidate, most commonly marketed in that country under the brand name Ritalin. The latest data indicates that 10 to 12 per cent of all boys between the ages 6 and 14 in the United States have been diagnosed as having ADD and are being treated with methylphenidate. Treatment is more prevalent in middle class communities and is expected to rise in 1996.
  • ADD might be diagnosed too often overlooking other causes for attention and behavior problems and that doctors may be overprescribing methylphenidate. United States investigators found divergent prescribing practices among physicians, only 1 per cent of whom were responsible for the majority of all methylphenidate prescriptions issued. This also has impact on regional variations in the use of methylphenidate.
  • The Board is also concerned that, contrary to labeling, some doctors prescribe stimulants to children under the age of six and, in many cases, other recommended forms of treatment are not applied. The duration of treatment with methylphenidate, which in many countries is restricted to three years, tends to be much longer in the United States and many children remain on it into adolescence and even adulthood. No information on possible side-effects of such long-term treatment with methylphenidate is currently available
  • ***The INCB is also concerned that the use of Ritalin is being actively promoted by an influential parent association, which has received significant financial contributions from the preparation’s leading United States manufacturer. The same parent association has petitioned the DEA to ease the control of this substance, a move which would make methylphenidate even more easily available. Among the changes sought is dropping the requirement that the patient be re-examined by a doctor before a prescription for methylphenidate can be refilled.
  • At present, the unprecedented high level of ADD diagnosis in children, the very widespread prescription of Ritalin and the growing abuse and black market appear to be limited to the United States. But, the INCB foresees the likelihood that this trend will soon take hold in other countries. Some of the parent groups promoting methylphenidate in the United States have announced their intention to extend their activities outside the country. The Board is therefore requesting all Governments to exercise utmost vigilance to prevent the overdiagnosing of ADD and any medically-unjustified treatment with methylphenidate and other stimulants. It has also requested the World Health Organization (WHO) to investigate this matter and to provide expertise to national public health authorities.

Anybody need more convincing?  Ritalin and the other stimulant drugs used to “treat” ADD (Adderall, Concerta, Desoxyn) are habit forming and dangerous (more on this in next post)–the DEA knows it, and so does the United Nations.  But today American doctors prescribe these dangerous drugs freely, to treat a  condition with such wide parameters and potential for subjectivity (despite what the American Medical Association claims), one that has expanded in its definition steadily since its inception–that’s what really concerns me.

ADD matters to me precisely for these reasons…because if I can help even one family, one child, from getting put on these dangerous drugs, to be treated for something that makes them “different” from the norm (the masses), for something that their teachers can’t figure out or deal with, then I’ll have accomplished something; something I’ll be satisfied with.  That’s why I care.

I keep talking of a better way to view and understand ADD, but what exactly do I mean by that?  I’m going to discuss the idea here that classifying ADD as a “disorder” in need of treatment is erroneous.  I propose that by looking at the brain state currently labeled ADD in a different light, one of uniqueness and not dysfunction at all, we should be better able to help people who express this trait to find inspiration in their lives and thrive, academically and functionally.

I discussed in last post the numerous theories that have attempted to explain the cause of ADD, but so far they have all come up short.  From genetics to environment to evolutionary theories, no explanation has been sufficient to account for what they have found (or not found) regarding ADD.  I have also explained how the parameters for the disorder have grown throughout history–the wider they become, the more people that get the diagnosis.  Although this practice has identified many different similarities among people suspected of having an attention disorder, it has also increased the number of similar differences; in other words, too many symptoms blur the already fuzzy lines.

Further, I have pointed out that there are no clear-cut markers to be found in people diagnosed with ADD, unlike those found in other diseases like AIDS (HIV+), hepatitis (elevated liver enzymes), and prostate cancer (elevated PSA) to name a few.  Brain changes have been noted in some studies, but they are complicated by the fact that they have never been able to be reproduced in further studies.  One study did find that the brains of 50% of subjects labeled ADHD have slower maturation of their frontal cortices relative to “normal” controls, but I contend that it presupposes ADD to be an actual disorder, which I emphatically reject (aside from the possibility of the brain changes resulting from stimulant drug treatments).

