Traditionally, ADHD is treated with a combination of medication and behavioral therapy. Alternative treatments are any other treatments that claim to either cure or treat symptoms of ADHD, for example: herbal remedies, chiropractic care, EEG neurotherapy, diet, and megavitamins.
Alternative therapies and treatments may provide some patients with some relief from symptoms, although there are few or no scientific studies currently that back up and support claims of effectiveness. There is also no cure for ADHD. Proponents and manufacturers of these types of therapy often discuss how alternative treatments are “natural.” Natural, however, does not always mean “safe.” Herbal remedies can interfere or negatively interact with other medications. Megavitamin therapy can sometimes be harmful. For this reason, it is important to discuss any treatment, alternative or traditional with your physician.
Traditional medication is thoroughly tested before it is approved for public use. There are certain scientific procedures that must be followed by pharmaceutical companies. Studies must be completed with variables such as the use of placebos, control groups and comparison to other treatments. The results must be consistent and all must be submitted to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) before a medication can be approved. and the results must be consistent. Then it will be determined if the information submitted supports the claims of the pharmaceutical company and may be accepted as a new medication or may be rejected or the FDA will request additional information before approval.
Alternative treatments are not required to be approved by the FDA before sale to the public. They may use less scientific methods such as limited studies to prove their claims. They may provide customer testimonials. This is not necessarily an indication of ineffectiveness or effectiveness. Consumers should be aware, however, that they have not be rigorously tested and in some cases may be harmful in used incorrectly. Again, the best approach to using alternative treatments would be to discuss thoroughly with your physician before incorporating such methods into your treatment plan.
In order to assess the effectiveness of an alternative treatment, you may want to do some research on your own. Some things to look for are:
- Does the product contain specific directions on how to use?
- Are ingredients clearly listed on the package?
- Does the treatment contain information on possible side effects, warnings, and possible interaction with other medications or foods?
- What does the product claim that it can do for you? Does it claim that it will “cure” ADHD? (There is no cure.) Does it claim that it is effective for everyone? (No treatment is equally effective for everyone.)
- What scientific studies, if any, were completed to back up claims of effectiveness? Is the company able to provide you with information on where the studies have been documented or published? How many studies have been completed? Do the studies include control groups?
- Does the company rely specifically on customer testimonials to back up claims? Is there any scientific data or studies to go along with testimonials? (Customer testimonials only may indicate that there is either no scientific data or the data does not agree with the testimonials.)
- How is the product described? Are the words “miraculous” or “amazing” or “breakthrough” used in describing the treatment? (What is there to back up these claims?)
- Does the company use “attack techniques” to sell their product/ do they put down traditional treatments to try to scare you into using their products? Does the company attack traditional medical treatment? (Are they trying to sell you something based on scare tactics?)
- How is the treatment promoted? Do reputable medical doctors back up the treatment or do they use self-published books, infomercials, mail order or websites? Is the treatment promoted by self-published books, infomercials or mail order/web sites?
- Has your physician heard about the treatment? Do they recommend this treatment for you and feel that it will complement your current treatment plan?
- Will your insurance plan pay for the treatment? (Aetna provides a list of acceptable treatment, as well as those they will not cover based on lack of peer-reviewed medical literature to support treatments on their website.)
- Lastly, can you find information on the treatment on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration website? This site will provide information on warning letters that have been sent to companies for promoting products base on undocumented claims.
Some of the alternative treatments are:
- Nutritional Supplements and Herbal Remedies
- Vision Therapy
- EEG Neurotherapy
- Chiropractic Care
- Candida Yeast
- Anti-motion Sickness Medication
- Cerebellar Training
- Interactive Metronome Training
- Auditory Stimulation
“ADHD- Unproven Treatments.” American Academy of Pediatrics.
“Complementary and Alternative Treatments.” National Resource Center on ADHD. Mar 2006.
Bernard-Bonnin, Dr. Anne-Claude. “The use of alternative therapies in treating children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.” Canadian Pediatrics Committee. 2003.
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.