The Creativity of ADHD


The Creativity of ADHD

More insights on a positive side of a “disorder”

The Creativity of ADHD

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is typically described by the problems it presents. It is known as a neurological disorder, marked by distractibility, impulsivity, and hyperactivity, which begins in childhood and persists in adults. And, indeed, ADHD may have negative consequences for academic achievement, employment performance, and social relationships.

But ADHD may also bring with it an advantage: the ability to think more creatively. Three aspects of creative cognition are divergent thinking, conceptual expansion and overcoming knowledge constraints. Divergent thinking, or the ability to think of many ideas from a single starting point, is a critical part of creative thinking. Previous research has established that individuals with ADHD are exceptionally good at divergent thinking tasks, such as inventing creative new uses for everyday objects, and brainstorming new features for an innovative cell phone device. In a new study, college students with ADHD scored higher than non-ADHD peers on two tasks that tapped conceptual expansion and the ability to overcome knowledge constraints. Together with previous research, these new findings link ADHD to all three elements of the creative cognition trio.

Prior knowledge can be an obstacle to creativity. When we look to a prior model or example for inspiration, we may actually become stuck: designers refer to this as “fixation.” In creative generation research, when participants are given examples before a task that requires them to invent something new, such as a new toy, their inventions tend to incorporate aspects of the examples—and thus are less novel. The ability to overcome recently presented information is therefore essential to creative thinking.

Similarly, knowledge of the world can stunt one’s ability to imagine it differently. For instance, if asked to invent an animal or fruit that might exist on another planet, most people would start by thinking of a typical animal or fruit on Earth and then modify it somewhat into an “alien” version. Research suggests that when people invent alien creations based on specific Earth examples, the creations are rated as less original compared to those not inspired by specific examples. The key to being creative under these conditions is conceptual expansion, or the ability to loosen the boundaries of concepts. For instance, a paperclip is designed to hold papers together. By conceptual expansion, one might think beyond this definition and imagine a paperclip as something else— such as a tool to pry open the battery compartment of a wristwatch. In creating an alien animal, one might assume that the animal would need to be bilaterally symmetrical, as most Earth animals possess this attribute. Conceptual expansion might allow one to imagine an animal with an asymmetrical form, which differs from a typical Earth animal.

Evidence suggests that ADHD may offer some protection from the constraining effects of knowledge. In a study of adolescents, a group with ADHD was compared to a group of non-ADHD peers on a toy invention task. Participants were first shown a set of example toys that shared specific features (e.g., a ball), then asked to invent new toys that were very different from any existing toys. The toys invented by the ADHD group included fewer elements of the task examples compared to toys created by the ADHD group. In the same study, there were no differences between the ADHD and non-ADHD groups on a conceptual expansion task. However, a study of college students found that, compared to non-ADHD peers, ADHD students showed a broader scope of semantic activation—which is the “turning on” of concepts and ideas that are stored in memory—and is correlated with conceptual expansion in other research. Given evidence that linked ADHD to higher divergent thinking and ability to overcome the constraining effect of task examples, it seemed intuitive to look more closely at the relationship between ADHD and the third element of creative thinking, conceptual expansion.

I compared college students with and without ADHD on two tasks. In the first, I told participants to imagine they worked for an advertising agency and that they’d been asked to invent names for new products in three categories (pasta, nuclear elements, and pain relievers). For each category, six examples were provided that shared certain endings (e.g., pain relievers ending in –ol, such as Midol, Tylenol, and Panadol). I then instructed participants to invent a name for a new product in each category without using any aspects of the examples provided. And then, to explore conceptual expansion, I asked participants to draw and describe a fruit that might exist on another planet very different from Earth. The creations were to be as creative as possible and not duplicate any fruit that existed on Earth.

As expected, the ADHD students were less constrained by task examples on the product label invention task; compared to non-ADHD peers, ADHD students were less likely to include the example endings, yet invented labels that were equally descriptive of the product category. On the alien fruit task, the ADHD students invented fruits that were rated as more original and less representative of Earth fruit, compared to non-ADHD students. And while the groups were comparable in their inclusion of typical fruit features, such as seeds and stems, the ADHD students were more likely to include atypical features such as antenna, tongues, straws, and hammers. The ADHD students also demonstrated higher conceptual expansion by violating conventional boundaries of the fruit category—for instance by making the fruit poisonous or adding properties of non-living things such as tools. Similar results have been reported for gifted individuals in a non-ADHD population.

At first glance, non-conformity and conceptual expansion may not sound very impressive. But, in the context of creative innovation, a small change may unlock a breakthrough. Take the sewing needle, for example. The basic design (eye on the blunt end for threading) dates back to our Denosoyan ancestors, at least 50,000 years ago. Then, in the early 1800s, inventor Balthasar Krems flipped that design upside-down to create the world’s first eye-pointed needle—which paved the way for the sewing machine.

ADHD may create difficulties for individuals in many contexts that required focused, sustained attention—such as school, where students are expected to sit still and pay attention. On the other hand, the same distractibility and chaotic mind can give people with ADHD an edge when it comes to creative, original thinking. This new study suggests that ADHD may be especially beneficial when the goal is to create or invent something new without being locked into—and constrained by—old models or conventions. The innovative, original thinking style of people with ADHD may be a great fit for innovative fields where it’s an advantage to be on the cutting edge.

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Study suggests a direct link between screen time and ADHD in teens


Image: Study suggests a direct link between screen time and ADHD in teens

Adding to the list of health concerns associated with excessive screen time, one study suggests that there could be a link between the length of time teenagers spend online and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

The two-year study, which was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), observed more than 2,500 high school students from Los Angeles.

Digital media and the attention span of teenagers

A team of researchers analyzed data from the teenagers who had shorter attention spans the more they became involved in different digital media platforms for the duration of the experiment.

The JAMA study observed adolescents aged 15 and 16 years periodically for two years. The researchers asked the teenagers about the frequency of their online activities and if they had experienced any of the known symptoms of ADHD.

As the teenagers’ digital engagement rose, their reported ADHD symptoms also went up by 10 percent. The researchers noted that based on the results of the study, even if digital media usage does not definitively cause ADHD, it could cause symptoms that would result in the diagnosis of ADHD or require pharmaceutical treatment.

Experts believe that ADHD begins in the early stages of childhood development. However, the exact circumstances, regardless if they are biological or environmental, have yet to be determined.

Adam Leventhal, a University of Southern California psychologist and senior author of the study, shared that the research team is now analyzing the occurrence of new symptoms that were not present when the study began.

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Other studies about digital engagement have implied that there is an inverse relationship with happiness. The less people used digital media, the more they reported feeling an overall sense of happiness. (Related: The social media paradox: Teens who are always online feel more lonely.)

