*This is a re-post combination of two of our previous articles. The first half deals with ADHD and the second half deals with depression
Putting a child in a classroom for 8 hours a day, for more than a decade, and expecting them to listen while remaining ‘obedient’ is very unrealistic. From day one we are taught that this is the only path to success and we are shown the consequences of not paying attention. It’s important to recognize that it’s perfectly normal for children to struggle with paying attention to something that they are not even remotely interested in; this doesn’t necessarily mean they have a disorder and it doesn’t mean they require (potentially quite harmful) prescription medications.
It’s Okay If Your Child Struggles With Attention – This Does’t Mean They Have A Disorder
Many doctors and teachers are already aware of this, but I would like to reiterate the point — just because your child struggles with paying attention in school or sitting still in the classroom does not mean there is an underlying disorder to blame. It’s perfectly natural for your child to want to be active and to want to focus on things which actually interest them. Sure, low grades might come as a result of not paying attention, but it is possible for a 2.0 student to know more than a 4.0 student; grades don’t necessarily equate with intelligence. In many cases, they reflect an ability to follow rules and memorize information — both important skills, but perhaps less important than critical thinking and creativity. Some students may have a better ability to buckle down, pay attention, and do their work, while other, equally as intelligent students, may struggle with this model. This, again, is perfectly normal, and could actually be a marker of something really positive. If your child is being held back and being denied even the possibility of entering a gifted program based on the fact that they have attention issues, then there is problem.
New data from the National Center for Learning Disabilities shows that only 1 percent of students who receive services for their apparent learning disabilities (some of which are completely and unquestionably valid) are enrolled in gifted or talented programs. The report concluded that “students with learning and attention issues are shut out of gifted and AP programs, held back in grade level and suspended from school at higher rates than other students.” (source)
Disorder Or Creativity?
The last point in the above paragraph is pretty disturbing, particularly given the fact that recent work in cognitive neuroscience shows us that both those with an ADHD diagnosis, and creative thinkers, have difficulty in suppressing brain activity that comes from the “Imagination Network.” There are no school assessments to evaluate creativity and imagination; these are admittedly difficult to measure and, accordingly, receive very little attention in the education system. Yet a lot of research is pointing to the fact that people who show characteristics of ADHD are more likely to reach higher levels of creative thought and achievement compared to those who don’t show these characteristics.
“By automatically treating ADHD characteristics as a disability– as we so often do in an educational context– we are unnecessarily letting too many competent and creative kids fall through the cracks.” – Scott Barry Kaufman, Scientific Director of The Imagination Institute in the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania (source)
While brain scans of people diagnosed with ADHD do show structural differences, it is a scary reality that a large portion of ADHD diagnoses are derived from the observations teachers make in school. Too often, children are diagnosed based on perceived behaviour alone, and then encouraged to take medication right away. These children are not actually tested or scanned; they and their parents are simply told that they have ADHD.
“I think the big mistake in schools is trying to teach children anything, and by using fear as the basic motivation. Fear of getting failing grades, fear of not staying with your class, etc. Interest can produce learning on a scale compared to fear as a nuclear explosion to a firecracker.” – Stanley Kubrick
Did They Tell You This About The Pharmaceutical Industry?
The quote to your left comes from Harvard Medical professor and the former Editor-in-Chief of The New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Marcia Angell. She joins a long and growing list of some very ‘credible’ people within the medical profession who are trying to tell the world something important. She has said on several occasions that it is no longer possible to believe much of the published research, or even to rely on the judgement of trusted physicians or authoritative medical guidelines. (source)
Another great example is Dr. Richard Horton, who is currently the Editor-in-Chief of The Lancet, which is considered to be one of the top ranked medical journals in the world. He said that “the case against science is straightforward, much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue. . . . Science has taken a turn towards darkness.” (source)
The reason why these professionals are saying such things is because, as Dr. Angell puts it, “the pharmaceutical industry likes to depict itself as a research-based industry, as the source of innovative drugs. Nothing could be further from the truth. This is their incredible PR and their nerve.”
