Thomas Armstrong, Ph.D., in his controversial
book The Myth of the ADD Child, insists that ADD is a diagnosis
aimed at forcing children to behave in a particular, narrowly
defined manners.2 He claims that children have different learning
styles, respond to stress in various ways, and that the condition
has been radically overdiagnosed and overtreated. He encourages
a wide variety of nondrug interventions including adjustment of
the classroom setup, more kinesthetic learning, project-based
learning, martial arts classes, visualization, and meditation.
A similar viewpoint is held by Peter
Breggin, M.D., author of Toxic Psychiatry and The War Against
Children. Dr. Breggin, a psychiatrist who refuses to prescribe
Ritalin for his patients diagnosed with ADD, holds a strong belief
that there is no evidence that symptoms associated with ADD constitute
a diagnosis or a mental disorder. He voices strong concerns about
the possibly damaging long-term effects of Ritalin.3
Still a third health professional,
child psychiatrist Dr. Stanley Greenspan, writes in his book The
Challenging Child that a number of attention problems are
due to visual, auditory, motor, and special processing difficulties.
Children with all of these individual difficulties, according
to Dr. Greenspan, are often misdiagnosed with ADD.4
As homeopathic physicians, we do
not believe that it is helpful to lump so many people with widely
differing symptoms into one syndrome and treat them all with similar
drugs. Having seen several hundred children with mild to major
behavioral, learning, and attitude problems, we believe that these
children need to be handled as individuals with unique problems
rather than treated stereotypically. We also favor a treatment
approach, homeopathy, that lasts for months or years, not just
a few hours.
What About Neurotransmitters?
Most physicians and mental health
professionals attribute ADD to an imbalance in transmitters within
the brain, often serotonin. Many studies have attempted to correlate
ADD with specific neurotransmitter abnormalities. A group of researchers
from the University of Georgia reviewed these neuroanatomical,
neurochemical, and neurophysiological theories and studies.5 They
concluded that although there is evidence of neurological differences
in children diagnosed with ADD,
no definitive mechanism has been found for these differences.
The authors recommended a differential diagnosis of ADD, learning
disability, and conduct disorder. They suggest that it may be
more accurate to view the syndrome as a cluster of various behavioral
deficits, including attention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity,
which share a common response to psychostimulants. In other words,
a neurotransmitter imbalance is an impressive way to explain ADD,
but remains questionable.
One correlation which is clear to
us is the increasingly rapid pace of our highly technological
society and a growing number of children diagnosed with ADD.
We live in an extremely overstimulated society. Children spend
hours playing Nintendo rather than romping through the woods or
playing outside. Many are glued to the television set. Movies
are speedier, scarier, and more violent than ever before. There
is a growing atmosphere of hurriedness, intensity, and urgency.
Many children and teenagers do not leave home without their beepers
for fear of missing something for even a moment. We eat fast,
play fast, and channel-surf. We eat in fast-food restaurants known
to decorate their premises in jangly colors so that their customers
will eat quickly and move on to make space for the next shift.
People look for caffeine and drugs of all kinds to make them go
faster and stay up longer. They buy double espressos to pick them
up more quickly. They use highly caffeinated amphetamine-like
herbs, including ma huang and guarana, that contain seven times
as much caffeine as coffee. Our society places little value on tranquillity, quiet,
solitude, and the simple joy of being in nature.