The researchers concluded that the teenagers might have exhibited ADHD symptoms from the outset due to other factors. However, it is possible that excessive digital media usage can still aggravate these symptoms.

Fast facts about ADHD

ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder that is commonly diagnosed in children. However, it can also be diagnosed in older individuals. ADHD can be difficult to diagnose. Since several symptoms of ADHD are similar to normal childhood behaviors, the disorder itself can be hard to detect.

The symptoms of ADHD may include forgetting completed tasks, having difficulty sitting still, having difficulty staying organized, and having trouble concentrating or focusing.

  • Men are at least three times more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than females.
  • During their lifetimes, at least 13 percent of men will be diagnosed with ADHD, as opposed to only 4.2 percent in women.
  • The average age of ADHD diagnosis is seven years old.
  • The symptoms of the condition will usually manifest when a child is aged three to six years old.
  • ADHD is not solely a childhood disorder. At least four percent of American adults older than 18 may have ADHD.

This disorder does not increase an individual’s risk for other conditions or diseases. However, some people with ADHD, mostly children, have a higher chance of experiencing different coexisting conditions. These can make social situations, like school, more difficult for kids with ADHD.

Some coexisting conditions of ADHD may include:

  • Anxiety disorder
  • Bed-wetting problems
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Conduct disorders and difficulties (e.g., antisocial behavior, fighting, and oppositional defiant disorder)
  • Depression
  • Learning disabilities
  • Sleep disorders
  • Substance abuse
  • Tourette syndrome

Minimize your child’s ADHD risk by reading more articles with tips on how to manage their internet use at Addiction.news.

Sources include:

Lifezette.com

Healthline.com

The ADHD Controversy.


ADHD was already a controversial diagnosis; are Jerome Kagan’s recent criticisms of it warranted?

Is attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) a legitimate diagnosis or is it mostly a fraud? The answer has important implications for many individuals and for society. The diagnosis is accepted as legitimate by the psychiatric profession, but continues to have its vehement critics. Recently, noted psychologist Jerome Kagan has been giving tremendous weight to these criticisms by calling ADHD mostly a fraud. There are significant problems with his criticism, however.

What is ADHD?

ADHD was first described in children in 1902, and was understood as an impulse control disorder. It was not formally recognized as a diagnosis, however, until the second edition of the DSM in 1968. The first approved drug used to treat ADHD was benzedrine in 1936. Ritalin, which is still used to treat the disorder, was approved in 1955.

Here is the official DSM diagnosis:

  • A persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development
    • Six or more of the symptoms have persisted for at least six months to a degree that is inconsistent with developmental level and that negatively impacts directly on social and academic/occupational activities. Please note: The symptoms are not solely a manifestation of oppositional behaviour, defiance, hostility, or failure to understand tasks or instructions. For older adolescents and adults (age 17 and older), five or more symptoms are required
  • Several inattentive or hyperactive-impulsive symptoms were present prior to age 12 years
  • Several inattentive or hyperactive-impulsive symptoms are present in two or more settings (e.g. at home, school, or work; with friends or relatives; in other activities)
  • There is clear evidence that the symptoms interfere with, or reduce the quality of, social, academic or occupational functioning
  • The symptoms do not occur exclusively during the course of schizophrenia or another psychotic disorder and are not better explained by another mental disorder (e.g. mood disorder, anxiety disorder, dissociative disorder, personality disorder, substance intoxication or withdrawal)

There are a few aspects of this diagnosis worth pointing out. First, this is what we call a clinical diagnosis, it is based entirely on signs and symptoms without any objective diagnostic tests. You cannot see ADHD on an MRI scan of the brain, an EEG, or a blood test. This is not unusual in medicine, especially for brain disorders. The same is true, for example, of migraine headaches. It is entirely a clinical diagnosis.

This, by itself, should not call the diagnosis into question. Brain function relies not only on the health of the cells and the absence of identifiable anatomical or gross pathology. It also depends on the pattern of connections among brain cells, the density of their connections, and the details of their biochemistry. We are just starting to be able to image the brain at this level.

As an example, raise someone in a closet for 20 years and I guarantee you they will have a psychological disorder, but you would not be able to tell that from looking at their brain with any tool we currently have.

Because mood, thought, and behavior largely rely on brain function that cannot be imaged, psychiatrists have relied on elaborate schemes of clinical diagnoses to at least have a common language for thinking and talking about mental illness. It is imperfect, and extremely fuzzy around the edges, but it has its utility.

That fuzziness is partly based in the limits of our current technology and understanding. But it is also based in the fact that humans are neurologically heterogeneous and the fact that the brain is an extremely complex system. This means that the same end result (behavior, for example) might result from almost endless permutations of interactions among various systems in the brain and their interaction with the environment.

You can see this in the formal description of ADHD above. There is a sincere attempt to capture a real neurological phenomenon, and to filter out other factors that might contribute to or cause similar symptoms. Signs used to establish the diagnosis cannot be temporary, or isolated to only one environment, or related to other conditions or situations that might provoke them. You need to have many symptoms persistent over a long time without other identifiable causes and to a sufficient degree that they cause demonstrable harm.

There is also an attempt to separate out those who have a real disorder from the typical spectrum of human behavior. This is also a common problem in medicine. Many disorders, like high blood pressure, do not have a sharp demarcation line. The curves for normal blood pressure and hypertension overlap. Experts have to decide where to draw the line, either capturing more people with the disorder but also more people just at the upper range of normal, vs excluding those who are just at the upper range of normal but also then missing more people with the disorder.

Eventually such clinical questions evolve from, “Who has the disorder” to “Who benefits from treatment for the disorder.” That is the real question.

Neuroanatomical Correlates

Despite the fact that ADHD is a fuzzy clinical entity, we have made progress in understanding what is happening in the brain of most people with ADHD. The current consensus is that ADHD is a deficit of executive functions. The frontal lobes carry out many critical functions, some considered executive functions: they include being able to focus your attention, maintain focus, switch among tasks, filter out distractions, and impulse control. Executive function includes the ability to weigh the probable outcomes of your behavior and then make high-level decisions about how you will behave.

As an adult neurologist I see patients with executive function disorder frequently, usually from head trauma. Car accidents in particular result in frontal lobe damage as it is common to hit your head against the windshield during many types of accidents. Patients frequently develop the symptoms of ADHD after frontal head trauma. They have poor focus, and poor impulse control. In one dramatic case a patient’s entire personality changed. She lost all ability to control or moderate her behavior (as have others). Often these patients respond favorably to the same stimulants we use to treat ADHD.

