8. WHY are drugs commonly prescribed for ADD?
Years ago, it was discovered that when a hyperactive preadolescent child was placed on a psychostimulant, it made them more focused and actually slowed them down. While the exact nature of how it worked was not known, doctors began prescribing it as a “practical fix” for children that we now label as having ADD or ADHD.
We asked a prominent psychiatrist who was lecturing on the subject of ADD (who we shall leave unnamed) why he thought psychotropics worked. He stated that he didn’t really know. This is rather troublesome, for how can one predict the long term side-affects without knowing the mechanism of operation?
Based upon our extensive study of medical journals and studies, it appears that the psychotropics affect the hormones or chemicals of the mind, especially the levels of the two hormones known as dopamine and nor-epinephrine. Both of these play a role in the rate or speed that a neuron (brain cell) can conduct an electrical charge to an adjacent neuron. These psychostimulants can increase the apparent rate at which given cells can conduct a signal through the brain. Thus for children lacking certain nerves or neural pathways due to improper connections within the brain, this can give the appearance of improving cognitive function and thus behavior. This may seem quite beneficial, especially in the short run.
There seems to be a growing trend among psychiatrists that children with ADD grow up to become adults with ADD. They are taking the position that these individuals will need to take psychotropics long term. We are of the opinion that children with dyslexia and/or cognitive dysfunctions, grow up to become adults with dyslexia and cognitive dysfunctions.
However, there is growing concern that long term usage of drugs which alter the dopamine and nor-epinephrine levels will increase the incidence of early onset of Parkinson’s disease and stroke. It is anticipated that in the countries which have the highest usage of psychotropics, (such as the USA), we will be seeing an increased frequency in these two degenerative diseases within 40-year olds who have been on these drugs for years. This would be in sharp contrast to the frequency in the general population where we see these diseases typically occurring in late 60’s and 70-year olds.
Furthermore, there is some evidence that just as these drugs often suppress physical growth, they may cause brain cells to atrophy and impair proper neural development (especially if given to toddlers).
Two examples: Our staff, after evaluating a teen child who was on a fairly lengthy list of drugs (which we felt were incompatible) voiced their concerns to the family. They in turn shared their concerns with their psychiatrist. He down-played their concern, saying that he’d been on those same drugs for years without harm. Two weeks later the psychiatrist had a massive stroke. He was in his 40s. In a second incidence, a 40ish year old man was seen by our M.D. in an urgent care setting. She voiced her concern to the patient who was on psychotropics for ADD. He ignored her warning, only to return within 2 months with a stroke.
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