Up to now, most researchers were convinced that the main cause of ADHD was an imbalance in the dopamine brain chemical. This is the chemical we use every day to give ourselves rewards for jobs done and also to increase our long term motivation as we can see the end results. But it also helps us to pay attention and to focus. It also governs how we deal with getting tasks done and so on. |
New study contradicts old theories
The University of Cambridge has just published the results of a new study which seems to contradict this long held premise. What are the implications for treatment, if any, of this new discovery?
First, the study shows that the real cause of ADHD lies in the grey matter of the brain and does not really depend so much at all on the dopamine chemical. In fact, the mystery lies in the structural differences that seem to be found in that matter.
Those patients with ADHD seem to have less grey matter and research in this area will provide many of the answers that doctors have been searching for.
It is this, the researchers claim, which will reveal the key to the real cause of ADHD and its future treatment. Early days of course and in the meanwhile, where does this leave us as regards treatment?
Limitations of Ritalin and other meds
Any type of medication for ADHD should be used sparingly and the child should be constantly monitored. Now, quite a few children under the age of six are given these drugs which include Ritalin, Adderall and Concerta.
The problem is that nobody knows for sure what effect they will have on brain development. There is another problem in that many of the drugs are ‘off label’ which means that they were originally designed for other conditions and also for adults. Very little research has been done on the effects of these meds on kids. The reason is simply because there are too many ethical implications and this is a minefield. The FDA has preferred not to touch this hot potato at all. They leave it to the doctor’s discretion.
In the University of Cambridge research they found that while Ritalin did really help with dopamine levels, the fact is that it had the same effect on those with ADHD as those who were non-ADHD. It is obvious that the answer is not the dopamine but lies in other parts of the brain.
The real problem for those patients with ADHD was that they seemed to have less grey matter and that their attention problems and concentration levels were well below those who did not have ADHD.
Implications for ADHD treatment
We still do not know the answers but it is clear that medication has its limits until the real cause of ADHD is discovered. In the meantime, treatment should use more behavioral management as a tool.
Alternative treatments such as homeopathic preparations are very popular because they cause no side effects at all and the child is not subject to insomnia or loss of appetite.
The home should also be organized in such a way as to facilitate carrying out normal household tasks and homework.
There should also be less screen time and more outdoor activities as all these measures have been found to help with ADHD.
Robert Locke is an award winning author and has written extensively on parenting, ADHD, child health problems and mental disorders. You can find out more about ADHD treatment here.
Related Articles -
ADHD cause, cause of ADHD, ADHD treatment, alternative ADHD cure, Ritalin, Adderall,