“The medical profession is being bought by the pharmaceutical industry, not only in terms of the practice of medicine, but also in terms of teaching and research. The academic institutions of this country are allowing themselves to be the paid agents of the pharmaceutical industry. I think it’s disgraceful.” – Arnold Seymour Relman, Harvard Professor of Medicine
The percentage of children with an ADHD diagnosis continues to increase; it went from 7.8 percent in 2003 all the way up to 11.0 percent in 2011. According to a recent analysis, ADHD in children has surged by 43 percent since 2003. (source)
The quotes above aren’t just opinions, clearly these few (out of many) examples are from people who know a thing or two about the industry, and it is troublesome to think that people still believe pharmaceutical corruption and manipulation of scientific literature are conspiracy theories.
The most recent real world example of this comes from a few months ago, when an independent review found that the commonly prescribed antidepressant drug Paxil is not safe for teenagers — all after the fact that a large amount of literature had previously suggested this. The 2001 drug trial that took place, funded by GlaxoSmithKline (also maker of the Gardasil Vaccine), found that these drugs were completely safe, and used that ‘science’ to market Paxil as safe for teenagers. The study came from John Ioannidis, an epidemiologist at the Stanford University School of Medicine.
Ioannidis is also the author of the most widely accessed article in the history of the Public Library of Science (PLoS), titled “Why Most Published Research Findings Are False.” In the report, he stated that most current published research findings are false. And this was more than 10 years ago.
ADHD is classified as a mental disorder, which is interesting because the definition of these types of disorders in particular have been shown to be heavily influenced by the pharmaceutical industry. American psychologist Lisa Cosgrove and others investigated financial ties between the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) panel members and the pharmaceutical industry. They found that, of the 170 DSM panel members, 95 (56%) had one or more financial associations with companies in the pharmaceutical industry. One hundred percent of the members of the panels on ‘mood disorders’ and ‘schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders’ had financial ties to drug companies. The connections are especially strong in those diagnostic areas where drugs are the first line of treatment for mental disorders. In the next edition of the manual, it’s the same thing.
“The DSM appears to be more a political document than a scientific one. Each diagnostic criteria in the DSM is not based on medical science. No blood tests exist for the disorders in the DSMN. It relies on judgements from practitioners who rely on the manual.” – Lisa Cosgrove, PhD, Professor of Counselling and School Psychology at the University of Massachusetts, Boston
The very vocabulary of psychiatry is now defined at all levels by the pharmaceutical industry.” – Dr. Irwin Savodnik, an Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the University of California at Los Angeles (source)
These are definitely some facts to take into consideration when it comes to dealing with your child’s ADHD diagnosis. It’s a ‘disease’ — one which I was also diagnosed with — that I personally don’t even think is real. I think it was made up strictly for the purpose of making money.
There Are Other Methods To Help Your Child Focus & Improve Your Child’s Ability To Pay Attention
It’s becoming clear that we need a new approach to ADHD. Apart from examining the truth behind that label, as I hope I have done in the above paragraphs, it’s important to note that there does not appear to be much room in our school system for children who do not fit the ‘normal’ mould of the majority. The fact that we basically point a finger at them and label them does not really help anything. As much as we’ve been marketed to believe that medication can help solve the problem, I really believe they only worsen it. Many of these medications seem to dull the emotions and energy of the children taking them, ultimately making for a less positive and rich life experience.
One great way to improve your child’s ability to focus is to change their diet. It’s a shame that hardly any research has been published examining the relationship between mental ‘disabilities’ and diet, since many medical professionals strongly believe there is a direct link between them. Some studies have, indeed, emerged which show a link between a gluten/casein free diet and improvement in autistic symptoms, and some parents have already seen the benefits of implementing this research. (source)
The Mayo Clinic claims that certain food preservatives and colourings could increase hyperactive behaviour in some children. It would be best to avoid these, regardless of whether they are linked to ADHD or not.
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It has also been suggested that EEG biofeedback (electroencephalographic) could help. It’s a type of neurotherapy that measures brainwaves. You can read more about that here.
In 2003, a study published in the journal Adolescence looked at how regular massages for 20 minutes twice a week could improve behaviour in the classroom. This is interesting because studies have also suggested that tai chi and yoga may also help improve ADHD symptoms. According to the studies, children with ADHD that practiced tai chi became less anxious or hyperactive. (source)
So, one thing you could try is observing what your child is eating. You can limit their intake of harmful, hormone disrupting, disease causing foods like sugar, limit their exposure to pesticides, and encourage their consumption of fruits, vegetables, and whole foods (rather than processed foods).
When it comes down to it, developing methods for your child to pay attention to something they find boring and/or useless is a difficult task, and for parents who struggle with this, it’s important to remember that most likely your child is perfectly normal. It will help to choose to look at it in a positive light.
