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Focusing on A.D.D

Adults and children living with Attention Deficit Disorder know the daily struggles of hyperactivity, social isolation, and drug side effects. But yoga may help control these symptoms as well as reduce long-term dependency on medication.

By Fernando Pagés Ruiz

Looking for a New Drug

Understanding what causes ADD is child's play compared with knowing how to treat it. There is no cure, so learning how to control the condition is the focus of treatment. And when it comes to ADD treatment, medication has long been accepted as the best medicine.

Stimulant drug use for hyperactivity dates to 1937, when Charles Bradley, M.D., discovered the therapeutic effects of the amphetamine Benzedrine on behaviorally disturbed children. In 1948, Dexedrine was introduced and shown to be just as effective, without such high dosages. This was followed by Ritalin in 1954. Ritalin had fewer side effects and, since it's not an amphetamine, less potential for abuse. It soon became the best-known and most prescribed psychoactive drug for ADD children—as well as the most scrutinized: By now hundreds of studies have backed its safety and effectiveness.

But nowadays, Ritalin has taken a back seat to generic versions of methylphenidate—Ritalin's active ingredient—and ADDerall. A "cocktail" drug of amphetamines, ADDerall offers greater dosage flexibility, works more gradually and on a broad spectrum of symptoms, and eliminates the peaks and valleys of methylphenidate.

Still, these drugs are what continue to make ADD treatment controversial. The greatest fallouts with any stimulant medication are lifelong dependency and possible side effects from such long-term use. General use of ADD drugs can trigger some immediate reactions, such as loss of appetite, insomnia, weight loss, delayed puberty, irritability, and the unmasking of latent tics.

Yet these symptoms are said to be manageable with dosage modifications or by discontinuing the use of medication. And although several studies have shown most side effects are mild and short-term, many researchers add that there are insufficient long-term studies to confirm the safety of these drugs over an extended period.

Then there is the ongoing debate regarding the effectiveness of ADD medication beyond a certain time frame. Enid Haller, Ph.D., a specialist in ADD and director of Behavioral Arts in New York City, considers psychopharmaceuticals a short-term intervention at best. "These drugs stop working after six months to a year, and you have to switch medications or change the dosage," she says. "Unless the individual with ADD learns to compensate for their deficiencies and exploit their mental strengths, medication alone won't help in the long term."

Today, more health-care professionals recommend a multidisciplinary, multimodal approach to the treatment of ADD, which includes medication but also therapy and dietary changes as well as a host of mind-body approaches, such as biofeedback, neurofeedback, and yoga. These treatments work to help ADD sufferers learn how to control their symptoms and relieve both emotional and physical stress. But as is the case with most complementary treatments, lack of scientific evidence keeps them from being more accepted and widely used. They tend to get stuck in a gray area: Either they have strong testimonials but no clinical trials to support them, or they have encouraging preliminary research to back their claims but no follow-up studies.

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Reader Comments

Meaghan

A great intro presentation about yoga:
http://www.wepapers.com/Papers/92152/YOGA.ppt

Ann

I was diagnosed with ADHD at age 34, just this year. I went through life with no self-esteem, self-worth, or confidence.
Like Mary Alice, I was lost and disorganized from class to class. I unfortunately went undiagnosed and by the time I was 22 I was in and out of hospitals and therapy sessions and treated for mental problems I did not have.
My son is ADHD, I recognized it quckily and have been struggling with his behavioral problems and everything involved with being a parent of an ADHD child.
I started doing Vinyasha Yoga about 3 months ago. I had tried Power Yoga but it agitated my mind and tension in my body more than it helped, so I dropped out of it.
I am on Adderall for the ADHD and I had to adjust to a sudden peace with in my mind. I was scared to death of the silence, then I decided to go to the yoga class offered at the gym. It has changed my body and mind as described in the article. I do have a long way to go to achieve the state Mary Alice has come to find. However, I am always thrilled by yoga, I go into it excited and ready but holding on to worries and other problems, but by the end of a practice or class I am alive and awake in my mind, body, and soul but also wrapped in calm. Just recently I have started practice everyday at home inbetween classes. It is greatly reducing my everyday stress.
After I read this article I was able to understand many things I have questioned lately. I mentioned to my husband a couple of days ago about the fact that I have stuck to the practice of Vinyasha and how it has affected me. He pointed out the fact that I have become happy with my body as well. Not just mentally and spiritually it has, as put in the article, made me aware of myself and comfortable in my own skin. Typing that made my eyes tear up.
I am going to get the DVD for yoga for special children and work my son into it. There are no yoga classes around here for his age group, they do have it for 6-8 and 13-16 but nothing inbetween. Until then I will have to assist with poses and breathe before we can practice together. He does like trying poses already. I was practicing The Crane the first time it was introduced to me in class, my son comes along and starts doing the same movements I was and the little stinker did it on the first try. We laughed and for a moment were able to connect.
Your article was full of answers and possibilities for myself but it also pointed me in the right direction for helping my son but not leaving me blinded to the hardships and time it will take to see the benefits it will have for him in the long run.
Thank you.

Gail

Can anyone tell me the date of this article???

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