I am certain that the neurological irregularity we currently classify as ADD is a normal variant to the mental attentive function we all exhibit.  Everybody, including those labeled ADD, has the ability to focus their attention at various moments in their consciousness.  The person labeled ADD, however, has difficulty focusing attention at preset moments defined by current cultural norms, most notably during classroom time.  Because we are all expected to learn which moment requires which behavior, this inability to focus is naturally considered a malfunction.  But is it?

It is my opinion that people exhibiting this normal variation of attention, this inability to concentrate at will, is more a reflection of an uninspired mind toward the subject matter–conventional academics primarily.  This is not news to anybody keeping up with these posts: I’ve made it abundantly clear that I believe the problem lies with teachers having an inability to inspire these normal variant minds.  But let me focus even more: People labeled ADD–we’ll say children primarily, because adults have usually learned to adapt to circumstances (as any successful organism does)–do lose their attention more quickly than the so-called “normals”.  I will not dispute this fact, but it doesn’t mean they are somehow dysfunctional; they are simply unique in their needs.

OK, so far I haven’t said anything that goes against today’s conventional wisdom on ADD.*  But here is the difference: By perceiving this unique variation in attention span as a disorder, it opens the door for a particular kind of fix–primarily stimulant drugs.  This has not only had a minimal effectiveness, but it is likely causing more harm than good both to individuals and to the society at large.

By seeing the unique challenges faced by some children (3-5% worldwide according to the latest figures) as a normal variation of a ubiquitous brain state allows the possibility to help these children wide open.  Seeing how the brain state labeled ADD is merely a different similarity to what we all experience when uninspired allows parents and educators to find out exactly what these children are inspired by.  When accomplished, the task will be to then relate all other subject matter back to the areas of inspiration.  Whew.

I know it sounds simple, but that’s because it is.  It’s universal.  Trying to find the fragmented parts that separate some human beings from others in order to account for a perceived abnormality is futile–we all operate under specific laws.  It’s not that I think the entire historical course of this non-disorder was unnecessary.  It served a sort of ruling out process.  But the evidence has been piling up–there is no there there.  Isn’t it wiser to see how people labeled ADD are similar to us and nurture that?

I do not for a second believe that the hunt for a fragmented cause of ADD, and its subsequent pharmacological solution, will end anytime soon.  But if you are a parent with a child that has trouble conforming to the social norms of focusing in the classroom on subjects that are maddeningly uninspiring, then think twice before attaching the label ADD to that child.  I am certain that the drug solution associated with that life-label will never provide anything more than reliance on drugs; at worst it might even harm your child, physically and/or mentally.

I will touch even further on the current treatment solutions for people labeled ADD in upcoming posts.  Until then, rethink conventional wisdom.

*It has recently come to my attention that my thoughts on this subject are similar to those put forth by the Church of Scientology.  I am NOT a Scientologist.  While I have nothing against Scientology, per se, as I know next to nothing of its philosophical teachings, I merely wish to separate my thoughts from that of any organized group or religion.  I respect all peoples’ choices to believe and worship as they choose fit.

Have you ever wondered how the powers that be determine whether a kid is ADD/ADHD or not?  How do they know…like are there specific tests or markers, an ADD litmus of sorts?  Because remember from last post, the predominant “health” paradigm in the world today is a mechanistic medical model–there’s usually a physical problem–so shouldn’t there be distinct physical evidence?  In the next two posts we’ll investigate each one of these questions as well as consider another, perhaps better, way of looking at things.

To be diagnosed ADD/ADHD, a child has to exhibit particular behaviors for an extended period.  Because a number of other disorders have similar (if not exactly the same) symptoms as ADD, it’s important for the diagnosing doctor, school nurse, teacher or principal (ya don’t think so?…then I’ve got a bridge to sell ya…) to be able to differentiate between this behavior disorder and all others that cause lack of focus.

