Several of my patients have attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD). It can be a frustrating condition to live with and, usually, prescription medications seem like the only recourse. However, as I share with my ADHD patients, there are some things you should know about the pros and cons of ADHD medications and alternative methods of treating the condition and I’d like to share those with you here today on this informative natural health news publication.
ADHD – WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW
If you’ve been diagnosed with adult ADHD, or are wondering if you might have it, take heart, you’re not alone. Approximately 9 million American adults have the disorder and you’d share it with some well-known people including actress Marilyn Monroe, painter Vincent VanGogh, writers Emily Dickinson and Virginia Woolf as well as TV game show celebrity Howie Mandel, and U.S. Olympic hockey winner Cammie Granato.
The most common symptoms of adult ADHD are the following:
- Inability to concentrate and focus attention for any length of time. Can be highly disorganized and have difficulty adhering to any structure. Can cause work, educational, and personal relationship strains.
- Characterized by high “manic” energy levels at times, hardly sleeping, over-productivity, followed by extreme lows of energy and depression. Attracted to high activity situations, environments, stress, chaotic lifestyles. Low tolerance for frustration cannot control temper, frequent verbal and physical fights with people, destructive tantrums.
- Symptoms in women may be much less obvious than in males and may be mistaken for monthly hormonal shift symptoms.
Medication Options – Pros and Cons
Once ADHD is diagnosed, it is generally most easily controlled with once-a-day stimulant-type prescription medication like Ritalin, Adderall, Dexedrine, Concerta and non-stimulant type Strattera, even though the FDA has not approved use of Ritalin in ADHD adults. In fact, the use of ADHD drugs rose 90%, according to the New England Journal of Medicine, between the years 2002 and 2005. ADHD gained a lot of attention and many adults were diagnosed with it – likely because the condition was overlooked, or misdiagnosed, as a child. Many were finally able to gain control over their symptoms and success in their lives.
Most ADHD medications are successful in about 70% of patient symptoms with these results:
- Calmer, happier mood, ability to concentrate, “stay on task”, organize their life.
- Improved social relationships in school, work, interpersonal, more compliant with “going with the flow” instead of oppositional or combative behaviors.
- Improved impulsive and risky behavior – money spending, drugs and alcohol addictions, unsafe driving, irresponsible sexual behavior.
As ADHD drugs contain stimulants, many side effects can occur in adults taking the drugs:
- Can aggravate high blood pressure or heart rates especially in African-American males.
- Can interact with antidepressants; headache, stomachache, insomnia, loss of appetite.
Ritalin and Concerta are generally the preferred ADHD medications because they have fewer side effects and are successful at treating behavioral symptoms of ADHD.
Alternative Treatments – Pros and Cons
Because ADHD medications are not 100% effective in controlling all patients’ symptoms, ADHD sufferers have turned more and more to alternative methods to help deal with their symptoms. Here are some of the more common ones and their effectiveness/drawbacks:
- Exercise: Always a good idea for ADHD patients. Helps relieve stress and burn off excess energy. Works best in tandem with medications, though.
- Biofeedback: Uses repeated exercises to help the ADHD patient gain focus and control and improve listening and following instructions – what ADHD patients lack.
- Homeopathy: Medications like Stramonium, cina, and hyoscyamus niger, central nervous system calmants, are used in ADHD patients with success in some patients.
- Herbal medications: St. John’s Wort, Valerian, gingko biloba and lemon balm may help some mild symptoms of ADHD but likely cannot control stronger symptoms.
- Food allergies/sensitivities: Food allergens or sensitivities may aggravate ADHD symptoms, particularly sugar and food dyes. Indeed, many people with ADHD do show improvement on sugar-restricted diets. If there is an allergy to specific foods, like coloring dyes, or gluten, ADHD symptoms can also be aggravated.
As I tell my patients, ADHD can be a frustrating condition to live with. However, a combination of treatments including medications, exercise, even biofeedback can help you gain control over your symptoms and lead a healthier, happier life!
Mark Rosenberg, M.D.
Natural Health News