Half of American preschoolers with ADHD

Article is from Ideas.Ted.com

Half of the American preschoolers diagnosed with ADHD are given drugs to treat the symptoms. Is that necessary? Is there another way?

Neurobiologist David Anderson is alarmed by the idea of drugging children to treat the symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Especially during adolescence, when changing levels of sex hormones and growth hormones are already having a dramatic impact on a teenager’s brain, he questions the long-term use of a drug that promotes a system like dopamine or serotonin. As he puts it: “You can’t take the kid off the drug after puberty and say, ‘Whoops, let’s go back and do puberty without the drug.’” Read on to learn how drugs like Adderall affect the brain — and why Anderson says that drug treatments should be a last resort in children with ADHD.

One in 10 American children is diagnosed with ADHD — but we still don’t understand the disorder. “There’s this traditional view that common brain disorders like ADHD, anxiety and depression are caused by chemical imbalances in the brain, as if the brain were some kind of chemical soup that just needed a little more salt,” says Anderson (TEDxCaltech talk: Your brain is more than a bag of chemicals). Then there’s the emerging view, which is that ADHD and other common brain disorders are “actually disturbances in the neural circuits that mediate emotion, mood and affect.” This distinction matters most when parents, doctors and teachers are evaluating the pros and cons of behavioral, environmental and medical treatment options for a growing child, since current drug treatment options act by globally changing brain chemistry. “Many of the drugs that are taken for conditions like these were discovered by accident, not through an understanding of the underlying physiology of the disorder,” says Anderson. “It was just discovered that they work, and we don’t know how they work really or why they work.


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