Children and Emotional Disorders
By Aleksander Strande, Ph.D
Because of massive marketing of psychiatric drugs and the recent campaign that there are “chemical imbalances” in the brain, more than 4.4 million children are labeled ADHD per year. This typically starts in early grade school with parents being “educated” on the benefit of Ritalin or other drugs. It is as if we have become a society that has converted all life stresses or bad habits into psychiatric disorders. I am appalled at how many children are being heavily medicated with a variety of drugs without any understanding of how they affect the brain.
Ritalin use in children in the U.S. increased 665 percent between 1985 and 1995. Yet, Ritalin’s manufacturer admits it is a drug of dependency, or in other words addictive. We must not forget it is an amphetamine or central nervous system stimulant. This has led to abuse and misuse. Many teens sell their ADHD drugs and they are inhaled like cocaine or crystal methamphetamine. And it not a big leap to realize that if your child takes speed in the form of Ritalin, they may later indulge in illegal drugs that mimic the effect such as cocaine or crystal methamphetamine.
We are now also drugging our children with the newer antidepressants or Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors or SSRI’s. Prozac is very popular in child-ren and teens. So is Paxil. I have talked to parents who have been told to give their children Prozac for everything from bed wetting to weight loss. In March 2004, the FDA issued a public health statement indicating that antidepressant drug use can cause worsening depression and/or suicidal tendencies.
The FDA developed guidelines to have the manufacturers carry warning labels on their products. They also warned that any patient should be monitored for agitation, hostility, mania and other forms of violent behavior associated with them (Los Angeles Times, March 23, 2004.) Currently ten antidepressants carry warnings on their labels to monitor patients for worsening depression and the emergence of suicidal thoughts. These include: Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, Luvox, Lexapro, Effexor, Wellbutrin, Serzone and Remeron.
The warning came after an FDA advisory panel listened to testimony from many patients and families of patients who exhibited symptoms of violence, severe agitation, suicidal behavior and/or tendencies and the fact that their doctors were not responding to these side effects. It is interesting that it took so long to happen since the FDA had been receiving complaints since 1990 and engaged an advisory panel at that time which elected not to pursue warning labels. It took 14 years, but finally someone took action. Unfortunately, many children, teens and adults suffered unnecessarily.
I am alarmed at how many children and teens are labeled with psychiatric disorders like manic depression, obsessive compulsive disorder and ADD/ADHD. I cannot believe that there are so many new cases of these disorders. Children are often distracted, prone to sudden movements or an inability to sit quietly in a classroom setting. We inundate our children with stimulating activities such as television, movies, video games, computers and a faster-paced society and expect them to quietly sit still with their hands folded in their classrooms. Or not to expect pressure when they are faced with hours of homework and multiple after-school activities.
It is not enough to have a 4.0 to enter college, you must have advanced placement courses, volunteer work, be multi-talented and balance all of this with a healthy emotional outlook. It is no wonder our children are suffering. Most kids have very little “downtime.” It is not uncommon for mom or dad to rush to pick up the kids from school, schlep them to after-school activities, eat dinner in the car and quickly rush home for homework. If you as a parent are stressed getting them to all these activities while maintaining decent grades at school, imagine how your kids feel?
There is also a profit motive in pushing psychiatric drugs. They are easy to dispense, and drug manufacturers profit heavily from the increased usage in children. It is not uncommon for children to be on more than one antidepressant at a time. Starting in 1991, federal education grants provided $400 a year in annual grant money for each child diagnosed with ADHD. Coincidentally, that was the same year that the Department of Education formally recognized ADHD as a handicap and trained state educators to screen and identify ADHD and provide them with special services.
It is not uncommon to get a phone call from school asking you to come down and talk to the school psychologist who may urge you to get junior to your general practitioner in a hurry. Once you head off to the doctor with the recommendation from your school psychologist, most doctors start dispensing drugs.
I want to stress that some children are suffering from very real symptoms. For example, many of us know that allergies can cause hives, itchy and watery eyes, run-ny nose, etc. But are we aware that allergies caused by food, dust, mold or other environmental factors can cause hyperactivity or so-called ADD or ADHD symptoms in children and teens? Or that depression and anxiety could be seasonal due to allergies? A wide variety of so called psychiatric disorders could be caused by something as simple as diet or environment.
It takes a vigilant parent to look at everything going on with their child: diet, environment, school workload, extracurricular activities and other issues that may cause stress on the body or mimic a so called psychiatric disorder. It is not that I don’t believe psychiatric disorders don’t exist, I just don’t believe they exist in the numbers we are being told. And I certainly don’t believe the children in the United States need as many drugs as we are pushing on them.
I also don’t believe you need to drug children with something potentially dangerous to resolve their problems. According to the Nutrition Institute of America, pharmaceutical drugs are the fourth leading cause of death in this country. That is more than die from illegal drugs.
Traditional Naturopathy operates from the concept that everyone is born with the ability to heal themselves. A trained Naturopath merely assists the patient in bringing balance back to the body. So called psychiatric disorders can be resolved by looking at everything going on, both physically and mentally, without dangerous drugs.
Diet, lifestyle and other factors must be reviewed to come up with a highly-individualized protocol that suits a particular patient. Herbal extracts, amino acids and other supplements in therapeutic dosages will assist a patient in obtaining a natural balance in the body. Patients will typically respond within 7-10 days and in most cases children will respond much faster than that, particularly if the patient, parent and practitioner work together.
Alex Strande, PhD is a Naturopath and a Microbiologist and can be reached at his
office in Irvine at (949) 587-1513. His special interests are difficult
conditions. You may find more information about Dr. Strande’s background,
articles published and testimonials at his website:
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