The fact that children are forced into these institutions, told how the world works, made to follow certain rules, and pressured to complete education out of fear of not having a job, is a truly unfortunate reality of today’s world. It is not the best environment for a child. Perhaps things will change in the future, but right now it seems children are encouraged to complete education out of fear, out of necessity, and out of the mentality that “this is just the way the world is.”
“When we can’t say ‘No,’ we become a sponge for the feelings of everyone around us and we eventually become saturated by the needs of everyone else while our own hearts wilt and die. We begin to live our lives according to the forceful should of others, rather than the whispered, passionate want of our own hearts. We let everyone else tell us what story to live and we cease to be the author of our own lives. We lose our voice — we lose the desire planted in our souls and the very unique way in which we might live out that desire in the world. We get used by the world instead of being useful in the world.” – Dr. Kelly M. Flanagan, a licensed clinical psychologist, Ph.D. in clinical psychology (source)
Perhaps sitting down and talking to your child, letting them know that there is nothing wrong with them and that they don’t have a ‘disorder’ is a good start, at least for those who have already been labeled. Again, just because one person struggles with paying attention does not mean they have a disorder. If the information above is any indication, it could actually mean the opposite.
Having your child even believe in that type of label could be harmful. Given the recent developments in neuroplasticity and parapsychology, it has become clear that how a person thinks alone can change their biology.
Speaking with educators and finding a differentiated type of instruction more tailored to your child’s needs and interests could also be a solution. One of the biggest solutions, in my opinion, is not accepting labels for your children in the first place.
This is a big problem in modern day education, and solutions are limited. The issue here really seems to be the environment the children are surrounded by, not the children themselves.
Another thing parents could address are the feelings of the child. Part of growing up is learning to handle our emotions and tackle whatever challenges life throws at us, but in school we are only taught content, and that is all we seem to focus on. Humans are made up of more than just bits of learned information; we all perceive a certain way and if emotions and thoughts are not openly discussed and dealt with, it can create problems in other areas.
“I don’t know about you, but in my adult life, I have never had to use geometry once… yet I experience emotions and challenges every day. If school is designed to prepare you for life… why not teach actual life skills?” – Elina St. Onge
Depression, Chemical Imbalance or Not?
Is the chemical imbalance theory of depression really true, or is it just a tool used to push more drugs onto the market? After all, antidepressant drugs are the most commonly prescribed drugs in North America. Pharmaceutical companies are bringing in billions of dollars every single year from the sale of antidepressant drugs alone, and they also spend billions of dollars marketing and advertising their products.
Joseph Coyle, a neuroscientist from Harvard Medical School, sums it up best, writing that “chemical imbalance is sort of last-century thinking. It’s much more complicated than that.” And it’s true; depression is much more complicated than that, at least compared to the commonly accepted belief that depression results from a chemical imbalance in the brain. This idea was posed in the late 1950s and has since taken hold in everyone’s minds. It’s the general idea that a deficiency of select neurotransmitters exists (chemical messengers) at critical points, like synapses. One of these neurotransmitters, for example, is serotonin; others include norepinephrine and dopamine.
As Scientific American reports, “much of the general public seems to have accepted the chemical imbalance hypothesis uncritically,” and that “it is very likely that depression stems from influences other than neurotransmitter abnormalities.” (source)
Harvard Medical School put out a press release a few years ago stating that it’s “often said that depression results from a chemical imbalance, but that figure of speech doesn’t capture how complex the disease is.” (source)
Of course, there are brain events and biochemical reactions occurring when someone feels depressed, as there are all the time, but no research has ever established that a particular brain state causes, or even correlates with, depression. . . . In all cases studies yield inconsistent results, and none have been shown to be specific to depression, let alone causal.
The fact that more than 50 years of intense research efforts have failed to identify depression in the brain may indicate that we simply lack the right technology, or it may suggest we have been barking up the wrong tree!
– Dr. Joanna Moncrieff, British Psychiatrist, Author (source)
The most commonly cited evidence to support the chemical imbalance theory is simply that some drugs have been shown to increase and decrease mood in human and animal models, and yes — many antidepressants increase the amounts of serotonin and other neurotransmitters at synapses, but what we fail to realize today is, just because mood can be artificially manipulated with drugs, does not mean the chemical imbalance theory is true. Just because these antidepressants do increase and decrease certain chemical levels in the brain does not prove the chemical imbalance theory of depression.
