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Natural Awakenings Washington DC Metro

The Curious Case of Ritalin

Jul 29, 2014 02:28AM

For millions of parents, 'back to school' means giving children stimulant drugs such as Ritalin for Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD). Faced with the choice of poor academic performance without drug treatment versus the risks of side effects, brain injury and addiction  from drugs that work identically to cocaine and speed, parents can find themselves between a “rock and a hard place.” Physicians are well aware of these problems and many struggle with the clinical choice of putting their young patients at risk.

Psychotherapy has been found to be ineffective in modifying AD/HD symptoms. Drug treatment like Ritalin can eliminate such symptoms as inattentiveness, impulsivity and motor restlessness, which shows there is strong evidence that a biophysical imbalance is present in the brains of those with AD/HD. 

In the 1990s, while treating thousands of children with AD/HD, I compiled much of the research available on nutritional deficiencies, toxicities and hormonal dysregulation as it related to AD/HD,  I discovered that approximately 100 peer-reviewed studies could be clustered into eight causative 'risk factor' categories: food allergies, thyroid disorders, amino acid deficiencies, essential fatty acid deficiencies, mineral deficiencies, heavy metal toxicities, B vitamin deficiencies and a high carbohydrate/low protein diet.

With functional medicine testing, we often find that children diagnosed with AD/HD, and probably adults too, have underlying issues and may suffer from various metabolic abnormalities (such as thyroid disorders), chronic infections (like Lyme), and genetic vulnerabilities (such as methylation defects), that conspire in different patterns from individual to individual to cause AD/HD symptoms.

Ten years ago, research was conducted and published in Alternative Medicine Reviews (a Medline-affiliated medical journal) that suggested nutritional supplements work as effectively as Ritalin in the treatment of AD/HD. Nutritional supplements do not cause risky side effects, nor do they cause brain injury or addiction. They are also less expensive than drug therapies.

So, why has the world not embraced these safe, efficacious and inexpensive technologies in the treatment of AD/HD?

The primary reason, I believe, is the fourth factor which justifies the value of any treatment: the difficulty of application. Taking a few relatively small pills is much easier than guzzling down a few handfuls of supplements twice a day, particularly for children. Convenience is the mantra of our busy world and nutritional supplements can be difficult to administer in our high paced lives.

My hope in presenting this article is to inform parents that an effective, safe and inexpensive option exists to stimulants such as Ritalin. Armed with this knowledge, parents should be encouraged to seek alternative treatment to the easiest course of action. Taking the time to get your child diagnostically tested to find his or her unique risk factors and being steadfast in administering nutritional supplements (coaxing may be needed), will make a tremendous difference in the ability of the child to remain attentive, interested and find success at both home and school.

Chas Gant, M.D., Ph.D., is an author, physician and practitioner, specializing in molecular health and healing. For more information, call 202-237-7000 ext. 104 or visit

(Source: Harding, Judah, Gant (2003) Outcome-Based Comparison of Ritalin versus Food-Supplement Treated Children with AD/HD, Alternative Medicine Review; 8(3):319-330)


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