Overmedication of kids an increasing concern

by Ian R. Luepker, N.D.

This article was originally published in October 2003

(October 2003) — A recent study conducted by the University of Maryland and published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine emphasized the alarming increase in the number of American children being treated with psychiatric drugs. It says “From 1987-1996, the number (of medicated children) tripled, and shows no sign of slowing down.” In 2000, an estimated 20 million prescriptions were written for stimulant drugs alone.

The study’s primary investigator, Julie Zito, expressed concern that “cost-saving techniques by insurance companies, marketing by the pharmaceutical industry and increased demands on parents and doctors may be driving the steep rise.” Zito asks if “the steep increases in the use of most classes of medications, including anti-psychotic drugs, were being prescribed possibly as a way to restrain difficult children.”

This trend is worrisome. Although for some children psychiatric medication may be necessary, this study raises disturbing questions. Are we overmedicating our children? Who benefits? The children or the insurance and pharmaceutical industries? Are we managing kid’s behaviors with powerful psychiatric drugs without addressing the underlying problem? What effect will these drugs have on our children 20 years from now?

With ADHD, kids often remain medicated from kindergarten through high school, yet there is a conspicuous lack of long-term research on this class of drugs.

Imagine the following scenario: your son, Jesse, has just entered second grade. Within weeks of starting the school year, you receive a note from his new teacher. She says Jesse wriggles around in his seat too much and has a hard time keeping his hands off other children.

She finds his repetitive and interruptive questions annoying and disruptive. Jesse appears to tune out much of the time in class and when it’s time to write down the homework assignments, he’s out in left field.

You give the teacher a call and assure her that Jesse is high-spirited, but he’ll be okay. He simply needs more time to adjust.

Within two months, the teacher calls you in for a conference. The counselor, the principal and psychologist may have been called in to attend as well. They ask, “Have you heard of ADHD?” “Have you thought of putting your child on medication?” In some cases, you may even be warned that Jesse can’t remain in the classroom until he is medicated. You leave the room bewildered or seething with anger at having been set up, or you’re ticked off at Jesse for letting himself, and you, down. Or you blame yourself for being an inadequate parent. Or all the above. Unfortunately, this scenario is common.

Fortunately, when it comes to treating behavioral problems, there are safe and effective non-drug alternatives. We have a choice.

Homeopathy, a holistic medicine, is very effective for treating childhood disorders such as ADHD, ODD, the autistic spectrum including Asperger syndrome, and other behavioral and learning problems. It uses small doses of natural substances to stimulate the body’s inherent ability to heal itself.

A single substance is found that matches the individual symptom pattern of the sick person. Since homeopathy treats the whole person, physical, mental and emotional symptoms all are taken into account. Because it is holistic medicine, not only do learning and behavioral problems improve, so do most or all of the physical, mental and emotional complaints of the person.

The changes seen during treatment are often dramatic. The following is a case example from our practice (see “Ritalin-Free Kids” by Drs. Reichenberg-Ullman and Ullman, Prima Publishing 2000):

Tony, a 7-year-old in special education classes, wasn’t on Ritalin yet, but it was just a matter of time. He had been medicated for “falling down seizures” since age two and was behind in his classes. Tony’s teachers were pressuring his parents to try stimulant medication.

Restless, unfocused and aggressive, Tony got his mean streak from his dad, who had been abusive and distant toward his son. “I scream when they send me to the principal’s office,” Tony told us. “And I am mean. I punch and wrestle. But the other kids are mean to me. I hate people fighting me!”

At home Tony bullied his little sister, usually through hitting or tackling. Quite an active child, he loved to jump rope and play hide and seek; in fact, he practiced his jumping jacks during the interview.

Living with Tony was not easy. Whenever his parents asked him to do something around the house, he stomped and called them names. He cried at the least provocation.

Contrary and disobedient, Tony was forever interrupting. Mostly, he didn’t listen, talked back and threw his toys. He also picked his nose constantly, had a habit of grinding his teeth and hated being looked at.

There is an excellent homeopathic remedy for fussy, obstinate children who are extremely disobedient and may throw extreme temper tantrums up to the age of 9 or 10. These kids usually pick their noses, grind their teeth, and often have a history of pinworms and seizures. The medicine is homeopathic Cina (wormseed), a plant in the compositae family, and that is what we prescribed for Tony.

Two-and-a-half months later, even Tony said, “I’m being a little nicer.” He hadn’t been sent to the principal’s office, was getting along better with his sister, and had stopped picking his nose and grinding his teeth.

Tony needed a dose of Cina at two- to four-month intervals. Each dose has helped him considerably. Now in a regular classroom, he is interacting well with other children. One year after beginning homeopathic treatment, his seizures have remained under control. Tony is a good example of how homeopathy can stimulate healing on all levels: mental, emotional and physical.

Thousands of kids like Tony have benefited from homeopathy. The problem is many parents don’t know an alternative exists.

Although homeopathy is considered a complementary medicine in the states, it is considered conventional in most of Europe, South America, India and Mexico. A survey conducted by the British Medical Journal in 1986 showed that 42 percent of British medical doctors referred their patients to professional homeopaths.

As more research money is allocated to studying complementary and alternative medicine, it is only a matter of time before homeopathy becomes conventional in the United States. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Yale-Griffin Research Center are funding a study on the efficacy of homeopathic treatment for ADHD. The study is being conducted at our clinic in Edmonds.

Constitutional treatments, such as Tony’s, should be supervised and prescribed under the advice of a health professional.

Dr. Luepker is a naturopathic physician who provides constitutional homeopathy for treatment of learning and behavioral problems and other conditions such as migraines, arthritis, allergies and CFS. Contact him at 425-478-7808 or ian@soundhomeopathy.com.

Also in this issue