ADD & ADHD – Treat or Not toTreat? Ritalin, that is today’s Question

Dr Daniel Amen and Tana Amen BSN RN On The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast

Do you ever find yourself asking if you should take medication for an ailment or just leave it because of your perceived side effects? That’s what we’re going to discuss today. In particular, ADD and ADHD and we’ll weigh the pros and cons of taking Ritalin.


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Speaker 14: The area that I'm interested in is ADD and ADHD. Having to do with the child who sort of has the deck stacked against him already with that thing. I'm interested in adding the element of Ritalin, being prescribed in the use of that, and then what effect the Ritalin use may have downstream in their life for addictive behaviors? For sex, or drugs, or alcohol, or smoking, or whatever the case might be. How all those things affect their ability to maintain a healthy relationship?
Dr Daniel Amen: It's a great question. Because a lot of parents, when the doctors suggest to put their child on a stimulant medication, they get fairly flipped out. What they don't ask themselves the question which I think they should, which is, if I don't treat this, what's the outcome? If I do treat this, what's the outcome? What we know is that, if the child has ADD and they're left untreated, 35% of the time they will never finish high school. 43% of untreated aggressive hyperactive boys will be arrested for a felony by the time they're 16. 52% of them untreated will have substance abuse problems. 75% of them, as I said in the show, will have relationship problems. Left untreated, ADD has a huge downside to it.
Treating it effectively, whether if you can effective with supplements, with behavior modification, dietary interventions or medicine, when you treat it effectively, you dramatically change all those risk factors. In my mind, whenever you're worried about the side effect of the medicine, you always have to ask yourself what's the side effect of not using the medicine? I think not treating ADD children is like withholding glasses from someone who can't see. In my mind, Ritalin is not the first thing you do. You change their diet, you get them to exercise, you put in a good behavior modification program at home. If it doesn't work, you put them on stimulants, because we know they're safe. They've been used for a long time.
Ritalin was actually released in the United States the year I was born, 1954, and there are very few miracles you see in medicine. When stimulants work, they're miraculous in their effectiveness. One of the things I said at the breaks earlier that my daughter got accepted to veterinarian school in Scotland, one of the best schools in the world. I'm so proud of her. This is a child, until she was 15 years old, who never got an A in school. It wasn't until I scanned her brain when she was struggling in 10th grade that I went, "She has ADD." She has the inattentive type, so she never brought negative attention to herself, and on medicine for her six straight years she got straight As. You just wonder what all this underachievement did to her self-esteem, and how she would talk to herself, and it wasn't until I gave her glasses for her brain, if you will, that it made a huge difference.
Speaker 14: Understood. Thank you.
Speaker 13: My question is in regards to elderly, who live in elderly facilitates, care facilities, an usually are on a lot of prescription drugs. My question is: if you've scanned these kinds of brains, and what you've found are the effects of elderly who often are alone, highly medicated?
Dr Daniel Amen: It's terrible. The fact is, the older your brain gets, the less active it gets. Unless, of course, you're like my mother, who takes very good care of herself. I mean, the whole sort of natural healing treatment thing I got from her. My grandfather was reading Prevention Magazine, like, 50 years ago when I was a little boy. If you're good to your brain, you can have a healthy brain for a very long time. If you're not good to your brain and you end up with a stroke, or you end up with Alzheimer's disease; you're in a long-term care facility and you're taking 12 medications, that's not uncommon for us to see that. Your brain looks terrible, so it's very hard to be your best self. To me, what that says is I need to take very good care of my brain, and at the Amen clinics we're really on this national or now even international movement to create brain-healthy families.
Whether you're dealing with your kids, or with your partner, or with your own parents, that it's like, what is it we can do in our family to raise the level of brain health so that we're all better?
Speaker 13: Thank you.