To AD[H]D = Subtract

Words: Dr Marysia KRATIMENOS

There been an explosion in the number of cases of hyperactive children and kids with attention-deficit disorder. Over two million children in America are currently on medication for ADHD — this is one in every 30 children. The company that manufactures Ritalin, the ‘drug of choice,’ would have us believe that this is due to ‘heightened awareness.’ Some paediatricians totally deny that the condition exists at all and, instead, blame the symptoms on other reasons, such as food sensitivity, or environmental factors. The truth is probably a combination of the two extreme views. We are all more aware of behavioural issues with certain children — because, the boundaries between children ‘playing up’ and ‘pathological’ behaviour are blurred.

Part of the problem is that the guidelines for making the diagnosis of attention-deficit with, or without, hyperactivity are ill-defined and subjective. Some children with the condition are dreamy and ‘away with the fairies.’ Others seem to resemble a juvenile Attila, the Hun. And, conventional medicine lumps them all together under the umbrella of ADHD.

And, their treatment? Ritalin, an amphetamine. Speed. A stimulant to treat over-activity. Inadvertently, the Law of Similars, a fundamental homeopathic principle, has been borrowed by the very doctors who believe it is illogical and unscientific.

To diagnose ADHD, doctors use a checklist of symptoms. The more symptoms that are ticked and the longer they have been present, the more likely a diagnosis of ADHD. The symptoms are already deliciously vague, and then one has to consider whether they are ‘maladaptive and inconsistent with the developmental level.’

The criteria for inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity are all listed separately and depending on the score in the three groups, one is either labelled as having attention-deficit with, or without, hyperactivity and impulsive behaviour. Most children will avoid, dislike and be reluctant to do their homework, lose things necessary to do the homework and conveniently turn a deaf ear to parents’ entreaties to get on with it, whilst cheerfully working out how to get to the next level in Pokémon. Sound familiar? That combination of behaviour patterns scores four points on the inattention criteria. According to such criteria most of the children I see in the clinic have ADHD to greater, or lesser, degree and I score full marks. It is little wonder that the condition is being diagnosed so frequently.

There have always been children with challenging behaviour, but the method of treatment and the diagnosis is ever changing. Some of these children are very difficult to deal with from a parenting point of view — in my opinion parents need as much support as the children. I often hear mothers say, “It’s so hard to love Johnny, I do try but…” and, as you watch the little darling demolish the room with the efficiency of a tornado, you are filled with understanding.

Parents have a bad enough time dealing with this sort of behaviour, without having someone [who usually has no children] telling them it’s all their fault. There are many ways that parents can improve the situation, once they know how. It should always be borne in mind that, in the meantime, they are doing the best they can in a very difficult situation.

Cause & Effect 

No one knows what causes attention-deficit and/or hyperactivity. There are numerous theories ranging from it being hereditary to it being a result of the high-speed world in which we live. It is well-known that ADHD is more common in single parent families. This may be due to the fact that the hyperactive father cannot sustain a relationship, or it could be due to the lack of a suitable male role model for the developing child.

As with most diseases the cause is probably due to a variety of factors. Our parents not only provide us with genes, they also show us how to behave in relation to the world. Whether we are aware of it, or not, we tend to copy our parents. There are many other role models, some real, others fictional, that influence a child’s development. Bart Simpson is the ultimate parent’s nightmare child and yet children all over the world are glued to TV, fascinated by his antics and copying them to a greater, or lesser, extent.

Modern life is fast and furious. We have lost the stillness and the tranquillity in the pursuit of a better job and achieving success in a materialistic sense. With women having to work, the decline of the extended family and the sense of community, children are often parked in front of the television, or computer for hours on end. They no longer play those imaginative games, or escape into a book; there are no outlets for their creativity. School is very competitive in preparation for the big world. Little wonder that some children escape into dream-time instead of completing their maths homework. And, others get fired up by all the extraneous stimulation, and end up racing around like the cartoon character, Roadrunner.

