Stimulants & ADD: What You Should Do?

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

People with attention deficit disorder are routinely prescribed Ritalin and stimulants to help them deal with their focus issues. But because there are 7 different types of ADD, all with their own characteristics, what can help one person can make another person suffer even more! Thankfully, in this episode, Dr. Daniel Amen and Tana shed some light on some of the various factors involved in ADD, as well as some of the natural treatment methods that can be safely explored to find what works best for you.

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Dr. Daniel Amen: Welcome to the Brain Warrior's Way podcast. I'm Dr. Daniel Amen.
Tana Amen: And I'm Tana Amen. In our podcast, we provide you with the tools you need to become a warrior for the health of your brain and body.
Dr. Daniel Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way podcast is brought to you by Amen Clinics, where we have been transforming lives for 30 years using tools like brain spect imaging to personalize treatment to your brain. For information, visit
Tana Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way podcast is also brought to you by Brain MD, where we produce the highest quality nutraceuticals to support the health of your brain and body. To learn more, go to
Dr. Daniel Amen: Welcome back. Skills or pills week. Today we're going to talk about ADD or ADHD. It is such a controversial topic but if you have a short attention span is Ritalin the first thing you should do?
Tana Amen: Or Adderall or yeah. Let me read a testimonial really quick.
Dr. Daniel Amen: What do you do to focus better? Is it caffeine? Is it scary movies? Is it high-risk behaviors? What do you do?
Tana Amen: I love this testimonial, so I just want to read it. Love Your Brain, by Lolo4nyc. Dr. Amen is the man and Tana is the woman. I love all their free content, it just shows how much they truly care and are here to serve. This is a podcast you need to hear. I got a lot out of it and I'm sure you will to. Love your brain, it's the only one you've got. So true. Can't transplant that.
Dr. Daniel Amen: It would be interesting if I had your brain in my head.
Tana Amen: It would be interesting. You would suddenly be taking survival courses and camping out in the wilderness. That would be funny.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Maybe not. Maybe not. So many parents of ADD children do not want to medicate the kids. They see it as a flaw in their parenting as they see it as a flaw in their child. They see it as flaw in their teacher.
Tana Amen: Because they think they're taking the easy way out.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Often because they don't, the child will suffer and end up hating themselves and be less effective in the world. It's an issue I have dealt with for a very long time. We own a supplement company so I'm very much into well, what are the natural solutions? I say, we'll do natural solutions for six months because if the child really has ADD, they're going to have it in six months.
Tana Amen: One thing you've got to do if your kid has ADD, you've got to stop getting them donuts for breakfast on the way to school. I see this so often. When I used to Chloe to her elementary school and parents are busy, they're running to work, I get it, but they're running into the store where we park and then walk the kids in. They run into that store, grab them a bagel or a donut, take them to school and then we wonder why. It's not fair to kids because kids get in trouble, parents are getting calls. We're blaming it on the kids when in fact simple things like nutrition make a difference for kids, especially with focus in the morning.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Skills or pills, do you know why that happens? It's because their mom has ADD too and she didn't plan everything. With ADD it's the moment that matters. It's not all of the moments that matter. Many people who have ADD, they have trouble getting up the morning. Trying to wake them is like trying to wake the dead. Kids are hard to get up but their parents are hard to get up. The parents often have great intentions but they've hit the snooze bar on their alarm over and over and over because they just feel so foggy in the morning. Every morning is a fire drill to get out of the house on time. They didn't have time to make breakfast, make lunch, plan for things because one of the hallmark features of ADD is they tend to be late or they actually don't get ready until, oh my god, I'm late. It's crazy so the breakfast can be donuts, which only perpetuate the problem.
Tana Amen: It's funny, I didn't know any of this information when I was young. As a teenager, I could relate to what you're saying. As a young teenager, I could relate to that. But what's super interesting, I don't know why this shifted but I figured out at about 16, almost 17, something the opposite switched. It was because I felt so bad somehow I figured out that if I got myself up at 4:00 in morning, drank a pot of coffee during the day, and worked out really hard for two hours first thing in the morning. I mean, I was there waiting when the doors opened to the gym. Guess what? There was a whole gym full of people just like me. There a were a whole bunch of people there that were like I don't feel normal until I work out. I used to hear it all the time. I'm foggy, I'm fuzzy, I have to get up early and I have to work out first thing or I can't function.
