One Diagnosis or Many?
The epidemic proportions of the ADD diagnosis are gaining widespread attention from parents, educators, physicians, and other healthcare providers. Many people are seriously questioning the possibility of overdiagnosis. This issue was raised in an informative cover article in Newsweek magazine. “ADHD has become America’s No. l childhood psychiatric disorder….
Since 1990, Dr. Daniel Safer of Johns Hopkins University School
of Medicine calculates, the number of kids taking Ritalin has
grown two and a half times. Among today’s 38 million children
at the ages of five to fourteen, he reports, 1.3 million take
it regularly. Sales of the drug last year alone topped $350 million.
This is, beyond question, an American phenomenon. The rate of
Ritalin use in the United States is at least five times higher
than in the rest of the world, according to federal studies.”
The article continues, “For
all the success they’ve had in treating ADHD, many doctors are
convinced that Ritalin is overprescribed.” Dr. Peter S. Jensen,
chief of the Child and Adolescent Disorders Research Branch of
the National Institutes of Mental Health is quoted: “I fear
that ADHD is suffering from the ‘disease of the month’ syndrome.”
Dr. Bruce Epstein, a St. Petersburg, Florida, pediatrician, reports
that parents of normal children have asked him to prescribe Ritalin
just to improve their children’s grades. “When I won’t give
it to them, they switch doctors.”
We applaud Dr. Thomas Armstrong’s
warning about the current overdiagnosis of ADD in his book The
Myth of the ADD Child. We have seen a number of children who
were high-spirited, extremely imaginative, and so precocious that
their parents were unable to keep up with their ceaseless questions
and insatiable intellectual appetites. We have also met children
who were overamped, but performed just fine in school. Many of
these children have been diagnosed with ADD, even though we feel
they fall more into the category of unusual, remarkable, or gifted
children. Some youngsters are the victims of rigid, overly strict
teachers whose highly structured classroom environments simply
do not pace their temperaments and learning styles. Or they have
excessively rule-bound parents who do not extend to their children
the freedom that they need to thrive and expand their creative
We have also seen a large number
of children whose behaviors are very disruptive and disturbing
through no fault of teachers. No one can expect a teacher in a
classroom of forty active children to cope happily with the statistical average
of 10 percent (four children) in her class with ADD. The amount
of extra attention, discipline, and time just trying to keep these
children and those around them safe is more than many teachers
Can we, however, lump all of these
children together under one diagnostic category? Can a child who
lashes out at his family, peers, and teachers in a violent, destructive
manner and has no interest in his schoolwork fit into the same
diagnostic group as a sweet, gregarious child who simply cannot
pay attention in class? Conventional medicine would say that,
based on their scores on standardized ADD tests, both children
could indeed have ADD. Homeopathy would say that these are two
distinct children whose problems and temperaments are as different
as night and day. A homeopath would prescribe very different medicines
for the two children, rather than giving them both stimulants.
And what about the many conditions
that mimic ADD, such as dyslexia and other learning disabilities,
vision and auditory problems, epilepsy, developmental disorders,
hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, hypoglycemia, food allergies,
lead poisoning, caffeinism, anxiety, depression, and obsessive
compulsive disorder, just to name a few? It is essential to understand
and differentiate each individual child, not only from the viewpoint
of psychological testing, but also to comprehend deeply the physical
symptoms, experience, feelings, beliefs, and motivations of each
Unlike many other syndromes there
is no physical examination or laboratory test that definitely
confirms the diagnosis of ADD. While some psychologists and educators
use the Conners’ Rating Scales, others, including physicians, often base the diagnosis
on the subjective reports of parents and teachers. The inconsistency
of diagnostic criteria and apparent overdiagnosing in this country
has led many to question the diagnosis of ADD. Some educational
experts acknowledge that “The position that ADHD is not a
proven syndrome has many advocates, physicians as well as educators.
However, whether or not a syndrome exists, it is clear that many
children have difficulty in school because of an inability to
attend to tasks. The ideal would be to describe each child’s strengths
and weaknesses and offer an individualized program.” We
would like to take this a step further: Offer an individualized
medicine as well as a learning program tailored to the needs of
the individual child.
Homeopaths are able to treat ADD
effectively in many cases by bringing the individual into balance.
Homeopaths treat people with ADD, not the ADD itself. For a homeopath,
what needs to be treated is the specific pattern of symptoms which
an individual presents. Only the one homeopathic medicine that
specifically matches the unique symptoms of the individual will
allow the person to live in a functional way.
