June14, 2010 – Harry Hucknall was 10 years old when he took his own life. Diagnosed as having ADHD and prescribed both Ritalin and Prozac, Harry had mentioned feelings of unwell and did not appear to be happy. Tests have revealed he had higher doses than a normal adult would have had for the same problems. Harry was not alone, hundreds of children have died from drug-related deaths, ADHD drugs that is.
What ADHD or ADD Is and Why It Needs Treatment
ADHD or ADD is a condition that stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. The main difference between ADHD and ADD is the hyperactivity component. For the sake of simplicity, we will refer to the condition as ADHD.
Children with ADHD have trouble focusing and concentrating. They don’t always follow instructions, forget things quickly, have a hard time socially with peers and often can’t sit still for long periods of time. It is hard to make an ADHD diagnosis until the child is school-age, that is, one he is in a structured classroom setting. Drug guidelines are set to not be administered to any child under the age of six, because before then, it is quite impossible to tell if the child has ADHD or not.
Many pharmaceutical drugs have been created to treat ADHD, though the safety and effectiveness of these drugs is really not yet proven. The only drug that has been around long enough to understand long-term effects is Ritalin and it has been proven to be dangerous and lead to addiction tendencies. However, most doctors and educators push to treat these children with mind-altering drugs so they fit into the norm. Often, more than one drug is prescribed and children end up on a “cocktail” of drugs.
Don’t get me wrong, I believe ADHD does need treatment – but not with mind-altering drugs that have known side effects and unknown long-term health hazards. I am a mother of an ADHD child and have been though it all. I understand the frustrations and trials. I know parents want their children to behave and to do well in school, but pharmaceutical medications, especially ONLY pharmaceutical medications, are not the answer. You need behavioral techniques to be applied and must understand how your child thinks to help her discover the tools she’ll need to succeed in life.
Children Dying From ADHD Drug Treatments
Doctors often don’t disclose the dangers of ADHD drugs. They may mention some “common” side effects such as problems sleeping, loss of weight, loss of appetite and irritability but rarely do they mention the “other” side effects.
Did you know – many ADHD drugs can cause:
- Suicidal Thoughts and Tendencies
- Heart Attacks
Doctors rarely make sure parents know about these side effects and understand the risks their children are taking when they go with this ADHD treatment. In my personal opinion, I think all parents should have to sign a waiver of sort, that outlines the drug(s) their children will take and ALL the side effects (common or not). It needs to be 100% certain that parents realize how serious these drugs are – they are not vitamins and just because millions of kids take them each day, does not mean they are safe.
Diagnosing ADHD in Children
So how is ADHD diagnosed? It is a term that was invented 50 years ago and covered a variety of symptoms. There is no concrete or absolute test for ADHD. Basically, to diagnose ADHD parents and educators will be asked to ‘evaluate’ the child on their behavior and especially compared to their peers. A psychiatrist will then evaluate the results, compare them to peer levels and decide whether or not your child is ‘up to par‘.
A study, done by Todd Elder, indicated that nearly one million children in the U.S may be misdiagnosed with ADHD based on this method of ADHD testing. The reasoning behind it deals with children who are the youngest of the classroom. In some cases, children who enter kindergarten when they are four (typically those that have birthdays at the end of year) will be almost one year younger than their peers. Developmentally, they will always be more immature than their peers and when evaluated in comparison to them, they will be seen as “not equal.” (Well no kidding! One year is a big difference when it comes to children.)
Dangers of ADHD Drug Treatments and Children That Have Died
The next couple of paragraphs will be sad and readers are warned of the fact.
Taken from the page of National Alliance Against Mandated Mental Health Screening and Psychiatric Drugging of Children, the following children have died from being on ADHD drugs:
- Stephanie Hall – 11 years old. Ritalin.
- Louise Dunkle – 10 years old. Desipramine.
- Matthew Smith – 14 years old. Ritalin.
- Adrian David Wade – 12 years old. Strattera. (Suicide).
- Leanne Bessner – 15 years old. Concerta.(Suicide).
- Macauley Showalter – 7 years old. Ritalin and 3 other psychiatric drugs.
- Randy Steel – 9 years old. Dexedrine and other drugs.