When we look at the brains of those who meet the clinical diagnosis of ADHD with our modern imaging techniques, such as fMRI and EEG, we find a similar pattern of brain dysfunction:

Convergent data from neuroimaging, neuropsychology, genetics and neurochemical studies consistently point to the involvement of the frontostriatal network as a likely contributor to the pathophysiology of ADHD. This network involves the lateral prefrontal cortex, the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, the caudate nucleus and putamen. Moreover, a growing literature demonstrates abnormalities affecting other cortical regions and the cerebellum.

At this point there is no reasonable disagreement about the fact that ADHD is a disorder of brain function. Children who meet the strict diagnostic criteria are demonstrably different, in consistent and predictable ways, than children who do not (controlling for other possible factors). They have impaired executive functions, and we can see this in changes to the relevant parts of the brain. We still have a lot to learn (again, the brain is complex) but a consistent picture is emerging.

Jerome Kagan’s criticism

Jerome Kagan is a preeminent psychologist. This gives his opinions about a psychological topic a great deal of weight. The press loves him because he has a sensational story to tell and he has impeccable credential. Articles about Kagan often spend an entire paragraph or two touting those credentials.

Unfortunately this is a common mistake that mainstream journalists make when discussing scientific topics. They confuse the expertise of an individual with scientific authority. No individual ever represents the consensus of scientific opinion, they can only represent their own quirky opinions (which may or may not be in line with the consensus).

This is a classic example of this error. Kagan’s opinions do not conform to the current consensus of scientific opinion, but he is presented as an unimpeachable authority. Further, all reporting that I have seen on Kagan’s opinions regarding ADHD fail to put his expertise into a reasonable context. Kagan is a psychologist. He is not a psychiatrist, nor a neuroscientist.

Often related fields covering the same question have different opinions. Geologists and paleontologists disagree about the relative contribution of a meteor impact to the extinction of the dinosaurs at the K-Pg boundary. If a reporter talked only to a geologist they would not capture the true state of the broader scientific opinion.

Many psychologists have opinions about psychiatry that do not reflect the consensus of psychiatric opinion. In essence, even though Kagan has relevant expertise, he is not a clinician, and therefore is an outsider when it comes to the practice of psychiatry. He also does not seem to be up to date on the neuroscience of ADHD.

Yet his recent interview with Spiegel is being widely reports as definitive criticism of the diagnosis and treatment of ADHD. Here are some of the highlights: He says:

Let’s go back 50 years. We have a 7-year-old child who is bored in school and disrupts classes. Back then, he was called lazy. Today, he is said to suffer from ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). That’s why the numbers have soared.

We are familiar with a similar criticism of autism diagnoses. Yes, diagnostic practices have changed. Awareness of the diagnosis has changed. The implication here is that the 1950s diagnosis (a bored child) was better than the current diagnosis of ADHD.

But, if you recall the diagnostic criteria from above, displaying ADHD behavior in school alone is not sufficient to establish the diagnosis. So, Kagan’s example is simply wrong. The child in his example should not be diagnosed with ADHD.

Being generous, he may be implying only that doctors are overdiagnosing ADHD and not following their own diagnostic criteria. This is a real issue, but here is a far more nuanced discussion from an actual clinician:

ADHD is real—it’s not made up. But it exists on a continuum. There’s no marker or white line that says you’re in the “definite” or “highly likely” group. There’s almost unanimous agreement that five or six percent clearly have enough of these symptoms for an ADHD diagnosis. Then there’s the next group, where the diagnosis is more of a judgment call, and for these kids, behavioral therapy might work. And then there’s a third group, on the borderline. These are the ones we’re worried about being pushed into an inaccurate diagnosis.

The real issue is – are schools pushing for more kids in the gray zone to be diagnosed because of funding and regulation issues? Also, there is a real “demarcation problem” with the diagnosis, and we have to carefully consider the risks and benefits of using looser or tighter criteria. These discussions are happening within the profession, and are very evidence-based and nuanced. Kagan’s criticism, by comparison, is shooting from the hip and simplistic. (I will add the caveat that the interview may not reflect the full depth of his opinion, but he is responsible for how he communicates to the public, especially given how widely his opinions have been spread.)

He continues:

SPIEGEL: Experts speak of 5.4 million American children who display the symptoms typical of ADHD. Are you saying that this mental disorder is just an invention?

Kagan: That’s correct; it is an invention. Every child who’s not doing well in school is sent to see a pediatrician, and the pediatrician says: “It’s ADHD; here’s Ritalin.” In fact, 90 percent of these 5.4 million kids don’t have an abnormal dopamine metabolism. The problem is, if a drug is available to doctors, they’ll make the corresponding diagnosis.

That characterization, while you might dismiss it as hyperbole, is irresponsible. “Every” child? Again, this does not meet the official diagnostic criteria for ADHD which requires more than just not doing well in school. His reference to “dopamine metabolism” is just weird. It is true that some studies show some children with ADHD have impaired reward system function. This may be playing a role in some subtypes of ADHD. It is not a core feature of ADHD, however, and the evidence is still very preliminary. Invoking what is essentially a preliminary side point about the neuroanatomical correlates of ADHD as reason to doubt the diagnosis is, to be kind, highly problematic.

Kagan then broadens his criticism to encompass psychiatry in general:

We could get philosophical and ask ourselves: “What does mental illness mean?” If you do interviews with children and adolescents aged 12 to 19, then 40 percent can be categorized as anxious or depressed. But if you take a closer look and ask how many of them are seriously impaired by this, the number shrinks to 8 percent. Describing every child who is depressed or anxious as being mentally ill is ridiculous. Adolescents are anxious, that’s normal. They don’t know what college to go to. Their boyfriend or girlfriend just stood them up. Being sad or anxious is just as much a part of life as anger or sexual frustration.

This is a typical anti-mental illness statement. This is simply a straw man of what psychiatry does.

He is saying that we should not confuse the normal range of behavior with a disorder, as if this is a huge insight. This understanding has already been incorporated into clinical thinking. As I pointed out above – there are great pains taken when defining mental disorders to separate true disorders from the healthy range of human behavior.

Further, being “seriously impaired” is already part of the diagnosis, so what is he talking about?

He goes on to argue that some people are depressed in response to a life event. Right – psychiatrists call this a “reactive depression” because it is already recognized, and not confused with a chronic depression. That is why the diagnosis of clinical depression excludes depression that follows a major trigger, and must continue for greater than six months to be considered a disorder.

From reading the entire interview I am left wondering, exactly what Kagan is criticizing? He is certainly not criticizing the standard of care within psychiatry. He seems to be tilting at a straw man of the worst possible malpractice that deviates from that standard. He is raising issues as if these are not already part of a vigorous evidence-based discussion within psychiatry itself.