Yes, that’s right, I said a behavioral disorder.  That’s a crucial distinction to be made for ADD; in other words, NO PHYSICAL MARKER–no specific test or neurophysiological change that can be measured, just the observation of a professional.  Don’t worry, medical science is working hard to find that marker.  And as I always say, “If you look hard enough, you’re bound to find something.”  But, I know, you’d think after more than 100 years, and being the best studied disorder in all of medicine that, well…

The signs necessary to classify a child (or adult) as ADD are the following (six or more must be present for at least 6 months to a point that is disruptive and inappropriate for the developmental level):

  • Inattention:
  1. Often does not give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, work, or other activities.
  2. Often has trouble keeping attention on tasks or play activities.
  3. Often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly.
  4. Often does not follow instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace (not due to oppositional behavior or failure to understand instructions).
  5. Often has trouble organizing activities.
  6. Often avoids, dislikes, or doesn’t want to do things that take a lot of mental effort for a long period of time (such as schoolwork or homework).
  7. Often loses things needed for tasks and activities (such as toys, school assignments, pencils, books, or tools).
  8. Is often easily distracted.
  9. Often forgetful in daily activities.

For hyperactivity-impulsiveness (six or more must be present for at least 6 months to a point that is disruptive and inappropriate for the developmental level):

  •  Hyperactivity:
  1. Often fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in seat.
  2. Often gets up from seat when remaining in seat is expected.
  3. Often runs about or climbs when and where it is not appropriate (adolescents or adults may feel very restless).
  4. Often has trouble playing or enjoying leisure activities quietly.
  5. Is often “on the go” or often acts as if “driven by a motor”.
  6. Often talks excessively.
  • Impulsiveness:
  1. Often blurts out answers before questions have been finished.
  2. Often has trouble waiting one’s turn.
  3. Often interrupts or intrudes on others (example: butts into conversations or games).

Interestingly, these are the criteria used in the U.S.; they come from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV).  In Europe, the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD-10) is used instead.  According to one review, use of the DSM criteria increases the likelihood of an ADD diagnosis 3-4 times more than if the ICD-10 is used.

And what causes ADD…according to the current model, that is?  Well, no one really knows for sure.  Here are a few existing theories:

  • Genetics: Researchers believe that a number of genes may be implicated in the cause of ADD; but alas, with the sheer numbers so high, they admit it doesn’t follow the typical pattern of a “genetic disease” and thus must instead be a complex genetic/epigenetic interaction.  Sigh, always the genetic explanation when things don’t add up.  I always say, “Genetic cause means ‘we just don’t know!'”
  • Hunter vs. farmer theory: the idea that hyperactivity may actually have evolutionary advantages.  So back when man was a doltish hunter, hyperactivity likely served him.  As he moved into more intelligent means of survival (read: farming), requiring more complex tasks, he shed his hyperactivity trait.  People with ADD contain a sort of vestige of this once useful trait.  Uh…any of my hunter readership like to comment on this harebrained hypothesis?
  • Environmental: Cigarette smoke, head injuries, toxins, pesticides, organophosphates, global warming, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah…
  • Diet: Artificial foods, preservatives, food coloring, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah…
  • Social: Family dysfunction, child abuse, inattentive parents, time in orphanages.
  • Neurological: Underdeveloped neurological pathways, and the list goes on…

In all of this, the pathophysiology (the functional changes) of ADD remain UNCLEAR!!!  Did I get that point across strongly enough?  Many signs, many symptoms, no consensus, many theories…but no clear-cut evidence.  Frickin’ duh!!!  Part 2 tomorrow.

So we have discussed the history of ADD, but how does a disease or disorder become established as an entity?  This is an important question because it determines the course of a disorder historically, sociopolitically and economically.  But most important, it determines how diseases/disorders become etched into the human psyche.  Think this doesn’t play a massive role in human health?  Think again.

The current health paradigm that predominates today is the medical model.  It would take more than just a few paragraphs to do the subject justice (if you are interested, I highly recommend my book, The Six Keys to Optimal Health), but I can give a brief synopsis here:

Modern medicine views the human body mechanistically–like an intricate machine.  Just as a machine can be broken down into ever smaller parts, so, too, can the human body.  By studying and mastering the workings (physiology) of the parts (systemic anatomy), we can understand the operation of the whole.  Simple.  When the parts start to malfunction (pathology), we can address them…cure them…through medicines (pharmacology) and/or removal (surgery).  Fair enough.  I find it flawed, but…as far as strategies go, it’s not bad.

