Evidence is growing that ADHD medications for children such as Ritalin are not as effective as some of their proponents have claimed. This is why natural supplements for ADHD may be the better alternative.
When it comes to controversial medical conditions, ADHD is right at the top of the list. Quite a few people—even educated ones—are skeptical of the validity of the disease. It seems to them that an ADHD diagnosis is being given even for normal childish behavior. It’s this possibility of misdiagnosis which has made many parents leery of conventional ADHD medications for children such as Ritalin.
And even if the diagnosis is right, many parents are still disturbed by the fact that children are being given such strong medications. ADHD medications for kids are actually classified in the same category of controlled substances (Schedule II) as amphetamines, cocaine, and opium by the DEA.
Both Ritalin and Adderall are meds for ADHD which are placed in this category. Schedule II drugs are characterized by a high potential for abuse, dependence, and addiction, in addition to common (instead of rare) severe side effects.
Because of this, growing number of parents and experts are touting the benefits of natural supplements for ADHD instead. So let’s take a close look at one particular medication (Ritalin) and compare it to a popular natural supplement (Brightspark).
Which One is More Effective?
There is no doubt that Ritalin is very popular, and its use has soared in recent years. That’s mostly due to the increase in the number of diagnosis for ADHD. From 1997 to 2006, the rates of ADHD diagnosis grew by an average of 3% per year. From 2003 to 2011, the rates of ADHD diagnosis increased even more sharply, by an average of 5% per year. As of 2011, 11% of all children in the US from 4 to 17 years old have been diagnosed with ADHD.
Because of the increase in ADHD diagnoses, sales of Ritalin in the US grew by 83% from 2006 to 2010. The increasing use of Ritalin is also evident in the UK, where prescriptions increased from 158,000 in 1999 to 661,463 in 2010.
But does it work? Anecdotal reports from relieved parents say it does, but some studies demonstrate that drug-free treatments may be just as effective.
- In 2010, Colorado University researchers conducted a study on the effects of Ritalin on 300 adolescents with ADHD. Every one of them was given multiple sessions of cognitive-behavioral therapy. All of them were also given a pill which the researchers told the children were Ritalin used to treat ADHD. But one group of 150 children actually received a sugar pill (placebo) instead.
The group of 150 children which actually received the Ritalin showed a lot of improvement, and their symptoms disappeared. But what was surprising is that the same improvements were seen in the group of adolescents which received a placebo. In other words, it didn’t really matter if they were receiving Ritalin or not.
- A similar study was conducted by researchers from the Florida International University. It involved children who have been diagnosed with ADHD, along with their teachers and parents. The children were given pills, and the parents and teachers were told that the pills were ADHD medication. But in reality, the pills were simply placebos.
When the parents and teachers evaluated the children, they noted significant improvements. According to Dr. Daniel Waschbusch who led the research, when the adults were told that the children were being given “effective” medication, they begin to form positive expectations. They expect improvements to happen. These expectations in turn influence the parents and teachers to say in their evaluations that the children have improved.
The conclusion from these studies is that the belief in the condition and the treatment affects how people (both adults and patients) see ADHD and improvements.
So what about Synaptol? The number of studies on it is of course not on par with Ritalin, and it is based on homeopathic principles. But at the very least, it should work just as well as Ritalin if people believe in it.
A Comparison of Side Effects
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) lists as many as 30 different serious side effects. When any of these side effects occur, emergency medical treatment must be sought immediately. Then there are an additional 19 less serious expected side effects which are supposed to disappear after a while. If these side effects are severe or if they persist, then the doctor must also be informed.
The known side effects include decreased appetites, which is why exerts require children to be weighed regularly when taking the drug. Experts all recommend that patients should be monitored for psychiatric symptoms during the treatment, because other known side effects include anxiety, stress, hallucinations, and even suicidal thoughts. Other side effects include:
- Cardiovascular problems (especially fast heartbeats)
- Stomach pain
- Breathing issues
- Skin problems including rashes and bruising
- Sleeping difficulties
Ritalin is addictive. And in addition, it can create problems when it is used with other medications. Those other medications may not work as well.
There are also some indications in the latest research on lab animals suggesting that giving Ritalin to adolescents can result in mental problems when they become adults.
As for Synaptol, there are no negative side effects at all. None, as in Zero Side Effects. Unlike Ritalin, it is not at all addictive because it doesn’t contain any stimulants. It only contains natural products. It is safe to use for children over the age of 2, and it can be used safely with other medications. Brightspark is not a drug at all. It’s a type of natural supplement that provides relief for the symptoms of ADHD. It helps with inattention, restlessness, and emotional symptoms.
It works just as well as Ritalin (at the very least), yet it is much safer. There are no addiction issues, and no risk of having to call for emergency medical treatment. It’s no wonder many people prefer this alternative to ADHD medications for children.