Today, February 18th, 2014, a new book is being released entitled “ADHD Does Not Exist” by Richard Saul, M.D.
Molly saw the author interviewed yesterday on “The Doctors” television show and it got us researching to understand more about what the author is really saying. We knew the title would offend lots of people and ignite a firestorm of controversy. But we wanted to take the time to understand… was the doctor really saying ADHD does not exist? Or is he trying to get our attention in order to make another point?
Dr. Saul says the medical establishment’s mistake is defining ADHD by its symptoms — failure to pay attention, too much fidgeting or running around, fast talking, repetitive behavior — rather than what causes it. Said another way, Dr. Saul believes that ADHD is a set of symptoms and not a disease. This belief led to the title of his book. He is not denying that real and devastating symptoms do exist for millions of children diagnosed with ADHD.
His main point is to ask doctors and families to first rule out several other diseases that can lead to the same symptoms as ADHD. In fact, Dr. Saul lists 20 possible “true” diagnoses in his book that mimic the symptoms of ADHD. For example:
- sleep disorders
- problems with hearing or vision
- learning disabilities like dyslexia
- substance abuse
- Tourette’s syndrome
- obsessive-compulsive disorder
- major psychiatric disorders such as depression
- hard-to-detect seizure disorders (20 second epileptic seizures)
- simply being gifted
Dr. Saul explains that he routinely administers a series of tests before making any recommendations, beginning with a blood work-up to eliminate problems such as:
- iron deficiency
- hormone imbalance
- lead toxicity
If none of these physical causes are at issue, Saul looks for stress-related psychological problems.
It is important to note that none of these 20 other disorders that mimic the symptoms of ADHD benefit from amphetamine-based medications such as Ritalin. Possible side of Ritalin according to the FDA’s website include: slowing of growth (height and weight) in children, seizures, eyesight changes/blurred vision, painful and prolonged erections (priapism), headache, decreased appetite, stomach ache, nervousness, trouble sleeping, and nausea. The inactive ingredients of Ritalin are: D&C Yellow No.10 (5-mg and 20-mg tablets), FD&C Green No.3 (10-mg tablets), lactose, magnesium stearate, polyethylene glycol, starch (5-mg and 10-mg tablets), sucrose, talc, and tragacanth (20-mg tablets). We point this out because, often times, children with ADHD are sensitive to dyes and lactose.
If these other diseases/disorders/health problems are ruled out, Dr. Saul admits that the child’s symptoms may need to be treated with Ritalin. Rather than calling the child’s symptoms ADHD, he names it Neurochemical Impulsive Distractive Disorder.
Whether or not you agree with everything Dr. Saul has to say, we hope his point gets across… that we shouldn’t be in such a rush (or allow ourselves to be pressured) to give Ritalin to our children with ADHD. Let’s slow down and take the time to rule out other diagnoses, nutritional deficiencies, and health issues first. Let’s try to get to the root cause of the ADHD symptoms.
As moms, we recognize that parents may not have the time to wait before trying Ritalin for their children. We have heard stories of schools saying that a child cannot return to school without a prescription, and we cannot imagine the pressure that puts on a family. We are not here to judge and we know there are times when Ritalin (or other prescription medications) is the best option for all involved. However, we are simply saying that if you have the time and money for testing to rule out other causes of ADHD symptoms, it may be in your child’s best interest to look into it.
This struck such a chord with us because it is so similar to what we believe about a subset of children with autism spectrum disorder. We believe some children with autism have chronic health issues as the root cause of their autism. As you treat the health issues, their symptoms go away. We are not trying to say that this is true for all children with autism. We recognize that some children with autism don’t even have health issues and that their autism is likely genetic. But with the “spectrum” being as broad as it is, health issues are the root cause of the disease for some children with autism. Here is a link to an article we wrote called Health Induced Autism.