Outside of Amen Clinics, stimulant medications are the mainstream treatment for children and adults with ADHD. In fact, the U.S. is the #1 prescriber of stimulant medications, representing 80 – 85% of the world’s consumption!
Through years of treating children and adults with ADHD, we know that stimulant medications are helpful for some, yet can also make some people with ADHD symptoms much worse. This is no secret in the medical community; so why are stimulant medications are so prevalent in the U.S.? A couple of comparisons between the U.S. and France may help shed some light on the subject.
IS IT REALLY ADHD, OR SOMETHING ELSE?
In the United States, conventional psychiatry views ADHD as a simple biological-neurological disorder with biological causes.
- Diagnosis is made using DSM criteria (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders).
- DSM uses a checklist of symptoms and behaviors only – then classifies within a narrow definition.
- Social circumstances, emotional traumas and food allergies may be dismissed as “chemical imbalances”.
- American doctors largely ignore dietary factors.
- ADHD is commonly treated with psychostimulant medication alone, or in combination with behavior modification therapy (with low success rates).
- In a 5-7 minute office visit, it is hard to assess all the factors.
In France, child psychiatrists view ADHD as a medical condition that has psycho-social and situational causes.
- Diagnosis is explored using CFTMEA criteria (Classification Française des Troubles Mentaux de L’Enfant et de L’Adolescent).
- CFTMEA first looks at underlying social issues that may be causing ADHD behaviors and symptoms.
- Doctors help patients identify, understand and work through psychological disruption that may surface as ADHD symptoms.
- Dietary factors are explored and addressed by doctors.
- Using a holistic approach to treating ADHD, the French dramatically reduce the number of psycho-stimulant medications given to children.
Cultural differences such as parenting style should be included in this comparison as well. According to experts:
- French parents have a more stringent philosophy on discipline and are more likely to provide firm structure while enforcing clear limits.
- American parents no longer set limits and allow children to control them instead of the other way around.
Some people would like to believe that ADHD is “just an excuse for bad behavior” and that restoring “old-fashioned values” will eradicate over-diagnosis. Those beliefs are myths – ADHD is real. We can see it in the brain! “Bad parents” do not cause ADHD, nor can parents be expected to fix their child’s ADHD without help from professionals.
Mealtime habits and dietary factors provide yet another point of comparison between the U.S. and France. In the last thirty years, both the quality of food and mealtime habits has changed dramatically in the U.S. These days, junk foods and fast foods are frequently consumed. Families have fallen away from eating together and meals are often eaten while on-the-go. Children’s diets, even at school, are high in simple carbohydrates (sugar, white bread, white-flour food products), poor in protein and healthy fat and positively deficient in vegetables. If a person is vulnerable to ADHD, a high-carbohydrate, low-protein diet typically makes their symptoms worse.
In the United States:
- Children are allowed to snack throughout the day instead of waiting to eat with parents – processed snack foods are high in refined carbohydrates, sugar, gluten, dairy, synthetic flavors and synthetic colors.
- Separate “kids menus” are expected and encouraged – children do not eat the same foods as their parents. Macaroni and cheese, chicken fingers, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are not brain healthy!
- Doctors do not make a practice of addressing the nutrient deficiency or food sensitivities during the diagnostic and treatment process.
- Parents and doctors are less aware of how foods affect the brain – then rely on medications to suppress symptoms.
- Children do not snack all day and must wait to eat with their parents – this encourages better self-control and greater nutrient density in foods they eat.
- There are no “kids menus” in France – children eat what their parents eat.
- French doctors consider diet as a reason for behavior changes.
- Dietary interventions that explore and remove culprit foods are part of treatment – thus reducing medication use...
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