We simply can’t currently determine if a human being has a chemical imbalance (to whatever extent) or say what neurotransmitters are involved, which is why the chemical imbalance theory of depression remains a theory. It’s not like chemical levels in the brain can accurately be measured or ‘looked at,’ either.
Yet much of the general public still accepts the chemical imbalance theory. Indeed, a survey conducted in 2007 of 262 undergraduates at Cleveland State University found that more than 80 percent of the participants found it “likely” that chemical imbalances cause depression.
“At best, drug-induced affective disturbances can only be considered models for natural disorders, while it remains to be demonstrated that the behavioral changes produced by these drugs have any relation to naturally occurring biochemical abnormalities which might be associated with the illness.” (source)
Keep in mind, as Harvard Medical School points out, there are probably many chemicals involved, working both inside and outside of our nerve cells: “There are millions, even billions, of chemical reactions that make up the dynamic system that is responsible for your mood, perceptions, and how you experience life.”
“The cause of mental disorders such as depression remains unknown. However, the idea that neurotransmitter imbalances cause depression is vigorously promoted by pharmaceutical companies and the psychiatric profession at large.” (source)
Again, theories like the low serotonin one came into existence because scientists were able to observe the effects of drugs on the brain. It was a hypothesis that attempted to explain how drugs could be fixing something, yet whether or not depressed people actually had lower serotonin levels actually remains to be proven. You can read more about the science here.
“The serotonin theory is simply not a scientific statement. It’s a botched theory – a hypothesis that was proven incorrect.” – Dr. Joseph Mercola (source)
Not only is there no solid scientific proof to back up the chemical imbalance theory, many depressed people are not even helped by taking antidepressants like SSRIs. For example, a review done by the University of California in 2009 found that one third of people treated with antidepressants do not improve, and a significant portion of these people remain depressed. As Scientific American observes, “if antidepressants correct a chemical imbalance that underlies depression, all or most depressed people should get better after taking them.”
Depression has one focus, brain chemistry, even though it is a multifaceted issue involving many concerns and many chemicals. Focusing on this one chemical imbalance theory, and then dishing out drugs that actually alter brain chemistry, is shortsighted and dangerous.
“In spite of the enormous amount of money and time that has been spent on the quest to confirm the chemical imbalance theory, direct proof has never materialized.” (source)
The irony of this situation is hopefully not lost on everyone. The only imbalances we know for sure to exist in the brains of ‘mentally ill’ people are the ones inflicted on them by psychiatric drugs. We are making a false claim that they have biochemical imbalances and then actually giving them biochemical imbalances based on that claim.
Antidepressants are supposed to work by fixing a chemical imbalance, specifically, a lack of serotonin in the brain. Indeed, their supposed effectiveness is the primary evidence for the chemical imbalance theory. But analyses of the published data and the unpublished data that were hidden by drug companies reveals that most (if not all) of the benefits are due to the placebo effect. Some antidepressants increase serotonin levels, some decrease it, and some have no effect at all on serotonin. Nevertheless, they all show the same therapeutic benefit. Even the small statistical difference between antidepressants and placebos may be an enhanced placebo effect, due to the fact that most patients and doctors in clinical trials successfully break blind. The serotonin theory is as close as any theory in the history of science to having been proved wrong. Instead of curing depression, popular antidepressants may induce a biological vulnerability making people more likely to become depressed in the future.
Related Article: 10 Ways To Increase Dopamine Levels In The Brain
Irving Kirsch offered the above information in a publication obtained from the US National Library of Medicine. He is the Associate Director of the Program in Placebo Studies and a Lecturer in Medicine at Harvard Medical School. He is also Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the Universities of Hull and Plymouth in the United Kingdom, and a few others in the United States. Needless to say, he’s done a lot of research, and his revelations above should be read by anybody taking, or considering taking, antidepressant drugs.
The Effectiveness of Anti-Depressant Drugs Compared To Placebo
In a 2002 study conducted by Kirsch and his team of researchers, published in The American Psychological Association’s Prevention & Treatment, it was discovered that 80 percent of the effect of antidepressants, as measured in clinical trials, could be attributed to the placebo effect. The difference between the response of the drugs and the response of the placebo was less than two points on average on a clinical scale that goes from fifty to sixty points. This is a very small difference, and is, according Kirsch, clinically meaningless:
I assumed that antidepressants were effective. As a psychotherapist, I sometimes referred my severely depressed clients for prescriptions of antidepressant drugs. Sometimes the condition of my clients improved when they began taking antidepressants; sometimes it did not. When it did, I assumed it was the effect of the drug that was making them better. Given my long standing interest in the placebo effect, I should have known better, but back then I did not.