- Cameron Pettus – 12 years old. Desipramine.
- Travis Neal – 13 years old. Ritalin.
- Harry Hucknall – 10. Ritalin. (Suicide).
These children, and many more died from side effects caused by the ADHD drugs: heart attacks, organ toxicity or suicide.
Seeing Through The Eyes of ADHD Children
For just one moment, let’s try to put ourselves in their shoes. The ones who are diagnoses with this very subjective disorder.
“I am a child, I like to play and have fun. It feels good when someone tells me I did something right, but that doesn’t happen often. I don’t know why, but I find it hard to sit still like everyone else. I know I should sit and read the textbook like my teacher tells me too, but I am just not interested in in and my mind is so busy with other thoughts.
I like to figure out how things work. I love it when I have free time and I can do puzzles and draw and make things work. Often I don’t clean up right away but that’s just because there is SO much I want to do, so much I want to learn. My mind is full of ideas, and thoughts and it makes me happy and excited! I can’t wait to try all these things, build new things and put my ideas on paper! I like to act and sing and play music and wish I could just express myself all the time that way.
The teachers tell me to sit still, and write out the answers a certain way. I don’t see them like that. They show me a math problem and tell me to write out all the steps individually to show how I got the answer. But my mind doesn’t work that way. I know the answer, I SEE the answer. I also see the BIG picture and how everything fits together, but teachers don’t want to see that, they want to see the small version. How do you explain to someone how to feel happy? How do you explain the steps you would go through to feel that feeling? You can’t, it’s just something that happens. That is how I think and learn. I can’t really explain it, it’s just what I know and if it’s right, why do they tell me I’m wrong?
I don’t follow instructions well all the time and have trouble expressing myself properly. People misunderstand me all time and it really hurts. I think I’m following instructions and feeling proud of myself for doing something, only to get in trouble for not doing something else that I was supposed to do. I’m always in trouble, I’m always grounded. I don’t think I’m very smart because I’m in trouble all the time and people yell and get angry with me, sometimes they call me stupid and tell me I will never succeed in life. They are probably right. Even though I know a lot, I can’t explain what I know and I can’t do it the way the teachers want me to do it, so I probably won’t succeed in this world because I just don’t fit in. They don’t understand.
I think my parents love me, they say they do, but they are angry and sad and feel frustrated. I think I failed them, I’m not who they wanted me to be. I try so hard, each day I promise I’ll do better and I’ll listen, but somehow, things don’t work out that way and I end up messing up again and again and again. I wish I wasn’t here sometimes, the sadness is so much for me, I feel horrible most of the time and I get tired of trying to make things work out. It seems no matter how hard I try, things still mess up and I get in trouble. I feel their anger, their disappointment and it makes me dark inside. I don’t feel that happiness or joy inside me, it’s hard to think of positive things when all I feel is dark and alone.
I don’t belong here, I don’t fit in. It’s sort of like how a blind person goes through life: ” They don’t see like you or I do, they don’t use their eyes. They see things differently and do things differently but they get the job done.”
I see things differently, this I can not explain.”
The above quotation was not written by an ADHD child, but it could have been. It was written by me, a mother of an ADHD child and researcher of ADHD children. We need to see through their eyes to understand how they think. They do not think like we do and asking them to do so is like asking a foreigner to “just speak” our language without any training.
I am a mother, my son has been through many conventional and non-conventional ADHD treatments. He has suffered some of the worst side effects listed with pharmaceutical ADHD drugs and through our experiences we have come to learn more about him and how he thinks and learns.
There is no easy answer here, no quick-fix solution. The first step is understanding and committing to working with our children. Avoiding pharmaceutical drugs is a good choice, at least until all other avenues have been fully tried. Education and awareness are key to helping our ADHD children and it begins with you: The Parent, Caregiver and Educator.
About the Author
Tamara Laschinsky is the owner of Natural e GREEN and author of Helping Your ADHD/ADD Child: Simple Steps to Improvement. She is the the mother of an ADHD child who has tried the pharmaceutical route and now employs a herbal and behavioral approach to treating ADHD. She lives with her family in Alberta, Canada. You can find her books on Amazon.