Each of these individuals included
in this book is unique, and it is that uniqueness that leads to
the homeopathic prescription in such a different way than with conventional medicine. Our clinical experience, presented in the case studies in this book, as well as the published experience of other homeopaths, suggests strongly that homeopathy is a useful treatment for ADD. Homeopaths always
take the whole person into account. If the chief complaint of
the person is his inability to sit still, difficulty concentrating,
or other symptoms of ADD, these behaviors would certainly be taken
into account, but in combination with all the person’s other symptoms.
The homeopath would note anything unusual about that person. That
might include a history of scarlet fever during childhood, a strong
fear of birds, recurrent dreams of falling out of bed at night
and no one coming to the rescue, or a craving for persimmons.
The homeopath sincerely seeks to understand the uniqueness of
The Pros of Homeopathic Treatment of ADD
· Treats the whole person at
the root of the problem Considered safe, without the side effects
of Ritalin and other medications
· Uses natural, nontoxic medicines
· Treats each person as an individual
· Heals physical as well as
mental and emotional symptoms
· Lasts for months or years
rather than hours
· Is inexpensive
· Is cost-effective
over Conventional Medicine
- The most common reason patients choose
homeopathic treatment is the positive results they have heard
from others with similar problems or because they have been referred
by another physician or practitioner who is familiar with homeopathic
treatment of ADD.
- The patient or parents have
read about homeopathy, and the philosophy and approach make more
sense to them than conventional medicine.
- Many adults and parents choose
homeopathic treatment because it is safe, nontoxic, and effective.
- Conventional medications for ADD
act very briefly. A dose of Ritalin, for example, lasts only about
four hours. One dose of the correct homeopathic medicine usually
lasts at least four to six months.
- Homeopathic medicines often result
in growth spurts in children and never suppress a child’s normal
development. Nor do they cause such side effects as tics, appetite
suppression, and insomnia.
- Homeopathic medicines are very inexpensive.
The only significant cost of homeopathic treatment is office visits.
Once the person has responded well to the homeopathic medicine,
appointments are infrequent.
- Homeopathy treats the whole person. Not only do learning and behavioral
problems improve, so do most or all of the other physical, mental,
and emotional complaints of the person. Conventional medication
for ADD works only on specific learning and behavioral problems.
Sally Smith, a parent of an ADD child formerly on Ritalin, describes
this phenomenon by holding up a ruler and pointing to the one-inch
mark: “Ritalin makes you available to learn. You and your parents and teachers
have to work on all the rest.”
- Homeopathy will not make a child
depressed or dull. Parents sometimes complain that, although stimulant
and antidepressant medications have eliminated some of the more
severe problem behaviors, their children’s spirits seem dampened
and they do not seem like their former selves.
- Homeopathic medicines are generally
given infrequently and over limited periods of time. Conventional
medications put only a temporary lid on ADD symptoms. Doctors
often recommend that these medications be taken for the rest of
the patient’s life.
Family Expect from Homeopathic Treatment?
Homeopaths have high expectations
for their patients. We generally do not consider a homeopathic
medicine effective for a patient unless the person’s symptoms
are at least 50 percent (usually 70 percent or more) improved
and this improvement lasts for a year or more. This requires that
the patient stay with homeopathic treatment for at least a year.
The homeopath keeps a careful record of all of the symptoms and
characteristics that were elicited during each interview. As treatment
progresses, these symptoms should get better and better. An improvement
can usually be noticed within one month, and often within days
A patient can expect his energy and
overall sense of well-being to improve as well as an improvement
in most or all of his mental, emotional, and physical complaints. This means, as you will see over and over in the cases that we present in this book, that not only does attention and behavior improve, but headaches, growing pains, constipation, nailbiting, and other symptoms improve after
the homeopathic medication has been prescribed.
Conventional Medicines Be Used Together?
This is one of the most common questions
we are asked by adults or parents of children who have been diagnosed
with ADD. This is ultimately a decision between the patient and
the prescribing physician. A general guideline is to assess whether
the prescription medication is effective. In cases where the patient
sees no improvement from the medication that has already been
prescribed, the prescribing physician and patient generally agree
to stop the medication and to try homeopathy instead.
