The drugging of our children

Sad little boyMany Australian children are taking mind altering drugs, even before they start going to school, and they’re not what you might think. In fact, these medications are so nasty, that the side effects are often worse the condition itself: ADHD. Sadly, many children are given these medications based on a misdiagnosis, simply because they ‘don’t behave well’.

Symptoms of ADHD

ADHD is a behavioural disorder, characterized by lack of attention, inability to sit still, impulsiveness and overactivity. Children who have the disorder often struggle at school because they cannot concentrate for any length of time, are easily distracted, unable to follow instruction or listen attentively, and have difficulty finishing set tasks.

Australian statistics

Around 8% of Australia children between 6-17 have been diagnosed with ADHD. The condition has serious implications, both immediately, and for their future prospects. Those kids who suffer from ADHD have a higher incidence of developing further behavioural, emotional, and mood disorders[1].

Contributing factors

The cause of ADHD is likely to be a combination of environmental and genetic factors. For example, exposure to cigarette smoke during pregnancy is shown to increase the chance of the child developing ADHD. Exposure to other toxins, including heavy metals, pesticides and other environmental pollutants also increase the chance of the child developing the condition.

Artificial colourings have been shown to increase hyperactivity in children, and been implicated in the development of ADHD. Children who have been subjected to physical and emotional abuse have been shown to have a higher rate of incidence, or display behaviours similar to ADHD.


The number of prescriptions for psychotropic drugs given to children more than doubled in Australia during the last decade. [2]And the drugs prescribed for ADHD are not “mild” by any means. These are narcotics, regulated as a controlled substance because they can lead to dependence. Although they may seem to help in the short term, there are a whole host of side effects  and we still know very little of their long term influence on a child’s normal psychological development.

Ritalin, is a psychostimulant and the most widely prescribed drug for treating ADHD.  Some of the side effects of its use include:

–          Anxiety

–          Appetite loss

–          Depression

–          Dizziness

–          Lethargy

–          Mania

–          Suicidal ideation

–          Stunted growth

–          Cardiac arrhythmia

There are reports of children committing suicide while taking the drug and researchers have also revealed that Ritalin appears to delay puberty.

Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) issued controversial draft guidelines last year that imply a child could be taken into protective custody if a a parent refuses to give their child ADHD drugs. In the case of Australia’s NHMRC, the committee’s guidelines were already mired with controversy, as its original chairman, Daryl Effron, reportedly resigned because he was affiliated with drug companies that produce ADHD drugs! [3]

Natural treatments

There are other, more natural ways to treat ADHD, including:

–          Removal of sugars, processed foods, refined grains, artificial colourings and flavourings from the diet.

–          Removal soft drinks, and replace them with water.

–          Reducing exposure to chemicals, including BPA (from plastics), pesticides and household chemicals. Source organic foods where possible.

–          Spending time outside; not only is this relaxing and fun but exposure to the sun allows the body to synthesise vitamin D.

–          Getting enough sleep. This is essential to regulate mood, alleviate stress and allow the body to properly restore itself each night. Studies show that children who have less than 9 hours sleep per night are more prone to impulsivity, anger, overactivity and temper tantrums.[4]

–          Supplement with essential fatty acids, particularly omega 3. A deficiency of omega 3 has been shown to be prevalent in those suffering from ADHD.

Our society shows a certain affinity for reaching into the medicine cabinet every time something goes wrong. ADHD, while a very real problem for many families, can be treated with drugs only as a last resort. There are behavioural therapies available that have shown strong evidence of being very successful, and this in conjunction with dietary regulation, enough sleep, fresh air and reduced exposure to toxins may prove to be a safer and more effective treatment.


[1]Braetz, B.W et eal. Validity of DSM-IVADHD subtypes in a nationally representative sample of Australian children and adolescents. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2001 Dec;40(12)
[2] Marshall, A. Australia has the highest rate of children put on Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder drugs in the world., 24 July 2013
[4] Scharf, Rebecca J. MD, MPH Nighttime Sleep Duration and Externalizing Behaviors of Preschool Children. Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics: July/August 2013 – Volume 34 – Issue 6 – p 384-391