Now, that's better in my mind than the people who were taking drugs to do that. They were doing cocaine. But there was as whole bunch of us.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Those are two options. Of those options, exercise is better. But I remember once I treated this attorney who did exactly what you said but he had bad knees because he worked out so much.
Tana Amen: Oh, interesting.
Dr. Daniel Amen: He said, "If I would have had a little bit of medication, my knees would have been [crosstalk 00:06:05]."
Tana Amen: Well, I had a doctor send me an article on exercise bulimia, I thought he was insane. But he said I was exercising so much that it was a way of purging. But for me, what I really believe it was, that may have had so truth and I think it probably did. But really what it was, I became obsessed with routine because I had lacked routine for long so.
Dr. Daniel Amen: That was a reaction.
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr. Daniel Amen: But one of the reasons your mom abandoned you in some ways was her own ADD. There was never treated.
Tana Amen: Like [crosstalk 00:06:33]. And because it was survival because we had no money and she was working nonstop.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Right. There are all these biological, psychological, social, spiritual factors that go into making us who we are. One of the things I'm going to do in those six months with a child who has ADD, so I'm convinced, and he got it from his mom or got it from his dad, the first thing-
Tana Amen: Two of the things we said.
Dr. Daniel Amen: ... exercise.
Tana Amen: But not like that.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Getting them to exercise.
Tana Amen: But not 4:00 in the morning for two hours.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And changing their diet is the most important thing-
Tana Amen: For sure.
Dr. Daniel Amen: ... if you can do it. The problem is, is I'm trying to get ADD parents to do what can be a bit of a challenge. I mean, that's why you write cookbooks-
Tana Amen: And they're simple.
Dr. Daniel Amen: ... because all of your cookbooks basically fit our elimination diet.
Tana Amen: Absolutely. I literally have a three minute-
Dr. Daniel Amen: In the hundreds of recipes you have, all of them are gluten free, dairy free, corn free, soy free, very low sugar.
Tana Amen: Super low sugar. I mean, there's literally two ingredient, three minute ways to make breakfast for your kid, like the avocado and egg basket in the morning. They're so simple. There are ways to do it. What you have to do is wrap your ... Look, where your focus goes, your energy flows. You just have to change what you're focusing. Just do it for a little while and it will become your routine. It's a new way of thinking and it will eventually become your routine. Just like with me, I became obsessed with routine because I felt so bad. You just have to start thinking about a new way of thinking and it will start to stick.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Exercise, diet, protein in the morning will actually make your medication, or your supplements, work longer. You got to get your important numbers checked. We say this all the time. What's your magnesium level? Because magnesium actually helps to calm down hyperactivity. What's your copper-zinc ratio? Low levels of zinc have been associated with ADD and supplementing with zinc can be helpful. Omega-3 fatty acids, especially EPA. There are two main sources. You've heard us say this over and over again, EPA and DHA. DHA doesn't work at all for ADD. EPA has been shown to be effective. You have to check your ferritin level. Ferritin is iron-storage.
Tana Amen: That's for me, I was clinically low.
Dr. Daniel Amen: High iron is associated with premature agings. That's why I have to donate blood a lot because my tends to be high.
Tana Amen: I never want to age then.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Low iron goes with anxiety and ADD.
Tana Amen: Fatigue.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And fatigue.
Tana Amen: Oh, my gosh.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Restlessness, restless leg syndrome and ADD. Get your important numbers checked. It's so important.
Tana Amen: Well, one thing we have to talk about is risk-taking behavior, right? Now, I have ADD for sure, but I'm not a big risk-taker. I like security, I like safety, I like ... but-
Dr. Daniel Amen: I can go back through your history.
Tana Amen: Right. What I was going to say is except when I was on Prozac, that's the one time that I didn't care. I was impulsive. But in general throughout my life, I'm not a big risk-taker. But I like variety, excitement to some degree. What I figured out to do ... Think about this for you because for ADD people they will often take risks that get them in trouble. What I started to do was think about what can I do that's exciting and that's keeps me stimulated, because you don't want to do it ways that will get you in trouble like starting fights with people you love or doing activities that are going to get you physically hurt.
For me, I love martial arts, which, to me, is awesome. I love training with weapons and I love doing things like survival wilderness, survival training. That gives me that stimulation and that excitement without ... but it's also educating me. I'm growing in a way and I'm doing something super fun but it's safe. One could argue that it's safe.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Doing things you love. Coordination exercise, which martial arts clearly is unless you hit yourself in the head or you let somebody else hit yourself in the head.