A kernel of truth

We often take a sharply critical approach to medical science here at SBM. Self-criticism is critical to improvement. That is the essence of science itself, it is designed for error correction through self-criticism.

Our nuanced position is that science basically works, but there is a lot of room for improvement. Enemies of science, however, or those with a specific ideological axe to grind, use the same evidence to argue that the institution of science is fatally flawed and can be comfortably dismissed or ignored.

I find the same is true of much of the public criticism of psychiatry. There is a lot to criticize in the profession (as in medicine in general), and a lot of room for improvement. Some of that is just the current status of the science. We don’t know everything, and yet medicine (including psychiatry) is an applied science. We have to make important decisions with limited information.

There are also many issues of quality control. Medicine is hard, and keeping quality standards high is challenging.

So there are many legitimate criticisms of ADHD and psychiatry, but that does not mean ADHD is a fraud. The scientific evidence, both clinical and neuroscience, is robust. Kagan’s criticisms are mostly greatly exaggerated, or they are straw men because they are already incorporated into the standard of care.

Unfortunately, you will not be exposed to any of that from reading any of the popular press breathlessly reporting that ADHD is a fraud.

Source:https://sciencebasedmedicine.org

NIH Study Shows People With ADHD Have Altered Brains


adhd altered brains

Story at-a-glance

  • The brains of people with ADHD are smaller overall as well as in five specific brain regions: the nucleus, putamen, nucleus accumbens, amygdala and hippocampus
  • ADHD may be characterized by delayed development in certain brain regions
  • It’s too early to say what the size difference may mean or whether one day MRI s

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has long been diagnosed primarily by subjective measures.

A child’s health care providers, parents and, often, teachers typically contribute behavioral observations about the child and, if he or she fits the established criteria for ADHD — generally speaking, a persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development — a diagnosis may be made.1

Without an objective test or measure, the potential for over-diagnosis or misdiagnosis is high. By some estimates, up to 20 percent of children with ADHD are misdiagnosed.2

This is only compounded by the fact that many ADHD symptoms are experienced by non-ADHD children at some point or another — and the fact that many other conditions, including sleep disorders, anxiety, depression and certain learning disabilities, can have similar symptoms.

Uncovering objective measures by which to gauge ADHD in children (and adults) could therefore help immensely, and research funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) may help to do just that. Not only that, but the new findings suggest ADHD is not simply a behavioral issue but rather stems from a brain disorder.3

Five Brain Regions in Children With ADHD Are Smaller Than Normal

Researchers from Radboud University in the Netherlands analyzed MRI scans from more than 3,200 people, more than half of whom had ADHD.4 The brains of people with ADHD turned out to be smaller overall as well as in five specific brain regions: the nucleus, putamen, nucleus accumbens, amygdala and hippocampus.5

The differences in volume were slight and seemed to become less magnified by adulthood, which suggests ADHD may be characterized by delayed development in certain brain regions. The biggest size difference occurred in the amygdala, which is associated with emotions and hasn’t previously been widely linked to ADHD.6

Dr. Jonathan Posner, an assistant professor in the department of psychiatry at Columbia University, who was not involved in the study but wrote an accompanying editorial, suggested to CNN that this may explain why children with ADHD may have emotional symptoms, such as poor tolerance for frustration.

“Those types of symptoms aren’t given as much focus or attention as the cognitive symptoms seen in ADHD,” he said, but, “These findings would suggest that it’s possible … there’s actually a more primary disturbance in emotional processing.”7Also of note, the use of ADHD medications did not seem to affect the results.

While previous studies have also linked size differences in brain volume to ADHD, they included small samples sizes leading to inconclusive results.8

The current study, however, was much larger. Martine Hoogman, Ph.D., of the department of human genetics at Radboud University Medical Center in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, told WebMD:9

“These differences are very small — in the range of a few percent — so the unprecedented size of our study was crucial to help identify these. Similar differences in brain volume are also seen in other psychiatric disorders, especially major depressive disorder.”

What Does Decreased Brain Volume Mean for Kids With ADHD?

It’s too early to say what the size difference may mean, or whether one day MRI scans could be used to help diagnose ADHD. Graham Murray, a lecturer in psychiatry at Cambridge University in England, told Time:10

“Having less brain in several regions sounds bad but it’s not as simple as that … The brain is very good at adapting … Just because you have less brain volume doesn’t condemn the child to not being able to function well.”

What many experts did concur with is that the findings help further the notion that ADHD originates from brain systems and may lead to alterations in brain function and structure. Ultimately, this should help to reduce stigma for those affected and dampen myths that ADHD is the result of lazy, misbehaved kids or poor parenting.11

“It is a bit distressing that kids are still getting feedback that they are misbehaving or that [ADHD] is not real,” Toronto pediatric neurologist Dr. Evdokia Anagnostou told CBC News. “If anything comes out of this very large study, it’s that this is a brain disorder.”12

Past research has also suggested that use of an MRI technique called magnetic field correlation imaging could help with ADHD diagnosis. In that case, the procedure was able to detect low brain iron levels, which was associated with ADHD in children who had not been treated with psychostimulant drugs.13

Medicating Kids With ADHD May Not Improve Their Grades or Symptoms

Among very young children (2 to 5 years), behavior therapy is the first-line treatment recommended for ADHD, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

However, data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed that about half of preschoolers with ADHD were taking medication, and 1 in 4 were being treated only with medication.14

Further, only half of 4- to 5-year olds with ADHD received behavior therapy, despite it being the recommended go-to treatment. By age 6, the so-called “best practice guidelines” for ADHD include treatment with both medication and behavior therapy.

Many people, parents included, often assume that medicating kids with ADHD will make their symptoms disappear and their grades improve, but this isn’t necessarily the case.

In a study that analyzed the effects of drug versus behavioral treatment on homework performance in children with ADHD, the drug treatment led to no significant improvements in homework completion or accuracy compared to placebo.

The behavioral therapy, however, led to children finishing up to 13 percent more homework problems and increased accuracy by 8 percent.15

Meanwhile, research published in The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews found that expectations of the drug methylphenidate (brand names Ritalin, Concerta, Medikinet and Equasym) “are probably greater than they should be.”16

While they found some evidence of benefit, it was based on “very low-quality evidence.” Taking the drug was also associated with an increased risk of sleep problems and appetite loss.

Lifestyle and Environmental Factors That May Influence ADHD and ADHD-Like Symptoms

While ADHD may, in fact, be a brain disorder, many factors are likely involved, including poor nutrition and environmental toxins, the latter two of which can have a profound influence on your brain health.

