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Study: More Parents Choose Lifestyle Changes, Not Drugs As First-Line ADHD Treatment

By — One of many ADD / ADHD blogs on

In the past 20 years different classifications for ADHD have emerged. Kids are getting diagnosed earlier. Treatment - which consisted almost exclusively of Ritalin when I was diagnosed - has now expanded to include a range of pharmaceutical options and generic spin offs. Perhaps most importantly though, stigma around the condition has waned and doctors, teachers and parents alike are more educated on the condition than ever before.

Now, greater knowledge is leading ADHD to a better place once again.

A Growing Reluctance to Medicate

“Many parents are reluctant to put their children on medication for ADHD…” said Dr. Kathi Kemper, M.D., lead author in a new study on the efficiency of lifestyle changes for ADHD.

Understandable, because there are now countless sources, including me, who have found the benefits of stimulant treatments are not worth the side effects they cause.

Tremors and a general feeling of “numbness” (Countless ADHDers report a strange “zombie-like” effect! :/ ) were MY main reasons for opting out of treatment, but there are others that have had things much, MUCH worse. 

While they are far from the norm, hallucinations, severely blistered, peeling red skin, and dangerously high blood pressure are just a few of the serious side effects these medicines can cause. Scary stuff indeed, but for others, it’s not even the side effects they fear so much, it’s the dependency the drugs cause! Unfortunately, it’s fact that ADHD medicines are among the most abused pharmaceuticals out there.

Changing Course

Because of these things, the number of people who now choose NOT to medicate their own ADHD or their child’s ADHD is growing. Some have opted for a natural solution, like homeopathy and found it to be very helpful. 

Myself? I personally stopped taking pharmaceutical in middle school and though I struggled academically for awhile, I made it through and was on the Dean’s list every semester in college! For me, success without drugs has meant learning coping strategies – teaching myself to get organized, avoiding distractions, in essence making common-sense, healthy changes to my lifestyle.

Now, Dr. Kemper’s study shows I am nowhere near alone in this approach!

In it, a year and a half’s worth of patient intake forms, physician reports and lab studies from an integrative pediatric clinic were reviewed.  Surprisingly only 31% of these families were actually concerned about their child’s ADHD and even less, only 13% of the children were taking a stimulant drug.

Said Kemper,"Although it was a small study from one practice, we believe that it reflects an emerging trend among pediatricians and primary care provider…"

Integrative Medicine - The Smart Approach to Health

To clear up any confusion you may have, “integrative” is more philosophy and practice than treatment. It’s growing field of doctors that believe there is no point in being strictly “conventional” or strictly “natural.” They say health care shouldn’t be about sides. It should be about finding the safest and most effective solution to a health problem – regardless of its source. It’s also about understanding the connection between our body, mind, diet, activity and relationships.

As Dr. Kemper points out, integrative health doctors have several natural means of managing ADHD symptoms they can recommend to their patients.

"For example, if your child has trouble concentrating in his mid-morning math class, be sure he eats a really good breakfast, or try having him go to bed an hour earlier to see if that helps…If your child can't sit still to do homework when he gets home from school, have him go outside to shoot some hoops and then try doing homework. I recommend using low-risk, healthy lifestyle approaches first before resorting to medication."

As many as have found, healthy lifestyle changes can be just the right “medicine” to help us overcome the challenges ADHD has given us. Sound intriguing? Dr. Kemper recommends looking for an integrative doctor at the American Academy of Pediatrics’ website.

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