There is an adage, which says that everything old will be new again. I have previously written about my late mothers take on fashion. If you had a laundry basket big enough to keep piling clothes into, eventually you could turn it upside down and what is at the bottom would be back in style.
In medicine, despite what you may be told about everything being “scientific” we also follow fashions. The problem for doctors who don’t agree with the current orthodoxy is that those who develop guidelines generally get the ear of governments and regulators. Thus those who dare question can face significant sanction. And no this does not fit with the notion of science being about the constant questioning of what we think we know.
Some fashions in medicine, which are being shown to be false, are the beliefs in low fat and low sugar diets. This extends to the fashion of believing that cholesterol in the diet and saturated fats are bad for you. Apart from heart health, the other field of medicine where fashion often trumps reason is psychiatry.
An article in the Washington Post was headed, “New thinking on kids with ADHD: Lifestyle could be effective intervention”. This “new thinking “comes from a study done in the Journal of attention disorders by researcher Kathleen Holton. It includes strict limits on screen time (one to two hours per day), making sure a child is physically active each day, gets enough sleep, limiting of sweet drinks and drinking enough water.
Adding to new discoveries, a Canadian study found that a ten-week exercise program resulted in children having better behavior as well as better motor function. The University of Texas discovered that by age three environmental influences like parenting are relevant factors in the development of toddlers self control when they are asked to do something they don’t want to. The development of self-control is highly relevant in ADHD when you consider the diagnostic criteria include ”often does not like doing homework” or “often fidgets” or “ grabs items off shelves in supermarkets”.
In the USA roughly 10% of children are labeled with ADHD. In Australia it is over 6%. In France it is under 0.5%. Are French children so biologically different? Of course not. The low diagnosis rate comes from doctors seeing behavioral and attention issues as a sociological rather than medical issue. They also do not use the DSM to diagnose and classify mental health issues.
In France they see attention and behavioral problems as a symptom of something else. This could be lack of sleep, lack of exercise, poor diet, or in very un PC way, ineffective parenting.
Thus, treatment is directed at the underlying problems leading to the “bad behavior”, rather than prescribing drugs. This has three obvious advantages. It means that the actual root cause is addressed. It means the child is not labeled with a condition they do not have. And it means medications with significant side effects are not prescribed. Just last month it emerged (again) that Ritalin can cause heart irregularities. And there was much “excitement: about a new amphetamine like drug for ADHD which is chewable with a fruity flavour.
It is argued that grades improve on drugs. Meditation has been shown to improve school performance. And do we accept better performance as an excuse in sports?
The other big factor here is that we no longer accept that children are children. When did it become “normal” for a five year old to sit still for six hours a day in a classroom. When did it become normal for children to be quiet all the time?
It isn’t. And the fault does not lie with the children. It lies with society.
People are increasingly questioning the labeling and drugging of children for no good reason other than to make them more docile. This you tube video sums it up. Being a normal child is not a disease in need of medication.
There is hope. Increasingly people are starting to realize this. And “new discoveries” will enable us to mange behavioral problems in remarkably old-fashioned ways.
Dr Joe Kosterich M.B.B.S is an author, speaker, media presenter and health industry consultant, who wants you to be healthy and get the most out of life. Dr Joe also gives practical, motivational health talks for the general public and organisations where he is known as “An independent doctor who talks about health”.
His latest book “60 minutes to Better Health” is available on Amazon.