There do appear to be many environmental and lifestyle factors that influence both the diagnosis of this disease (as well as trigger ADHD-like symptoms) and its progression or healing. For instance:

Children with higher levels of the endocrine-disrupting chemical bisphenol-A (BPA), for instance, are more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD17
Children exposed to higher levels of organophosphate pesticides may have a twofold to threefold increased risk of being diagnosed with ADHD18
Exposure to tobacco smoke in utero is also associated with ADHD19
Eating an unhealthy diet during pregnancy may increase ADHD symptoms in youth20
Drinking sugar-sweetened beverages like soda is associated with ADHD21
Gluten sensitivity may be common in children with ADHD, and a gluten-free diet has been shown to significantly improve behavior in kids22
Artificial food coloring and other food additives, such as preservatives, are associated with increased hyperactivity in children23

Vetiver Essential Oil May Be Useful for ADHD

Considering the risks of ADHD drugs, and their lackluster performance in improving symptoms, there’s good reason to look outside of the pharmaceutical box when it comes to ADHD treatment. Behavioral therapy, as mentioned, is a good start, but there are many other natural options to add to your arsenal as well, like vetiver oil (vetiver is a type of Indian grass).

In one study, when children inhaled the oil three times a day for 30 days they had improved brain wave patterns and behavior and did better in school.24 Eighty percent of the children also improved when using cedarwood essential oil similarly.25

Improvements in brain activity were revealed via electro-encephalograph (EEG), which measures electrical impulses moving through the brain. This allowed researchers to determine whether the children’s brains were functioning primarily in a beta (i.e., alert) state or a theta state (i.e., lack of focus).

Improvements in beta-theta ratios were noted following the use of vetiver essential oil, while parents also noted improvements in symptoms. Another study, published in the Journal of Intercultural Ethnopharmacology, also showed vetiver essential oil to have particular promise for ADHD.

The animal study revealed changes in brain activity suggestive of increased alertness,26 while research on human subjects revealed faster reaction times and stimulation of sympathetic nerve activity following inhalation.27

If Your Child Struggles With Focus, Inattention or Other ADHD Symptoms, Try Exercise

If your child is struggling with ADHD or ADHD-like symptoms, I recommend consulting with a holistic physician who is experienced in treating ADHD using natural methods. You’ll want to be sure, however, that your child is getting regular physical activity on a daily basis.

This simple intervention has been compared to medication for ADHD, as it leads to improvement in executive control, which is the ability to maintain focus, working memory and cognitive flexibility (or switching between tasks).28 Executive functioning is often impaired in children with ADHD.

In addition, even participating in before- and after-school physical activity programs has been found to reduce inattention and moodiness among young children at risk of ADHD, as well as improve math and reading test scores.29 Other research revealed that 26 minutes of physical activity each day helped to significantly reduce ADHD symptoms in grade-schoolers.30

Dietary Strategies to Address ADHD

Your brain health is intricately connected to what you eat, which is why addressing dietary factors is so important for children facing ADHD-like symptoms, whether he or she has been diagnosed with ADHD or not. As researchers continue to learn more about how ADHD may alter your brain (or an altered brain may lead to ADHD), I strongly recommend addressing the following factors:

Too much sugar. High-sugar foods and starchy carbohydrates lead to excessive insulin release, which can cause falling blood sugar levels, or hypoglycemia. Hypoglycemia, in turn, causes your brain to secrete glutamate in levels that can cause agitation, depression, anger, anxiety and panic attacks.

Besides that, sugar promotes chronic inflammation in your body, and many studies have demonstrated the connection between a high-sugar diet and worsened mental health.

Gluten sensitivity. The evidence suggesting that gluten sensitivity may be at the root of a number of neurological and psychiatric conditions, including ADHD, is quite compelling. One study went so far as to suggest celiac disease should be added to the ADHD symptom checklist.31

An unhealthy gut. As explained by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, a medical doctor with a postgraduate degree in neurology, toxicity in your gut can flow throughout your body and into your brain, where it can cause symptoms of autism, ADHD, dyslexia, dyspraxia, depression, schizophrenia and other mental disorders. Reducing gut inflammation is imperative when addressing mental health issues, so optimizing your child’s gut flora is a critical step.

This includes not only avoiding processed, refined foods but also eating traditionally fermented foods, such as fermented vegetables and fermented dairy products like kefir. If you cannot get your child to eat fermented foods on a regular basis, a high-quality probiotic supplement may be highly beneficial in correcting abnormal gut flora that may contribute to brain dysfunction.

Animal-based omega-3 fat deficiency. Kids low in omega-3 fats may be significantly more likely to be hyperactive, struggle with learning disorders and display behavioral problems. A clinical study published in 2007 also examined the effects of krill oil on adults diagnosed with ADHD.32

In that study, patients improved their ability to concentrate by an average of over 60 percent after taking a daily 500-milligram (mg) dose of krill oil for six months. They also reported a 50 percent improvement in planning skills and a close to 49 percent improvement in social skills.

Food additives and GE ingredients. A number of food additives are thought to worsen ADHD, and many have subsequently been banned in Europe. Potential culprits to avoid include Blue #1 and #2 food coloring; Green #3; Orange B; Red #3 and #40; Yellow #5 and #6; and sodium benzoate, a preservative.

Research also shows that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, used in large quantities on genetically engineered Roundup Ready crops, limits your body’s ability to detoxify foreign chemical compounds. As a result, the damaging effects of those chemicals and environmental toxins are magnified, and may result in a wide variety of diseases, including brain disorders that can affect behavior.

The 11 Biggest Myths And Misconceptions About Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder


People who suffer from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) find life a little more challenging than those who don’t. Most of us procrastinate big projects or lose interest in accomplishing difficult tasks at times, but people living with ADHD experience these things on a whole other level. While ADHD patients may want to focus, they’re unable to; disorganization and impulsivity permeate almost every moment of their lives.

 

ADHD is a disorder that involves problems in focusing, attention, controlling behavior, and being hyperactive. Researchers aren’t entirely sure what leads to ADHD, but they believe it might have to do with genes or the environment, or a mixture of both.

Perhaps what makes it even more difficult to live with ADHD is the amount of misinformation and negative stereotypes that surround the diagnosis. ADHD patients are often written off as over-diagnosed, undisciplined, or simply lazy. The list below examines some of these myths:

1). ADHD is ‘all in your head.’

In a way, ADHD is in your head — well, it’s in your brain. Research has shown that certain brain regions don’t synchronize properly in patients with the disorder, and their overall brain architecture is different than people who don’t have it. While many people may believe that ADHD is something that kids use as an excuse to not focus or complete their work, this simply isn’t the case.

