The Case for a Medication-Free ADHD Treatment Plan

The Case for Medication-Free ADHD
The Case for Medication-Free ADHD

I’m not against medication.  Someday my son may want to use it.  There is a terrible stigma out there about parents who choose to medicate their kids. Even though I’ve labeled my blog “ADHD Natural Mamma,” you won’t find me propagating negative stereotypes about parents who use medication to treat their children’s ADHD.

The truth is that most parents are heartbroken when they choose to medicate.  Sometimes ADHD comes packaged with other issues and each child/home situation is different.  Parents are faced with the burden of weighing the risks and options, then get the short end of the stick when others judge their decisions.

Information on how to implement medication-free treatment doesn’t always reach parents before they can consider it as an option.  It’s tough to find, not something most doctors consider, and there isn’t a lot of testimonial supporting the use of 100% pure natural treatment.  

My son has ADHD, and I was blessed to find the information needed to make natural treatment work. An outline of natural ADHD treatments can be found in another one of my articles, and my reasons for choosing natural methods over medication are below.

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MEDICATION ISN’T GOING TO FIX ALL THE ISSUES
Or at least, it’s not 100% effective in the sense that it “cures” ADHD. Medicines help reduce symptoms, but they do not cover them entirely.  Most drugs are stimulants that increase dopamine levels, but why they work is still in theory since the true causes of ADHD are not entirely known.  Some people experience satisfactory results while others don’t, and even if you are able to take most of the edge off your symptoms, a few will surface here and there.  

The same is true of natural methods – nobody is going to be perfect with either treatment.  Nobody is perfect anyway.  If you miss a dose of your medication, symptoms will return.  If you are on a natural treatment plan and eat something that’s not on your diet, symptoms might return for you, too.

NEGATIVE SIDE EFFECTS
There are short term side effects of medication, which can go away within the first two weeks of treatment, and then there are long term side effects.  The short term effects are relatively minor, including loss of appetite and sleep.  The long term effects are not yet well-known.  

In terms if watching the effects over time, ADHD is still relatively new.  Consider that the medication is taken for an entire lifetime, often starting at young grade-school ages.  There wasn’t a widespread understanding of ADHD until the 80s and it didn’t become “popular” until the 90s.  So there still aren’t a lot of people with a long medication history to draw data from.  

Though drugs are generally regarded as safe, once you start altering your body’s natural processes with medication it’s hard to predict what chain of events will take place over time.  Some studies show that the use of stimulants increases dopamine transporters (transporters allow dopamine to escape the brain).  Scientists speculate that more transporters may explain why dosages are typically increased over time.  A one-year study between adults with ADHD (on Ritalin) and non-ADHD adults (not on Ritalin) show a 24% increase of transporters in Ritalin users.  What does this mean over time?  Its hard to say.  But I’m not optimistic that it’s a good thing.

There are obviously positive short term and long term effects of medication.  Benefits include being able to function better day-to-day and a lower chance of developing depression (through the accumulation of negative feedback over time).  The same goals can be achieved naturally.

The long term effects of natural treatment are almost all good.  The only reason I don’t claim that they’re 100% good is because I’m not a scientist and I can’t prove it. Natural treatment entails avoiding food sensitivities, eating a healthy, balanced diet, and getting plenty of sleep and exercise. These are all things that improve overall health.

REDUCED CREATIVITY / PASSION
Can I prove that people who use stimulants suffer from a reduction in creativity and passion? No I can’t. However, I have read a few case studies where people report this has happened to them, and it’s not something I want for my son. In the meantime, I have heard no such reports from people who opted for natural treatment.

WHY STIFLE IT?
In my quest for knowledge on the topic of ADHD, I watched a slightly offensive video called Shift The Paradigm.  It’s offensive because it propagates misconceptions about ADHD and why some people choose to medicate their children.  I’m going to make the assumption that the video makers aren’t aware of the underlying dopamine receptor issue.  But it did make some interesting and complimentary points in regards to divergent thinking, which is common in people with ADHD.  Even though it’s mildly offensive, I encourage you to watch it (click here).

It changed my goals for treatment. It got me thinking – on the days when it seems like natural methods aren’t working, or when there are parts of the condition that are hard to overcome, is it really important to get it under total control?  

We fear what we don’t understand, so we try to control it.  Yes, it is good to manage symptoms of ADHD because it is necessary to function in society.  But do we need TOTAL CONTROL?  

So little Billy is on the diet plan and he spaced out in class today.  It was unfortunate for him and a pain in the butt for the teacher.  But consider that there are students out there who have more intentional and destructive behavior than Billy, and it’s possible that their parents don’t even care. So why medicate Billy?  He was probably developing the formula for cold fusion or re-enacting the next script for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  For the most part Billy is cooperative, and it’s not necessary to take the edge off of him because it could stifle the special, creative gifts he has to offer.  People with ADHD tend to have high IQ’s and are creative, divergent thinkers.  These are wonderful things!!  

On the flip side, if you don’t try to manage your child’s ADHD at all, they will most likely have more stress while functioning day-to-day.  But let’s envision that your kid is on a natural treatment plan, it’s easier to manage daily functions because hyperactivity is reduced and there’s more organization and focus.  Every once in a while a symptom will go rogue (which can also happen on medication).  It’s not the end of the world.  

We live in a society where parents swoop in and fix things before their kids can make a mistake.  Don’t we learn from mistakes? Isn’t that what being a kid is all about? Whether your kid has ADHD or not, they aren’t going to be perfect.  So why hold kids with ADHD to a standard that requires medication?

Maybe some folks feel that natural treatment isn’t quite as potent as medication.  Let’s say it’s not.  Wouldn’t that be the ideal?  You’d get the best of both worlds – less frustration and stress in most situations and a refreshing, divergent thinker in others.  

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