But wait, it gets better.  Because we are physical beings in a material existence, then all problems related to our physical bodies have to have a physical basis.  Yes, even mental ones.  Because at our core we are simply neurophysiological life forms.  And when we break down human beings to their most fundamental parts, we are just electrochemical processes doing their thing.  It’s all rather Maxwellian.  Simple physics.

Physical problems, then, should have physical solutions, and throughout much of medicine’s short history, the victories have been rather awe-inspiring: Mass infectious epidemics have been nearly conquered; emergency medicine now saves lives that would have be long lost even fifty years ago; human prosthetics are damn-near perfect; even our increased life span is often credited to the wonders of modern medicine.

So what?  What does this have to with ADD?  Well, medicine did something peculiar…it started targeting what it considered “normal” physiological processes gone awry–things like cholesterol levels, and impotence, and symptoms of the common cold; it even started in on normal mental states like depression and well, fidgeting.  Yes, anything that could be considered a deviation from the norm was fair game.  The inability to focus in a schoolroom setting, then, was ripe for medical intervention.

It is interesting how unwanted (and unappreciated) physical and mental states become established as disorders.  First, they are recognized and their symptoms recorded, and then a profile of the most commonly afflicted is noted.  The disorders are then given a name, but over time, more symptoms are added, some possibly subtracted, but then re-added again, and the parameters stretch outward inch by inch.  As the definition of the disorder expands, more and more people are labeled with it, and the growing numbers are then called an epidemic.  Epidemics demand solutions, and in our mechanistic medical model this usually means drugs or surgery (think swine flu and carpel tunnel syndrome respectively).

Once somebody is labeled with a disease or disorder, the inclination of the human mind is to identify with it.  The person becomes the disease:

Hi… I’m Nick and I’m an alcoholic (now a disease, too).  Hola, me llamo Jesus: yo tengo blue balls (it’s coming [figuratively speaking]…swear).  Greetings, my name is Fenster P. Finkleschitkid, and I’ve got AD…hey, that’s my toy!!!

And they are never short of support.  Medical science supports them, doctors and therapists support them, society and it’s numerous special interest organizations support them, and of course, their loving families support them, because well…it’s a disorder you see, and we…just…want them…to have…normal….lives (whatever the hell that is).

ADD is no different.  It’s just one of many, many diseases and disorders that gets big money to study (remember, it’s the “best studied disorder in medicine”) and support all the intricacies (the changing ones) tied up in the horrible scourge.  And, of course, when they get their own drug treatment, they hit the big time–it all becomes official.  The AMA then takes a position on it and it becomes etched into the consciousness for all time.  Hallelujah!  Praise Hippocrates, we did it again.  Thank you, thank you, thank you (pat on the back)…and on to the next one.

Next post I’ll offer a better solution.

Welcome me back from the dead, with a long awaited followup on ADD.  As I’ve threatened, I’m going to touch on several aspects of ADD in the next few days, starting here with a brief history of the “disorder”.

ADHD was first classified in the 18th century by Scottish-born physician and author, Sir Alexander Crichton.  He described what seemed to be a mental state of inattentiveness that he called “mental restlessness”.

His words: “When born with a person it becomes evident at a very early period of life, and has a very bad effect, inasmuch as it renders him incapable of attending with constancy to any one object of education. But it seldom is in so great a degree as totally to impede all instruction; and what is very fortunate, it is generally diminished with age.” (emphasis mine)

He suggested that children afflicted with this restlessness, or fidgets, should obtain special education and that it was apparent that these children could not focus no matter how hard they tried.  Again his words: “Every public teacher must have observed that there are many to whom the dryness and difficulties of the Latin and Greek grammars are so disgusting that neither the terrors of the rod, nor the indulgence of kind intreaty can cause them to give their attention to them.”

Yeah, no kidding.  And that’s a disorder?