In other cases, the medication is
working but the side effects are disturbing. With still other
patients, the prescription medication is having a positive effect,
but the patient or parents do not like the idea of staying on
medication and seek a more natural alternative. In these situations,
the patient or parents may inform the prescribing physician that
they wish to discontinue the medication long enough to try an
Another category of patients feels
that their symptoms of ADD are so severe that they dare not discontinue
their medications until they have found another therapy that is
effective. In such a case, many homeopaths will prescribe the
homeopathic medication in addition to the prescription drugs the person is
already taking. As the homeopathic medicine works and the patient
improves, the patient can work with his physician to taper off
the prescription medication. This process requires knowledge and
experience and is another compelling reason to seek an experienced
Does Not Believe in Homeopathy?
From the time that homeopathic medicine
was first brought to this country in the early 1800s, there have
been many skeptics among medical doctors. Homeopathic philosophy
is very different from what is taught in conventional medical
schools. When homeopathy is mentioned in a medical history class,
it is generally dismissed as an aberration of the past.
With the growing interest in homeopathic
medicine and with the disillusionment about the side effects and
short-term benefits of much of modern medical treatment, a growing
number of conventional doctors are opening their minds to homeopathy.
Some medical doctors are incorporating homeopathy into their conventional
practices or referring to other homeopathic practitioners. In
our practice, we receive many referrals from medical doctors and
osteopaths. Many conventionally trained physicians and other licensed
healthcare practitioners have studied homeopathy in the courses
that we teach through the International Foundation for Homeopathy.
Many physicians, although they may know nothing about homeopathy,
encourage their patients, especially children, to use any therapies
that are of real benefit to that person rather than, or in combination
with, conventional medicines.
If your physician or your child’s
physician is adamantly opposed to you trying homeopathy and it
is your choice to do so, you can try to educate him or her about
homeopathic treatment of ADD or you can find a physician who is
more supportive of your freedom of choice. Homeopathic practitioners
are generally happy to educate conventional physicians about homeopathic
philosophy and treatment. Even a skeptical person may be convinced
of the possible benefits of homeopathy if he or she reads case
studies, attends a homeopathic case conference, or sees the results
of successful homeopathic treatment.
with Other Therapies
Homeopathic medicine is very compatible
with many other treatment modalities. Family and individual counseling
is often much more effective and proceeds more quickly when one
or more family members are under homeopathic treatment. When the
whole person is in balance, his mind is generally clearer and
he is much more able to move forward in his life.
Therapies such as chiropractic, craniosacral,
auditory integration, psychotherapy, and biofeedback are fine
to pursue along with homeopathy. Once the correct homeopathic
medicine has been given, many patients find that they no longer
need to follow strict allergy rotation diets, receive desensitization
injections, take megadoses of numerous vitamins and minerals,
and use other therapies aimed at treating individual symptoms.
It is very understandable that individuals with ADD want to try
anything that has the possibility of helping them, but using too many therapies,
conventional or alternative, at the same time can make it very
difficult to discern what effect each specific therapy is having.
When a person receives the correct homeopathic medicine, she knows
it. She feels an improvement in energy, physical ailments, concentration,
attitude, and creativity. Once she feels so much better, she generally
no longer needs lots of other therapies.
Are There Any Things I Can’t
Do During Homeopathic Treatment?
There are certain substances and
exposures that consistently interfere with homeopathic treatment.
Most practitioners will advise you to avoid the following substances:
coffee, eucalyptus, camphor, menthol, recreational drugs, and
electric blankets. You will be asked to avoid using topical medications
such as topical steroids, antibiotics, antifungals, and to use
oral antibiotics and cortisone products only after consulting
your homeopath, except in cases of emergency. Acupuncture, although
a treatment of tremendous value, is not recommended during homeopathic
treatment. Nor are other treatments, which are prescribed in order
to remove specific symptoms without treating the whole person.
Can Homeopathy Help Me or
Most people are potential candidates
for homeopathic treatment As with any treatment, you must make
a commitment to follow the recommendations of your homeopath.
You must be willing to follow these guidelines:
- You should stay with homeopathic
treatment for a minimum of six months to one year before seeking
out other therapies.
- You, as a patient or a parent
or family member, need to provide thorough and honest information
to the homeopath. The better the homeopath understands the patient,
the more likely the best medicine can be found and a lasting cure
- You need to inform the homeopath
of any medications that you or your child is taking. Once there
has been improvement with homeopathic treatment, prescription
medications for ADD are generally unnecessary. A growing number
of conventional physicians are encouraging parents to seek alternative
treatment for ADD in hopes that the children will not need to
be medicated throughout childhood and sometimes throughout much
of their lives.