Tana Amen: Think about that. Are you doing activities that are hurting you. Could you think, make a couple of tweaks and instead do things that help you and others but they're still exciting?
Dr. Daniel Amen: I like that. Coordination exercises, really helpful. And then if you do these things, and you still have a short attention span, and you're distracted and impulsive and a half an hour of homework takes a child three hours to do with you screaming at them to get it done, then medication can be so helpful. One of my kids, she went from B's and C's working her brains out to straight A's for the next 10 years and ended up getting into one of the world's best veterinarian schools at the University of Edinburgh. Now, if you take medication, you should also be doing all these natural things because then you will need less medication. All these things we're talking about will actually help you focus even if you don't have ADD. We have ADD induced by our cell phones and by the constant negative news cycles and the lousy food that we're feeding our population.
Tana Amen: So crazy.
Dr. Daniel Amen: In The End of Mental Illness I have this writing device, if I was an evil ruler how would I create mental illness. There's all sorts of ways we're creating ADD by the food that we feed, by the toxins they're putting on kid's bodies and so on.
Tana Amen: Pretty much everywhere you and I go, someone, because they know what we do, someone will end up telling us their story and they're suffering. People are suffering pretty much everywhere. Yesterday and today, it's so crazy. Yesterday I had this gal, she's so cute. I mean, so cute. Just has this amazing energy. She's beautiful. I mean, beautiful. After talking to her for a couple of hours, all of a sudden she looks at me and she goes, "Well, I'm just not enough." I'm like, "What?" Out of all the things I would have thought she would say that was not the one thing I would have thought she would say. I ended up the work with her, the four questions, is it true, which we've done many podcasts on. By the time we were done, she's just balling. I'm like, "Has anyone ever taught you to control your thought, that your thoughts lie to you?" She's like, "No, I can't even believe that that was so powerful." She's hugging me and she's crying. It's really powerful to know.
Then, this morning, I'm at home, I'm getting ready to have a bunch of work done on the house, again, and this gal shows up to take some measurements and do some things. I was trying to run out the door for the podcast and she says, "Oh, what kind of podcast do you have?" I tell her and she bursts into tears. I'm like, oh, here we go. I literally texted you and said, "I'm going to be late" because I mean, I care about what I do. Here's what she said, "I don't want to go to a doctor because all they're going to do is put me on medication, and I don't want to be labeled, and he's going to tell me that what I'm trying is dumb because I had a doctor tell me that." I'm like, "Well, what are you trying?" She goes, "I really try to focus on positive things." She goes, "It's not really working yet, but I'm really trying." She goes, "I got a roommate who I know is really positive. I try to read something positive every morning. I focus on these incantations." I'm like-
Dr. Daniel Amen: So she should read Feel Better Fast and Make it Last?
Tana Amen: Right. I gave her that, and I gave her Brain Warrior's Way. I'm like, "What you're doing is right but we need to focus on all of it. We have to get your numbers checked, we have to do all these things. We need to an assessment on you to figure out what's wrong."
Dr. Daniel Amen: Don't hear in this ADD podcast that I think stimulants are right for everyone. If you read my book, Healing ADD, I talk about, well, there's seven different types. Know what type you have. We have a special discount at Amen Clinics for those who listen to our podcast. When you call the call center, if you just say, oh, I listen to the podcast and give them the code, podcast10, we actually have all sorts of people who listen to this podcast call and make an appointment. You want to know what's going on in your brain.
Tana Amen: One thing you can start with is our assessment. Where can I find the assessment?
Dr. Daniel Amen:
Tana Amen: It's free.
Dr. Daniel Amen: There's a free assessment that you can do knowing the type of brain you have and then we'll tell you-
Tana Amen: It's a start.
Dr. Daniel Amen: ... what supplements and, ultimately, what medications might be best for you. Of course, you should always talk to your doctor about it. What's the one thing you learn today about how you can have a better attention?
Tana Amen: Tag us.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Write it down, send us a review. We would love that. Also, that one thing you learned today, post it on any of your social media channels with the hashtag, #brainwarriorsway. Thank you so much.
Tana Amen: If you are enjoying The Brain Warrior's Way podcast, please don't forget to subscribe so you'll always know when there's a new episode. While you're at it, feel free to give us a review or five star rating as that helps others find the podcast.
Dr. Daniel Amen: If you're interested in coming to Amen Clinics, use the code podcast10 to get a 10% discount on a full evaluation at For more information, give us a call at 855-978-1363.