Parents often notice that certain foods make their children all the more active. Foods and drinks can, and do, act as stimulants. Colourings and preservatives, sugar, and fizzy drinks can all increase activity. Many parents dread children’s parties as the junk-food is guaranteed to bring out the worst in their children.

With homeopathic treatment, this sensitivity to food often disappears; homeopathy is also often useful to helping avoid such foods until there is significant improvement.

Homeopathy: Safe, Useful Medicine 

Homeopathy seeks to treat each child as an individual, unlike conventional medicine. There is no homeopathic Ritalin. Each child is assessed as the unique person they are. The remedy must reflect everything about the child. A detailed history is fundamental to the correct choice of remedy. The homeopath will ask about the health of the child and the family, the pregnancy and delivery, early development, vaccinations, life events, schooling, favourite foods, or drinks, to mention just a few points. The more information gathered, the easier it is to find that ‘tailor-made’ remedy.

The most trivial information will most often lead to the remedy. Sometimes, a drawing made by the child holds the key to the cure. I have seen a dreamy child with so-called attention-deficit paint beautiful pictures of fairies and mushrooms. The remedy that brought the child back to earth was Agaricus muscarius, the classic toadstool. Another child that responded to Tarentula hispanica drew UFOs resembling a spider.

In some cases, the onset of the behavioural issues dates to a specific life event. Vaccines may lead to sleep disturbances and behavioural difficulties. There has been much reporting of the possibility, but as yet unproven association between the MMR vaccine and autism. And, what is autism? In my opinion, it is the ultimate detachment from ‘reality.’ Dream-time becomes the only world some of these children know. Many of them are truly gifted in a creative way. There are numerous examples of the ‘idiot savant,’ the autistic person who can play musical instruments with absolute genius.

Homeopathy also helps to overcome the adverse effects of vaccines, whilst retaining the protective ‘firewall’ from the infectious disease. Ideally, I prefer to prepare the child for vaccination with a remedy and to space out the vaccines. Injecting a two month-old baby with polio, tetanus, whooping cough, diphtheria, HiB, and now meningitis C germs, albeit in  modified form, is a huge strain on an immature immune system.

Homeopathy considers every factor, from the genetic component to specific possible causes. The aim of treatment is to stimulate healing at the deepest level and to allow a gentle return to health. Ritalin and other related drugs act by suppressing the symptoms. One common complaint is that the children feel and act doped-up, and they lose the good side of their hyperactivity. There is a positive side, which we aim to retain with homeopathy. It is as important to nurture the creative spirit, the imagination, the energy, and the curiosity that such children often show, as it is, to remove the unacceptable behaviour patterns. So many of such children have wonderful gifts. Homeopathic treatment balances these qualities, so that the child can fulfil their true potential.

Ritalin does not allow that to happen. Being a chemical drug, it is subject to many side-effects. Many children experience headaches, stomach aches, high blood pressure, drowsiness and blurred vision. Ritalin has to be taken every four hours, and when the drug is wearing off the children often become even more unmanageable. The Food and Drug Administration [FDA] has shown that in animal studies Ritalin causes liver cancer. For all these reasons, I feel it is well worth taking time to explore other possibilities, such as homeopathy.

Looking at diet, lifestyle, environment and family dynamics can well be extremely beneficial. Psychological support is essential for both child and parents, whether this is in a formal context, such as Behavioural Therapy, or Neuro-Linguistic Training, or informally with a support group.

Homeopathy offers safe, gentle healing. It may also be combined alongside other therapies and treatments. I have often used it, even when the child is on Ritalin. As the child improves, the dose of Ritalin can be lowered and gradually withdrawn — with the knowledge and consent of the other health practitioners involved.

Dr MARYSIA KRATIMENOS, MBBS, FRCS [Edinburgh], MFHom, is on the specialist staff of The Royal London Hospital of Integrative Medicine, UK. Her focus areas are stress clinics, general medicine, paediatrics and neuro-linguistic programming. This piece is ©Dr Marysia Kratimenos. 

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