The classification continued to grow in the twentieth century, as one British pediatrician gave a series of lectures to the Royal College of Physicians in London under the name “Goulstonian lectures” on ‘some abnormal psychical conditions in children.’ The doctor’s name was Sir George Frederick Still.

Dr. Still described 43 children that were considered to have serious problems with “sustained attention and self-regulation, who were often aggressive, defiant, resistant to discipline, excessively emotional or passionate, which showed little inhibitory volition, had serious problems with sustained attention and could not learn from the consequences of their actions; though their intellect was normal.”

He further described these children as having a certain “moral defect” without a general impairment of intellect.   Make note, he was describing Moral Control–a “control of action in conformity with the idea of the good of all.”

Still proposed a biological predisposition to this behavioral condition that was probably hereditary in some children and the result of pre- or postnatal injury in others.  Keep that in mind–it will come up later.

ADHD was not the original term given to this condition.  In fact, it has had several in its long history including “minimal brain damage”, “minimal brain dysfunction”, “minimal brain disorder”, “learning/behavioral disabilities” “hyperactivity”, and the aforementioned “Defect of Moral Control.”  ADHD wasn’t used until the mid-20th century, and the definition has grown to such a degree that now there exist three subcategories, one of which is the disorder without hyperactivity.  In fact, the entire description of ADHD–which has been labeled one of the “best researched disorders” in all of medicine–has changed so often that it is a wonder the current definition has stayed intact for the last sixteen years (concomitant drug-therapies have a way of doing that)

Looking at the history of ADD, it is easy to knee-jerk a “but of course it’s a disorder” reaction out of most people.  I mean, come on–how could anybody doubt modern science?  Except for one problem–the science doesn’t show all that much (for a later post).  Oh, no doubt, children…er, people…have a difficulty focusing at various moments or during certain activities, particularly those “to whom the dryness and difficulties of the Latin and Greek grammars are so disgusting.”  No kidding.

Categorizing this normal functioning of the human brain a disorder was understandable during a period when “conformity with the idea of the good of all,” was more than a virtue…it was a freakin’ law whether in the books or not.  Any behavior considered morally defect might lead one into an insane asylum, or even subject to a number of “medical treatments” that today we consider barbaric (think lobotomy).

I in no way wish to suggest a conspiracy of sorts…but modern science did what it could with the information it had available.  And at the time, it was best to consider any deviation from “normal” behavior a disorder.

But today we know better.  Many people have different ways of learning.  Some are labeled with one learning disability or another.  Perhaps the so-called learning disabled just have different processing styles.  That was my experience working with learning disabled kids at UC Berkeley.  Most came from Montessori schools where individual or self-directed learning is emphasized.  Once these kids came into the stringent learning models that predominate in our educational system, they began failing.  These kids were geniuses–they just needed different methods to help process material.

One reason ADD has had such a long history, I believe, is because it is a normal physiological variant.  Clearly, as the pioneers in the classification of this disorder pointed out, there is usually no deficit in intelligence.  No kidding.  From personal experience, I assure you I could have been labeled ADHD at many points in my education, but they weren’t doling out the drugs at that time the way they are now.

Further, despite being one of the “best researched disorders,” to date, no clear solution has been found to combat this disorder that afflicts “3% to 5% of children globally.”  Why?  Because we all have an attention deficit when we are not inspired by something we are forced to sit through.  They will never find the chemical cause because like depression, chemical changes are the result of a brain state, NOT the cause.

Yes, the experts had to propose a biological cause, because they could find no mental construct that explained the disorder beyond a “Defect in Moral Control.”  Whereas sodomy could be pinned on sexual deviancy, and thievery on a criminal defect, lack of attention had to be biological.

Conformity to societal norms was then, as it still is now, of the highest tenor (debate someone on this issue to get my point), and as such, the inability to do so in the educational structure was a defect without defense.  It was unfathomable that it might be a defect in the structure itself.  More to come.