Analyzing the data we had found, we were not surprised to find a substantial placebo effect on depression. What surprised us was how small the drug effect was. Seventy-five percent of the improvement in the drug group also occurred when people were give dummy pills with no active ingredient in them. (source)
To learn more about the placebo effect and access more studies about it, you can refer to this article we published on it a couple of years ago.
“Unpublished Data That That Were Hidden By Drug Companies”
The idea that scientific literature has firmly established the benefits of antidepressants has lost all credibility, thanks in large part to Kirsch and his team. They used the Freedom of Information Act to request that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) send data that pharmaceutical companies had sent to it for the process of obtaining approval for multiple antidepressants, which accounted for the bulk of antidepressant prescriptions at the time. As a result, the researchers were able to obtain data on both published and unpublished trials:
This turned out to be very important. Almost half of the clinical trials sponsored by the drug companies have not been published (Melander, Ahlqvist-Rastad, Meijer, & Beermann, 2003; Turner, Matthews, Linardatos, Tell, & Rosenthal, 2008). The results of the unpublished trials were known only to the drug companies and the FDA, and most of them failed to find a significant benefit of drug over placebo. . . . [T]he data in the FDA files were the basis upon which the medications were approved. In that sense they have a privileged status. If there is anything wrong with those trials, the medications should not have been approved in the first place. (source)
All in all, the data sent to the researchers by the FDA showed that only 43% of the trials showed a statistically significant benefit of drug over placebo. The remaining 57% were failed or negative trials.
Many other studies have also demonstrated just how ineffective antidepressants are, as well as how often that fact is obscured by pharmaceutical companies. What’s worse, studies have since determined that anti-depressants can cause real harm to those who take them, and this information is often withheld, too. For example, a study published in The British Medical Journal by researchers at the Nordic Cochrane Center in Copenhagen revealed that pharmaceutical companies were not disclosing all information regarding the results of their drug trials. Researchers looked at documents from 70 different double-blind, placebo-controlled trials of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) and serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRI) and found that the full extent of serious harm in clinical study reports went unreported. These are the reports sent to major health authorities like the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Tamang Sharma, a PhD student at Cochrane and Lead Author of the study, noted that they “found that a lot of the appendices were often only available upon request to the authorities, and the authorities had never requested them,” revealing that she was “actually kind of scared about how bad the actual situation would be if [they] had the complete data.”
Joanna Moncrieff, a psychiatrist and researcher at University College London, elaborates:
[This study] confirms that the full degree of harm of antidepressants is not reported. They are not reported in the published literature, we know that – and it appears that they are not properly reported in clinical study reports that go to the regulators and from the basis of decisions about licensing.
It’s also important to note the pharmaceutical drug aspect into this equation. For (one small out of many) example(s), American psychologist Lisa Cosgrove and others investigated Financial Ties between the Diagnostic and Statistical Manuel of Mental Disorders (DSM) panel members and the pharmaceutical industry. They found that, of the 170 DSM panel members 95 (56%) had one or more financial associations with companies in the pharmaceutical industry. One hundred percent of the members of the panels on ‘mood disorders’ and ‘schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders’ had financial ties to drug companies. The connections are especially strong in those diagnostic areas where drugs are the first line of treatment for mental disorders. In the next edition of the manual, it’s the same thing. (source)(source)
“The DSM appears to be more a political document than a scientific one. Each diagnostic criteria in the DSM is not based on medical science. No blood tests exist for the disorders in the DSM. It relies on judgments from practitioners who rely on the manual.” (11) – Lisa Cosgrove, PhD, Professor of Counseling and School Psychology at the University of Massachusetts, Boston.
The very vocabulary of psychiatry is now defined at all levels by the pharmaceutical industry,” Dr. Irwin Savodnik, an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of California at Los Angeles (source)
Conclusion & What You Can Try If You’re Not Interested In Drug
Don’t get me wrong, depression is a very real, and a big problem. It’s just the methods commonly used to treat it is what should be called into question.
We’ve written countless amounts of articles on depression, many of which provide alternative method of treatment you can use to help you out. You can read some of them that are listed below:
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