Thursday, February 21, 2008

Kudos for Good Medical Journalism

Like so many people affected by AD/HD, I get really riled up when I notice misinformation about the disorder being disseminated through the media. Unfortunately, that's quite often. The disorder is important to me both professionally and personally. My teenage son Andrew has AD/HD and other learning challenges. I know what he goes through, so hearing a lot of nonsense from the anti-mental health groups and others who haven't bothered to read up on the disorder really irritates me. They don’t live with the challenges and frustrations that we families do.

As I am sure you are aware, there is still a lot of work to be done to educate the media and the public about AD/HD. However, I find information about the disorder in the media that is science-based to be exhilarating. That was the case recently when I read an article by a columnist at the Herald-Tribune in Sarasota, Florida. The piece was by a Dr. Paul Donohue, who was responding to a question that challenged the validity of AD/HD.

In his answer, Dr. Donohue relied on the scientific findings to effectively address the question posed to him. Basically, the doctor said AD/HD is a real disorder with objective and quantifiable signs. He wrote that "medicines that treat ADHD don't dope children. They allow affected children to control impulses that are otherwise uncontrollable. No medicines should be used indiscriminately, but there is a time and place for the appropriate use of ADHD medicines."

Dr. Donohue's response is good journalism and good information because it's based on the science. We need more people like Dr. Donohue. When we see people like him, we need to thank them for all that they do to set the record straight about AD/HD. If you see an article that you think is particularly good, be sure to write a letter telling the writer or his or her editor what you think. Share the article and your letter with us here at CHADD. It's important that we speak up when we notice good information, as well as when we see misinformation being disseminated.

Here's to positive reinforcement for journalists who do their jobs!


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Claims Without Science; Promoting Good Health

My local community publishes a glossy bi-monthly magazine featuring local volunteer leaders who contribute to the quality of community life and showcasing local businesses. A chiropractor recently featured his business showcase column on AD/HD.

He started the column with the claim that between the 1990s and today, children with AD/HD treated by medication rose from 900,000 to "more than 5 million." Now, there has been tremendous growth in the number of children being treated for AD/HD with medication, and there is a lot of concern, discussion, and debate about this. But why make up numbers? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in a national epidemiologic study, states that there are 4.4 million school-age children with AD/HD, and 2.5 million of these kids typically receive medications. The increase is an important topic - but why exaggerate the numbers, unless the intent is to scare?

The chiropractor then discusses his views of "contributing factors" causing AD/HD. Nowhere does he state the findings of the Surgeon General of the United States, National Institute of Mental Health, and the scientific establishment of America about the neurobiological origins of the disorder. He does claim that "busy families," "fast box food," and "processed food" cause AD/HD. The published peer-review science discounts these as causes of AD/HD.

He does cite the recent Lancet study on food dyes and its link to some hyperactive behavior in children. This is an important study that requires further research. He cites "excessive TV watching" as a cause of AD/HD. There are studies about the negative effects of excessive TV watching on some aspects of early child development, but it is not a cause of AD/HD. That is our challenge. We know that structured family life with proper nutrition, adequate exercise, family support, balanced and educational TV use, and community and frequently faith involvement contribute to healthy living. All these things are important and should be stressed in every family and community. But this is different than a "cause" of AD/HD. This is different than a multimodal treatment approach to AD/HD.

The chiropractor concludes that his clinical experience is that chiropractic care can play a positive role in the life of a child with AD/HD. That is true. I have seen a chiropractor since 1980. I find this helpful to maintaining my overall health. But there is no science that it is an effective or appropriate treatment for AD/HD. We need to assertively promote good health. Promoting good health is not identical to effectively treating a neurobiological disorder known as AD/HD.