The brains of people with ADHD work differently than people without ADHD. In ADHD patients, the posterior cingulate cortex and the medial prefrontal cortex don’t match up, leading to focusing problems. Other studies have found that certain brain connections in ADHD patients are slower and less mature, making it difficult for people to focus on external tasks.

2) Only kids can have ADHD.

While the disorder may be more common among children and teens (the CDC states that 11 percent of American kids aged 4-17 have ADHD), plenty of adults have it, too. You may be more likely to be diagnosed as a child, but plenty of adults are diagnosed at age 30 or even older.

3) If you have ADHD, you’re lazy and not smart.

Laziness implies a person has the ability to do something, but doesn’t want to exert the energy it takes. Sometimes, people with ADHD are the opposite of lazy — they have to put far more effort into accomplishing tasks than people without ADHD do. In addition, the diagnosis has nothing to do with intellectual ability, as plenty of people with ADHD are extremely smart and creative. They simply work differently than others.

4) There is only one type of ADHD.

There are actually three main categories included in the definition of ADHD: inattentive, hyperactive-impulsive, and combined (when the person has symptoms of all three: inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity). There are also different levels of ADHD severity.

5) Having trouble focusing means you have ADHD.

If you are having trouble focusing, you don’t automatically have ADHD. Concentration problems happen to all of us, and a number of factors can contribute to them — including stress, anxiety, depression, lack of sleep, and even lack of physical activity.

According to the DSM-5, a child has to show six or more symptoms of inattention, and an adult five or more, to be diagnosed with ADHD. Those could include failing to pay attention to details, schoolwork, or other activities; not listening when spoken to directly, and losing things that are necessary for school or other tasks.

6) ADHD can be cured with some good old-fashioned discipline.

The notion that ADHD is caused by bad parenting is a myth. Discipline may be the cure for those of us who have the ability to concentrate but don’t want to; it isn’t the answer for ADHD. In fact, parents who attempt to strengthen discipline without fully understanding their child’s disorder might make the situation even worse, as kids with ADHD tend to be highly emotional and sensitive to tension.

7) Children outgrow ADHD.

While some children do outgrow their ADHD symptoms, half or more carry the disorder into adulthood. There are some 10 million American adults who are diagnosed with ADHD. And according to a recent MIT study, the brains of adults with ADHD are actually quite physically different from those of adults who outgrew their ADHD diagnosis as kids.

8) All you need are meds to treat ADHD.

While medications like stimulants (Adderall, Ritalin) and non-stimulants (atomoxetine, clonidine, guanfacine) are often necessary to curb ADHD symptoms, typically a combination of treatments is the most effective way to treat ADHD. That might include behavioral therapy, and leaving notes and reminders around to prevent oneself from forgetting tasks.

9) ADHD is over-diagnosed.

There is a debate over whether ADHD cases, which have risen over the past several years, are over-diagnosed. While the number of reported ADHD diagnoses has risen since 1997, it “is not possible to tell whether this increase represents a change in the number of children who have ADHD, or a change in the number of children who were diagnosed,” the CDC notes. It’s likely that until recently, many ADHD cases went unreported.

10) Only boys have ADHD.

It may certainly seem like boys tend to be more hyperactive and easily distracted than girls; one survey found that 82 percent of teachers believed ADHD is more prevalent in boys than in girls, and that it was difficult to spot the symptoms in girls. But both boys and girls can be diagnosed with ADHD, though the prevalence is higher among boys (13.2 percent) compared to girls (5.6 percent), according to the CDC.

11) If you have ADHD, you’re hyperactive.

While the “hyperactivity” in ADHD may seem as though you have to exhibit hyperactive behavior in order to be diagnosed, that’s not always the case. If you show symptoms of inattention, that’s enough to be diagnosed with ADHD; not all patients have the high-energy behavior associated with hyperactivity.

Harvard Says Fluoridated Water is Causing Cognitive Disorders.


A newly published study in Harvard’s The Lancet weighs in on the toxins causing autism and ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder). Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (ISMMS) say that along with these numerous environmental toxins, fluoridated water is adding to the higher incident of both cognitive and behavioral disorders.

Harvard had already published a study in 2006 that pointed to fluoride as a ‘developmental neurotoxicant’, and this newer study looks to over 27 additional investigations into the matter via meta nalysis. In the previous study, it was already established that fluoride consumption lowered children’s IQ scores. The left-over from industry, passed off as ‘medicine,’ obstructs brain development, and can cause a full spectrum of serious health issues – from autism to dyslexia, ADHD, ADD, and more.

The study calls the effects from this chemical a ‘silent epidemic’ that mainstream media  and many scientific papers have ignored.

Two of the main researchers involved in the study, Philippe Grandjean from HSPH and Philip Landrigan from ISMMS, say that incidences of chemical-related neurodevelopmental disorders have doubled over the past seven years from six to 12.

The study admits that there are numerous chemicals to blame – many of which are untested or ceremoniously approved by the FDA, USDA, and CDC without truly knowing their long term ramifications on human health – but that fluoride is a definite culprit.

“[S]ince 2006, the number of chemicals known to damage the human brain more generally, but that are not regulated to protect children’s health, had increased from 202 to 214,” writes Julia Medew for The Sydney Morning Herald. “The pair said this could be the tip of the iceberg because the vast majority of the more than 80,000 industrial chemicals widely used in the United States have never been tested for their toxic effects on the developing fetus or child.”

The fact is that fluoride, pesticides, herbicides, heavy metals, radioactive isotopes, GMO foods, and weather warfare chemicals are creating a neurological-toxic mix that is unprecedented in human history.

Fluoride, like other toxins, accumulates in the blood stream and even makes it past the blood-brain barrier. Eventually, as the body tries to protect itself from these unwanted substances, the substances make it into the bones and the organs, causing cancer, cognitive abnormalities, and even birth defects in unborn children. Fluoride is known to pass into the placenta in pregnant women, yet regulatory agencies ignore its toxic legacy.

The chemicals lurking in our food supply, water supply, and in our air and soil are causing the neurological decline of both young and old.

 

Doctors behind ADHD study question drug treatment.


The co-authors of a 20-year-old study promoting the use of prescription drugs to combat the effects of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are now claiming the report may have overstated medication’s benefits.

According to a report in the New York Times, at least two co-authors of the highly influential study – called the Multimodal Treatment Study of Children With ADHD – have come forward to express concern that the original report also downplayed the benefits of behavioral therapy.

“There was lost opportunity to give kids the advantage of both and develop more resources in schools to support the child — that value was dismissed,” said co-author Dr. Gene Arnold, a child psychiatrist and professor at Ohio State University.

