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Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

The diagnosis of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is fraught with controversy involving passionate debate between healthcare professionals, policy makers, educators, and parents.

Using Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) diagnostic criteria, ADHD is characterized as a neuropsychiatric disorder that includes inattentiveness, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. Based upon DSM diagnostic criteria, estimates suggest that anywhere from 5–10% of school-aged children may have ADHD; however, adults can also exhibit signs and symptoms consistent with DSM-IV diagnostic criteria (Scahill 2000).

Changes introduced in DSM-5 include broadening the definition of ADHD by including more examples of diagnostic behaviors and increasing the maximum age of symptom onset from 7 to 12 years, leading to concerns that normal developmental processes such as pubertal restlessness and distractibility could be misdiagnosed as ADHD. In addition, diagnostic criteria for adults with ADHD are present for the first time (Thomas 2013). These along with other changes incorporated into DSM-5 are predicted to increase the prevalence of ADHD in the years to come, mostly in adults and adolescents, but possibly also in children (Dalsgaard 2013).

ADHD is a complex and controversial condition that likely involves both biological and environmental factors (De La Fuente 2013). Genetics are thought to play an important role as children born to parents with ADHD have an increased risk of developing the condition (Franke 2012; Thapar 2013). There is also some evidence that brain structure and/or function is perturbed in ADHD (Hale 2000; Schneider 2006; Emond 2009; Kasparek 2013; del Campo 2013). For instance, alterations in brain networks that govern attention and emotion have been observed in patients with ADHD (De La Fuente 2013; Konrad 2010; Edel 2010; Gow, Sumich 2013). Up to 60% of school-age children with ADHD may continue to experience symptoms into adulthood (Burbach 2010; O'Neill 2013; Sims 2012; Pearson 2012; Parker 2013; Akinbami 2011).

Mainstream medicine relies heavily upon powerful stimulant drugs from the amphetamine drug class (eg, Adderall®) and methylphenidate (eg, Ritalin®) to treat ADHD symptoms. This is not ideal for several reasons, including the fact that methylphenidate may induce lipid damage in certain brain regions (Schmitz, Scherer, Machado 2012; Comim 2013) and may cause abnormalities in the developing brain (Urban 2013). Stimulant ADHD drugs may cause other side effects as well, such as growth suppression, sleep problems, loss of appetite, and increased blood pressure and heart rate (Parker 2013).

The good news is that several integrative interventions have been evaluated and show promise in helping maintain focus and attention. For example, supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids and magnesium as well as undergoing neurofeedback therapy have been shown to offer considerable benefit to those affected by ADHD (Hariprasad 2013; Rutledge 2012; Arns 2009; Arnold 2013; Mousain-Bosc 2006).

Upon reading this protocol you will acquire a basic understanding of ADHD. You will also learn how conventional medications work to treat ADHD and about their troublesome side effects. In addition, several novel and emerging ADHD management strategies and scientifically-studied integrative interventions will be presented.