In the last 20 years, the diagnosis rates for children with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) have soared. Studies indicate that upwards of 9.4 percent or 6.1 million children worldwide now carry the label, with two out of three or 62 percent of those children on medication.
The potential for over-diagnosis has caused controversy within the medical profession. Doctors have begun to speak out about the number of prescriptions that are filled each year for powerful stimulants like Ritalin and Adderall to manage ADHD symptoms in children. Controversy over the safety and appropriateness of stimulant treatment has led parents and practitioners to seek complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapies for the symptoms of ADHD.
What is ADHD
ADHD is a neuro-developmental disorder. The brain is not diseased or damaged — it is merely not developing as it should. ADHD comes in three varieties: the inattentive type (commonly referred to as ADD); the hyperactive type; and the most common, a combination of the two (ADHD). Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, is commonly identified when a child has difficulty paying attention and controlling their behavior. Common symptoms include:
•problems with maintaining focus and attention on essential activities
•trouble sitting still or being quiet
•trouble controlling impulsive behaviors
•hyperactivity and restlessness
•difficulty accomplishing activities or finishing tasks
Controlling and managing these symptoms is vital because prolonged suffering can cause adverse long-term consequences with academic success, employment opportunities, social functioning, and positive self-perception and confidence.
How stimulants adversely affect brain development
ADHD is commonly treated with stimulants believed to work on decreasing symptoms by increasing dopamine levels in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter associated with motivation, pleasure, attention, and movement. For many people with ADHD, stimulant medications boost concentration and focus while reducing hyperactive and impulsive behaviors. The medical stimulants used for ADHD include drugs such as Ritalin, Adderall, and Dexedrine.
How the long-term use of stimulants affects developing brains is not yet known. Aside from their potential for abuse, users may experience psychiatric problems like aggression, irritability, depression, and anxiety. Physical side effects include difficulty sleeping, loss of appetite, and upset stomach. Other safety concerns for the use of stimulants with adolescents include heart-related problems as well as brain development issues.
It’s no wonder many parents are looking for a more natural and holistic approach to managing their children with ADHD symptoms.
How can chiropractic care help children with ADHD
Leading healthcare organizations are beginning to encourage a more conservative approach to managing ADHD than stimulants. The American Psychological Association has recommended behavioral therapy as the first line of treatment for children with ADHD.
Adding holistic care, such as behavioral therapy, has been shown to eliminate the use of medications for nearly 40 percent of kids. Other beneficial interventions include increasing exercise and decreasing sugar intake.
Recent research has also concluded that including chiropractic care in a treatment plan for children previously diagnosed with ADHD resulted in a visible improvement in symptoms (i.e., hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattentiveness, as well as behavioral, social, or emotional difficulties).
Individual case studies have shown a positive correlation between chiropractic manipulation and improvement in ADHD symptoms.
For most people affected by ADHD, the most successful treatment plans include several tools. The use of complementary and alternative medicine, including chiropractic care for people affected by ADHD, can be part of an effective treatment plan alternative to stimulant medications.