A reader has asked me to explain that if I don’t believe ADD/ADHD is a disorder, then what do I believe it to be?  This is a complex question because it requires an understanding of history, politics and human dynamics.  I’m going to attempt a concise explanation here that, hopefully, will bring a new understanding to a controversial health issue that may never be solved due to its ubiquitous nature as a component of the human mind.

So I’ve set out to uncover ADD/ADHD piece by piece in this blog over the next two weeks.  I’ll discuss how the “disorder” got its start, the belief system that gives it life, some neurological facts, and discuss why ADD remains a controversial topic, despite “most health care providers accept ADHD as a genuine disorder.”  We’ll investigate a new way of approaching what people call the symptoms of ADD, and we’ll look deep into why the current medical treatment for ADD is counter-productive and harmful.

Before we begin, let’s define some terms.  Since ADD and ADHD are essentially the same thing with a hyperactivity component to the latter, I will refer to both together as ADD.  If a distinction needs to be made, then I will do so.

Let it be understood that I am in no way advocating people on ADD medications to stop taking them.  These pharmaceuticals are serious and must be discontinued under the supervision of a medical doctor.  These post are for informational purposes only.  They are not intended, nor are they to be relied upon, as a diagnostic tool, professional medical advice regarding diagnosis or treatment, or a substitute for a professional medical diagnosis, opinion or suggested course of treatment by a qualified health care professional.  We assume no responsibility for what you do with the information contained.

Stay tuned.

Wow!  My last two posts on ADD/ADHD were right up there with the one on cesareanslet the emotions fly.  Sorry…but here’s some more information I find relevant to the issue.  It’s on latent learning:

Rats were placed into two groups and allowed to gain experience in a maze.  The animals in one group received food when they reached the goal area of the maze; they ran to that area more and more quickly in successive daily trials.  Animals of the other group were allowed to explore the maze for a few daily sessions without receiving any daily reward.  Then, in one session they found food in the goal area.  In the next trial they raced to the goal, reaching it just as rapidly as the rats that had been rewarded on every trial.  If the experimenter hadn’t offered the reward, he would not have realized that the previously unrewarded group had learned the maze as well as the uniformly rewarded rats; until the reward was introduced, the learning was latent, just as an image on a photographic film is latent until the film is developed (Blodgett, 1929; Tollman and Honzik, 1930).

One of the study’s authors (Tollman) proposed that there are different kinds of learning and that each may have its own laws.*  Think about it.

*From the text, Biological Psychology, Fifth Edition, Breedlove, Rosenzweig, and Watson

Neil V. Watson (Author)
Find all the books, read about the author, and more.
See search results for this author
Are you an author? Learn about Author Central

Last post I described a phone conversation between me and a fifteen-year-old boy that called asking about ADD drugs.  When I explained to him how drugs like Ritalin and Concerta are essentially speed he asked what he could take as an alternative.  I said it depends on what the person you are asking believes about the label “ADHD.”

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“Well, for instance, some people, myself included, don’t really believe that ADHD, as it’s defined, is a disorder.  The inability to concentrate, being disruptive in class, or any of those other things that irritate teachers are characteristics we all have when we aren’t inspired by something.  It just tells me that the kid labeled as ADHD isn’t inspired in school.  That says a lot more about teachers than children in my book.”

“Well, I’m just bored in school.”

“Exactly.  But I’ll bet there are things you do that you have no problems concentrating on.  What do you like to do?  What do you love?”


“What do you play.”

“Football…and baseball.”

“What’s your position in football?”

“Defensive end.”

“So when the ball is snapped, and you’re going after that quarterback, ready to crush his skull…are you thinking about something else?”

“Ha ha…no.”

“So you don’t have ADD when you’re playing sports.”

“No, I guess not.”

“Everybody has ADD when they are forced to do something they are uninspired by.  When you are in school, you are likely uninspired.  Unfortunately for you, you’ve got to go to school until you are eighteen–that’s the law.  In the meantime, find what you love and do it.  And when you are old enough to make your own life decisions, do what you love, and do it well.  You’ll be more fulfilled that way.”