“I hope it didn’t do irreparable damage,” added a second co-author, Dr. Lilly Hechtman of Montreal’s McGill University. “The people who pay the price in the end is the kids. That’s the biggest tragedy in all of this.”

The report originally claimed that not only was medication like Adderall and Ritalin more effective than therapy, but also that combining the two treatments offered little to no benefit to the patient. Even a 2001 report that showed a combination of medication and therapy effectively treating ADHD symptoms by 12 percent over medication only (68 – 56 percent) labeled the results“small by conventional standards.”

Boosted by marketing from pharmaceuticals, prescriptions for ADHD drugs have skyrocketed since the early 1990s, alongside a significant rise in the diagnosis of ADHD in general.

According to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 15 percent of high-school-age children have been diagnosed with the disorder, with roughly 3.5 million currently taking medication. These numbers stand in stark contrast to the 600,000 or so children diagnosed with ADHD in 1990.

“The numbers make it look like an epidemic. Well, it’s not. It’s preposterous,” Keith Conners, a psychologist and professor emeritus at Duke University, said to the Times earlier in December.“This is a concoction to justify the giving out of medication at unprecedented and unjustifiable levels.”

One of the reasons medication has been used so often to treat the disorder is that, at the cost of $200 a year, it’s significantly cheaper than therapy, which can run up to $1,000 a year or more and isn’t covered as comprehensively by insurance companies. While medication can be helpful, it also has its consequences – potential addiction, anxiety, depression, insomnia and, in some cases, suicidal tendencies and hallucinations.

Behavioral therapy, meanwhile, focuses on developing a child’s long-term academic and social skills. According to psychologist Ruth Hughes of the advocacy group Children and Adults With Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, medication may make a child ready to learn important skills, but it still requires someone to teach them.

Now, new studies are suggesting that the effects of medication begin to decrease once a child grows older, suggesting it’s extremely difficult to calculate how a child will react as they reach young adulthood. Some researchers pin the blame on the fact that many children stop taking the pills, while others say it demonstrates the inability of a medication-only approach to conclusively treat the disorder.

“My belief based on the science is that symptom reduction is a good thing, but adding skill-building is a better thing,” Stephen Hinshaw, a psychologist at the University of California, Berkeley, said to the Times. “If you don’t provide skills-based training, you’re doing the kid a disservice. I wish we had had a fairer test.”

The Drugs of Work-Performance Enhancement .


My morning writer’s ritual is as predictable as it is contemporary: Walk the dog. Down a cup of coffee. Eat my shredded wheat. And, twice a week—sometimes three times—I flip open my vial of Adderall, tip out one of the 15-milligram peach tabs, and break it in half. For a moment the bitterness burns my tongue, and then down it goes.

The Adderall addition to my routine started three years ago, after I happened upon 60 Minutes one evening and caught a segment titled “Boosting Brain Power.” It was an examination of the Adderall epidemic on college campuses nationwide, and I found myself quickly drawn into it.

By the end of the story, the conclusion was inescapable: Adderall makes everything easier to understand; it makes you more alert and focused. Some college students scarf them like M&Ms and think they’re more effective at cognitive enhancement than energy drinks and safer than a smoke or a beer. A Harvard professor admitted he regularly devoured Adderall to help make a book deadline.

Prior to watching, I had some close friends and relatives with ADHD whose doctors prescribed the amphetamine for completely legitimate reasons. I called them “closet users” since they all seemed ashamed of their diagnosis, not to mention their prescription. Why they felt this stigma I’m not entirely sure. According to the National Institutes of Mental Health, 4.4 percent of the adult U.S. population has ADHD, which if left untreated is associated with significant morbidity, divorce, employment, and substance abuse.

Like all prescription medications, Adderall has risks that are crucial to understand. Buried in the middle of that 60 Minutes segment was a too-short riff on amphetamine’s side effects, which include addiction, psychosis, and cardiovascular problems. I’ve read many of the horrific news stories about lives, especially young people’s lives, destroyed by this drug. Most notably, the tragic tale of Richard Fee, “an athletic, personable college class president and aspiring medical student,” as The New York Times reported earlier this year, who developed a full-fledged addiction, abetted by his doctors who routinely signed off on more meds. He was 24 when he hung himself at home.

Nonetheless, for untold healthy adults (those whom researchers refer to as “mentally competent”) the cognitive-enhancing drug has led to positive changes in their lives. Not surprisingly, the many Adderall “success” stories often go unnoticed in the current debate and climate. Explained one young woman, in her late 20s, on a public bulletin board: “[Adderall] makes me so happy I can be at a family function or out socializing and not get too distracted by other events/conversations around me. I can hear them, but am not taken in by them.”

And this testimonial from an anonymous poster: “Since being on Adderall, I have been insanely productive… I have paid all my outstanding bills and parking tickets (and even renewed my car’s registration before it was due). I’m not late for things anymore… I have not spent a single day lying around my house doing nothing in the past few months. I have a budget, and a scheduler that I actually use.”

The authors of a study published in the journal Nature argue in favor of moderate use: “Cognitive enhancement has more to offer individuals and society, and a proper societal response will involve making enhancements available while managing their risks.”

That spring when I watched the 60 Minutes broadcast I was on a deadline to finish a 400-plus-page book. After viewing the segment, I had a moment of insight. Jumping online, I took a few ADHD screening quizzes and was told I had “possible ADHD.” Such a diagnosis doesn’t place me among the 4.1 percent of U.S. adults with ADHD but it did lead me to promptly make an appointment with my primary care physician. When she asked me why I needed it, I replied just as the college kids had on 60 Minutes: “For focus.”

The first morning I swallowed the whole pill (as prescribed), and within 30 minutes thought I was going to have a stroke. My heart and head were pounding, and I felt as if I were, well, on speed. Which I was—Adderall is, after all, an aggregation of amphetamines. I cut the tabs in half after that and completed my book manuscript by the deadline, with about half my 60-day supply left.

Did it make me smarter? No. Did it make me a faster writer? Yes. Previously, when I’d sit down at my desk, I felt adrift at sea. It was as though my MacBook and research materials, piled high, swayed from left to right and then back again. It was dizzying; I just couldn’t get a grip.

For me, Adderall was like putting my foot on the ground to stop the drunken whirlies. I had a connection. I had control. My metaphoric double vision snapped to mono and I could see and think as clearly as if I’d stepped out of a fog. I’d never had such concentration and it showed in the number of well-written pages I produced daily.

Which isn’t to say that I didn’t experience some side effects. Amphetamines suppress appetite, so I easily lost weight. While the medication did wonders in prompting me to write, it inexplicably interfered with my ability to speak, scrambling my thoughts before they’d come out of my mouth. (I learned never to take a dose if I were to be out in the world anytime in the next four to six hours, otherwise I either spoke too quickly or too garbled.)

