FAQ About Alternative Medicines

What are alternative ADHD therapies and medications, and which ones help –- or harm?


Filed Under: Alternative Treatments for ADHD, ADHD Diet and Nutrition, Supplements for ADHD

Most alternative treatments are not regulated by the FDA.

What is alternative medicine, and does it work to treat ADHD?
Alternative medicine refers to treatments other than those which would be typically prescribed, including herbal medicine, non-medication therapies, homeopathy and nutrition treatments.

ADHD treatments range from diet restrictions to herbal products; EEG to video games. Results vary, depending on the individual and the treatment being used.

Is there any scientific research on alternative treatments for ADD/ADHD?
The problem with alternative medicine is that there is a lack of independent research to validate many of the claims made. There has been some limited research on these treatments. One such paper that was presented at the NIMH ADHD Consensus Conference covers research on a variety of non-medication treatments.

Are alternative treatments such as herbal remedies regulated by any government agency?
Most alternative treatments are not regulated by the FDA. Some manufacturers of these products have been warned or even shut down by the Federal Trade Commission for making unsubstantiated claims about their products.

Are these treatments safer than medications?
Many of the alternative treatments are completely safe. Improved nutrition never hurt anyone. EEG Neurotherapy is non-invasive, although somewhat expensive. New technologies, like Interactive Metronome, may lead to safer, more effective treatment options.

Are any of these treatments dangerous?
Some alternative treatments may actually have a higher risk than the products that they claim to replace. Ephedra, for example, is a naturally occurring CNS stimulant that some people use instead of Ritalin. This herbal product has been associated with at least 38 deaths and over 800 adverse reactions. People forget that "Natural" does not necessarily mean "Safe."

Is a change in diet an effective treatment for ADHD?
Research on the results of these diets is mixed. Most doctors seem to think that nutrition does not cause or control ADHD. Most nutritionists think that doctors don't know anything about nutrition. Go figure.

The idea of removing sugars, food coloring and other additives from the diet as a treatment for ADHD remains one of the most popular alternative treatments for the disorder. The best known of all alternative diets is The Feingold Diet. There are other various nutrition plans and diets that claim to help.

Can I combine medications like Ritalin with some of the Alternative Treatments for a "best of both worlds" treatment?
It depends on what you are combining. If you are combining Ritalin with improved nutrition, there is no risk of injury and you may actually help your child. It's hard to pay attention when you are malnourished. If you combine the natural stimulant Ephedra with Ritalin, you will probably cause elevated blood pressure, heart attack and possibly death. St. John's Wort combined with an antidepressant can cause major problems. Always tell your doctor about any herbal products or nutritional supplements that you may be using.

Are alternative therapies covered by insurance plans?
Usually not.

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