Alternative to ADHD meds
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) cases have increased immensely over the last few decades. According to the CDC, 7.8% of children had been diagnosed with ADHD and by 2011 that number had risen to about 11% – that’s a 42% increase in just 8 years! And children aren’t the only ones affected by ADHD; about 5% of adults suffer from ADHD as well. With this increase in diagnoses has come an inevitable increase ADHD medication prescriptions. An estimated 4.6 million Americans have filled at least one ADHD medication prescription. While many of these people have found relief with ADHD medications, such as Adderall, many are also starting to experience the long-term effects. Are stimulants really the answer to lack of focus and concentration, or do they just mask the symptoms of a deeper rooted issue?
The theory of ADHD was first mentioned in 1902, however it was not very common. Many older adults in their 50s and 60s realized what they may have experienced in school as children may have been undiagnosed ADHD. Symptoms of ADHD include trouble with focus and concentration, forgetfulness, difficulty completing tasks, easily distracted and inability to sit still. These traits were often looked over in children back in the day as just childishness. ADHD wasn’t even recognized by the American Psychiatric Association until their second edition of the DSM in 1968. It was referred to as “hyperkinetic impulse disorder” until receiving its final name, ADHD, in the DSM third edition in 1987. As mentioned above, cases of ADHD have skyrocketed since becoming better understood and with the evolution of ADHD medication. Now that there is this simple solution for distraction, lack of focus, forgetfulness, etc., why not take advantage of it? Many young children who can’t sit still in class and even adults who find themselves behind at work are being prescribed stimulants that are supposed to
magically solve the problem, and for some, they do!
But are they necessary for everyone? Let’s look back at the symptoms of ADHD:
– Difficulty paying attention/focusing/concentration
– Easily distracted
– Can’t sit still
– Difficulty completing tasks or starting multiple tasks at once without finishing them
For a young child, these symptoms are to be somewhat expected. Before a certain age, most children have trouble sitting still and listening in school, and before medication, we dealt with this by attempting to teach children how to behave. Granted, this method did not work for all kids (specifically those with ADHD), but for others, all it took was time to grow and mature. With this simple and quick solution of medication, we are more likely to choose that route over waiting for kids to mature. Like I said, time does not work on every child’s side; some do need some form of intervention, but maybe stimulants aren’t the only answer.
From a functional standpoint, ADHD is an issue of processing and filtering information. Children and adults with ADHD do not process information as quickly as those who do not have ADHD. Therefore, they get easily distracted, have trouble comprehending, need to hear information a few more times, etc. They also have difficulty filtering out unnecessary information. Another key trait of ADHD is hyperfixation; once a task comes into their minds, they are stuck on it until a new task appears, and the cycle continues. This is why many people with ADHD complain of being unable to complete projects they start. One of the main areas of focus for a patient with ADHD are frontal lobes of the brain. Our frontal lobes, and specifically our prefrontal cortex, house our executive function. This is where decision making, planning, cognition, short term memory, attention, and inhibiting impulsivity all take place; all things ADHD patients struggle with. Therefore, the frontal lobes are one of the main targets when treating these patients.
There are many ways functional neurology can help people with ADHD. Our goal is to implement neuroplasticity AKA to make changes in the brain. ADHD is very rarely something you are born with; it essentially is a “learned behavior.” Of course, you didn’t study hard to become ADHD, but somehow some way, your brain has learned to become ADHD. Functional neurology can help your brain unlearn this behavior and help alleviate the associated symptoms. We use diagnostic testing and our thorough physical exam to identify which areas of the brain we need to target for treatment. Our best windows into your brain are the eyes and ears; our eye movements relay a lot about the function status of our brains as well as our vestibular system (the inner ears!). We also assess vestibular function through balance testing. Based off those results, we can then use eye movements and vestibular rehabilitation to retrain the brain. Improving vestibular function and eye movements will in turn improve focus and concentration, memory, processing speeds, reading and comprehension, energy levels, sleep, and so much more. Essentially, an ADHD patient’s brain is working 5x as hard to do these every day tasks – functional neurology helps your brain work smarter not harder.
Thanks to new studies and emerging technology, we have other tools to improve brain function in our offices. Neurofeedback has been a very helpful treatment used on our ADHD patients. Based off an initial EEG recording of your brain, we create specific and personal protocols for you. Neurofeedback is a method of retraining the brain subconsciously, meaning you don’t have to do any of the work! Our electrode helmet reads your brainwaves as you watch the screen and it gives your brain the proper stimulus through the screen to alter your brain wave activity. We also use hyperbaric oxygen therapy the improve brain function. Our brains need oxygen in order to heal and to make new connections. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy allows us to force much more oxygen into our cells and tissues – meaning more oxygen to the brain! For people with ADHD, this can improve brain fog, concentration and focus, energy levels, and much more!
If you are looking for a new approach to alleviate your ADHD symptoms or just want to learn more about how functional neurology can help you, please give us a call!