He got it.  I don’t believe there are any dumb children.  But I do believe that there are plenty uninspiring teachers out there.  Maybe they’d be better labeled babysitters, because if they are not inspiring every one of their students, then they are failing as teachers.  In my opinion, teaching is finding what the student loves and showing them how the subject matter relates to what they love.  Give me a room full of football players and I will teach them every math concept under the sun.  All it takes is teacher creativity.  But we all know that’s lacking in our schools…we’ve all been there.

That wasn’t my experience in college, however.  I was so lucky to have outstanding and highly creative professors.  My college algebra teacher was a comedian and a genius.  Nobody finished that class without a basic understanding of math and a hell of a lot of laughs.

Just watch the movie, Stand and Deliver, to understand what I’m talking about.  Teacher Jaime Escalante, “is able to win over the attention of the students by implementing innovative teaching techniques, using props and humor to illustrate abstract concepts of math and convey the necessity of math in everyday lives.” ~ from Wikipedia

No, I’m not buying into ADHD one iota.  Find what inspires a kid, nurture it, and use that to teach them academic concepts, and that kid will thrive.  Giving them doctor-prescribed speed drugs is a cop out.

Got an interesting call this evening from a fifteen-year-old boy who asked, “Why is taking ADD drugs bad?”

I asked why he wanted to know this, and if he was on one of these drugs.  He said he was, and his parents wanted him to wean off.  Hmmm….

I asked the lad why he had chosen to call me, and how he found me in the first place.  Expecting him to say, “From your informative blog, sir,” I was somewhat surprised when he said he found me in the Yellow PagesDoh!

Tucking my chest back in, I informed him that I am not a medical doctor, I am a chiropractor, so I can’t give him medical advice; but I certainly know enough about various drugs, ADHD meds included, to give him some general, if not pertinent information.

So I asked him which drug he was on, and why his parents wanted him off it.  He said he was taking Concerta (a lighter version of Ritalin).  His parents were concerned because it made him tired all the time and non-functional when he wasn’t on it.  Basically, he said he was sleeping more than usual when not on the drug.

I asked him what it was like when he was actually on the drug, and he said it made him lose his appetite and his stomach hurt.  I told him what he was describing was very much like what people who take methamphetamine experience.  In fact, I said, ADD and ADHD drugs are essentially speed; his parents and he were observing the side effects that come along with a speed trip.  The sleeping all the time is called “the crash,” and his loss of appetite (upset stomach) was his body’s reaction to taking a speed-like drug.

I told him that the rationale behind giving speed to a child labeled ADHD was to help the child focus, and indeed, one of the effects of any stimulant–meth and coke included–is a heightened concentration when taken at low to moderate levels.  The problem, I explained, is that these effects are relatively short-lived, and ultimately, tolerance and withdrawals set in.

Further, I told him, the body has to neutralize the drug, which it does through the liver; and it also needs to filter out and remove the drug from the body, which is carried out by the kidneys.  So when taken over a long period or in high quantities, any drug (even those prescribed by a doctor) can cause stress internally, leading to illness and disease.

This is why his parents were concerned, I explained.  But more importantly, why was he still on the drug if his parents didn’t want him to be?  Where was his doctor in all of this?  He said that he just saw his doctor today, and the doctor wanted to give him his Med Card.

“What’s that?” I asked, naively.

“For medical marijuana.”

“Your doctor wants you to have that…why?

“Because I have high blood pressure.”

“Where did you find this doctor?  And do your parents know about this?”

“I just moved here and I went into this place, and there was a medical doctor there.”

“OK, listen; you need to go see a real doctor, not just one that’s out to make money.  I know that no responsible doctor is going to give a fifteen-year-old kid a prescription for medical marijuana.  You need to go to a real doctor, with your parents in tow, tell him/her about your high blood pressure, your Concerta meds, your parents concerns, and go from there.”  I also let him know that I was not telling him to get off the doctor prescribed speed; that wasn’t my place.  But, I said, your parents know what’s best for you, so listen to them.  OK kid, I’ve got a patient waiting…call me anytime.

“You should be a real doctor,” he said.

Thanks kid, I’ll think about it.

Part 2 tomorrow.

Copyright © 2013 Dr. Nick Campos - All Rights Reserved.