- There are a small number of substances
and influences, such as coffee and recreational drugs, which are
likely to interfere with homeopathic treatment and which you will
need to avoid. Homeopathic practitioners will make their own recommendations
regarding this matter.
- You need to come for scheduled
appointments and to inform the homeopath of any significant changes
in your health during the course of homeopathic treatment. Homeopathic
follow-up appointments are generally every six weeks to three
months. Once you are doing well, follow-ups are generally scheduled
Homeopathic treatment is not for
everyone. The following are factors that prevent a person from
being a good candidate for homeopathic treatment:
- There are some children, particularly
teenagers, who are so opposed to anything their parents recommend that they
will sabotage homeopathic treatment, either by refusing to go
to appointments or take the medicines or by intentionally using
substances that interfere with homeopathic treatment. Similarly,
both parents need to be convinced that homeopathy is a valid treatment
or willing to try it for at least six months.
- Some people have such severe behavioral
problems that they need to be in an institution, such as a jail
or drug or alcohol treatment center, rather than outpatient treatment.
We are aware of only one such institutional program, which offered
homeopathy as part of a research study and hope others will in
the near future.
- Individuals who are unwilling
to avoid those substances which interfere with homeopathic treatment,
such as coffee or recreational drugs, are not good candidates
- Homeopathic medicines may not
act as quickly initially as prescription drugs, though the positive
effects last much longer. This requires patience and a willingness
to stick with the treatment process.
Why Not Treat Yourself or
As you read through the cases in
this book, you will probably think of someone you know who may
have a very similar symptom picture. You may even be tempted to
try to find the medicines mentioned in this book and administer them yourselves. Please
heed our advice regarding self-treatment.
There are many classes available
on prescribing homeopathic medicines for acute illnesses such
as colds, flus, and minor infections. We encourage you to take
these classes, to read more about acute prescribing, to buy a
homeopathic home kit, and to try homeopathic medicines on yourself
and your family for minor illnesses. If the person treated does
not improve in a day or two, be sure to consult your homeopathic
or conventional physician.
The conditions mentioned in this
book are not acute conditions. These are chronic states and need
to be handled much more carefully. There are over 2,000 homeopathic
medicines. It takes years of homeopathic study and practice to
make the fine distinctions about when to prescribe which medicine.
Although homeopathic medicines do not have long lists of side
effects like many conventional medicines, it is also possible
to experience a reaction to the medicine. IN ANY CHRONIC CONDITION,
WHETHER PHYSICAL, MENTAL, OR EMOTIONAL, DO NOT TREAT YOURSELF
OR YOUR CHILD. Find an experienced homeopathic practitioner. We
have received a number of calls from people who have read our
articles on ADD, thought they recognized themselves or their children,
and gone out to find the medicine themselves. Invariably they
have called us for treatment because they did not select the right
medicine or did not know how to administer the medicine at the
right frequency or potency. If you were considering brain surgery,
you would not read a book or two, buy a set of scalpels, and start
cutting. Homeopathy is just as complicated an art as neurosurgery.
Just because homeopathic medicines are widely available does
not mean they are easy to use. Please do not experiment on yourself
or your family members for ADD. Find an expert.
How Can I Find a Homeopath?
A growing number of health care practitioners,
including medical doctors (M.D.), naturopathic physicians (N.D.),
osteopathic physicians (D.O.), chiropractors (D.C.), family nurse
practitioners (F.N.P.), physicians’ assistants (P.A.), acupunturists
(L.A., C.A., or O.M.D.), and veterinarians (D.V.M.), practice
homeopathic medicine. Most homeopaths have a family practice.
We know of no experienced homeopaths in the United States who
focus solely on patients with ADD. Since a homeopath always treats
the whole person, such specialization is not necessary to find
good treatment. What is most important is to find a practitioner
who specializes in classical homeopathy, who spends at least an
hour with each new patient, prescribes one homeopathic medicine
at a time based on a detailed interview rather than a machine,
and waits at least five weeks before assessing the progress of
the patient. If at all possible, find a homeopath who is board
certified. It is not always possible to find a homeopath in your
immediate area, or even your state. You will be likely to find
much better results, even if you need to travel or do your homeopathic
consultations by telephone, than to go to someone in your area
who knows some homeopathy, but is not experienced and does not
specialize in homeopathy. We treat many patients by phone, though
we prefer to do the initial interview in person if at all possible.
In the appendix you can find the
names and addresses of organizations that publish directories
of homeopathic practitioners in the United States. It is still
wise to speak to the practitioner directly to make sure he or
she meets the guidelines we have suggested.