From time to time, I witnessed the shadows of depression, which I’ve read that others on the drug sometimes succumb to. Fortunately, I had the wherewithal to know this was a chemically induced darkness—one that reminded me of the sharp mood swings associated with Decadron, a corticosteroid once prescribed to me for a subdural hematoma resulting from a head injury. After two weeks of usage with this steroid, I felt suicidal. My physician had not warned me of this side effect. But with Adderall, I had knowledge aplenty and knew that once I stopped it, my depression would quickly lift. I also know that not everyone has that kind of previous experience or perspective, which is when folks get into deep trouble.

I take other meds, too, which also have their known side effects. The Lexapro I consume daily for anxiety can decrease sex drive; the Lipitor for high cholesterol can cause muscle and liver problems; and the Niaspan, also for cholesterol, can bring flushing and double vision. I’ve read about these side effects, recognize them when they occur, and understand that with the promised benefits of these meds comes risk.

But it’s different when it comes to Adderall; the most notable distinction is the “Black Box” warning on all amphetamines:

“AMPHETAMINES HAVE A HIGH POTENTIAL FOR ABUSE. ADMINISTRATION OF AMPHETAMINES FOR PROLONGED PERIODS OF TIME MAY LEAD TO DRUG DEPENDENCE AND MUST BE AVOIDED. MISUSE OF AMPHETAMINE MAY CAUSE SUDDEN DEATH AND SERIOUS CARDIOVASCULAR ADVERSE EVENTS.”

Still, according to the National Institutes of Health: “Under medical supervision, stimulant medications are considered safe.” I’d add, as the Nature authors did, especially for “mentally competent adults.”

I know some will say I’m lacking in discipline or that I’m abusing. I don’t think that’s the case, a belief that is buttressed every time I approach my desk to see the swaying stacks of research materials or my laptop levitating. On Adderall I function better and get immediate relief from the chaos—not to mention meet my deadlines. Certainly, like anything and everything in life, it’s not for everybody and the risk for abuse is very real. But as an educated patient, who measures risks and benefits every time a doctor hands me a prescription, I feel confident I’m making an informed choice for myself. And on those mornings when my routine includes half a peach tab, I know it will be a good work day.

Does Breastfeeding Help Prevent ADHD?


ADHD is thought to be hereditary; that means that it is passed from parent to child through genes. It would seem, therefore, that there wouldn’t be any way to prevent or reduce the chances that your child may develop ADHD. However, some studies show that breastfeeding may help prevent ADHD.

Breastfeeding provides optimal nutrition for babies – containing vitamins, protein and fat. It is more easily digested and contains antibodies to help fight viruses and infection. Children who are breastfed are less likely to develop allergies and asthma. They have fewer ear infections and respiratory illnesses than those fed with formula. It may lower the risk of diabetes, obesity and some forms of cancer. It has also been linked to higher IQs.

In 2005, a study completed in Poland compared children between the ages of 4 and 11 years old with ADHD to children without ADHD.  Researchers found that children with ADHD were breastfed for shorter durations that those without ADHD. The study concluded “The short duration of breastfeeding as environmental factor may be considered a risk factor of ADHD symptoms.” [1] The scientists noted that further research was needed, however, to form firm conclusions about any link between not breastfeeding, or breastfeeding for shorter amounts of time, and ADHD.

This year (2013), two more studies were conducted:

  • A study completed in Israel compared three different groups of children: 56 children with ADHD, 52 siblings without ADHD and 51 non-related children without ADHD. At three months, only 43 percent of the children with ADHD were breastfed. The other two groups were much higher: 69 percent for the siblings and 73 percent for the non-related group. At six months old, only 29 percent of those with ADHD were still being breast fed, while 50 percent of the siblings and 57 percent of the non-related children were still being breastfed.
  • A second study, completed at the Steven and Alexandra Cohen Children’s Medical Center of New York found similar results. There study compared 54 preschoolers with ADHD to 54 preschoolers without ADHD. Researchers found that over one-half of children with ADHD were breastfed for one month or less while only one-fourth of the control group was breastfed for that short of a time. More than twice as many children without ADHD were breastfed for more than six months; 46 percent of non-ADHD children compared to only 22 percent of those with ADHD.

What the Studies Say

 Without a doubt, all the studies showed that on average, children with ADHD were breastfed for shorter durations that those without ADHD. Scientists just aren’t sure what this means yet. Is it possible that breast milk has some properties that protect children against developing ADHD?

Dr. Andrew Adesman, the lead author of the study completed in New York, speculates that it may be the fatty acids in breast milk that help prevent ADHD. Other studies have shown that using omega 3 fatty acids have helped to reduce some symptoms of ADHD. It is possible then, that children receiving fatty acids from birth on, through breast milk, are given some type of ability to fend off ADHD symptoms.

FDA Directs ADHD Drug Manufacturers to Notify Patients about Cardiovascular Adverse Events and Psychiatric Adverse Events.


“An FDA review of reports of serious cardiovascular adverse events in patients taking usual doses of ADHD products revealed reports of sudden death in patients with underlying serious heart problems or defects, and reports of stroke and heart attack in adults with certain risk factors.”

“Another FDA review of ADHD medicines revealed an increased risk  for drug-related psychiatric adverse events, such as hearing voices, becoming suspicious for no reason, or becoming manic, even in patients who did not have previous psychiatric problems. ”

The medicines that are the focus of the revised labeling and new Patient Medication Guides include the following 15 products:

  • · Adderall (mixed salts of a single entity amphetamine product) Tablets
  • · Adderall XR (mixed salts of a single entity amphetamine product) Extended-Release Capsules
  • · Concerta (methylphenidate hydrochloride) Extended-Release Tablets
  • · Daytrana (methylphenidate) Transdermal System
  • · Desoxyn (methamphetamine HCl) Tablets
  • · Dexedrine (dextroamphetamine sulfate) Spansule Capsules and Tablets
  • · Focalin (dexmethylphenidate hydrochloride) Tablets
  • · Focalin XR (dexmethylphenidate hydrochloride) Extended-Release Capsules
  • · Metadate CD (methylphenidate hydrochloride) Extended-Release Capsules
  • · Methylin (methylphenidate hydrochloride) Oral Solution
  • · Methylin (methylphenidate hydrochloride) Chewable Tablets
  • · Ritalin (methylphenidate hydrochloride) Tablets
  • · Ritalin SR (methylphenidate hydrochloride) Sustained-Release Tablets
  • · Ritalin LA (methylphenidate hydrochloride) Extended-Release Capsules
  • · Strattera (atomoxetine HCl) Capsules
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