Thrive: Signs it’s time to seek alternative treatments for over medicated kids


Parents of children suffering from ADD, ADHD or other brain-based disorders can grow frustrated and even desperate as they seek to stem the difficulties they and their children face daily.

Often, medicating the children becomes not just a last resort, but a first resort.

“Parents will try whatever they can to help their child, and that includes turning to prescription drugs,” says Dr. Ed Carlton, founder of the Carlton Neurofeedback Center (www.carltonneurofeedbackcenter.com) and author of the book The Answer.

“While these can prove effective, they have a long list of potential side effects. They don’t correct the underlying cause of the ADD or ADHD symptoms, and they must be taken daily.”

Carlton says there are plenty of reasons why parents would want to get their children off medications, but just a few signs that it’s time to make that move include:

•  The child doesn’t like the way the drugs make them feel. Prescription drugs such as Ritalin and Adderall have a number of side effects. They can cause a teenager or child to have trouble sleeping. They can lead to dry mouth, headaches, dizziness, irritability and anxiety.

•  The child is losing weight. One additional side effect of Ritalin and Adderall is a loss of appetite. Some children start to lose weight at an unhealthy rate. For some, the weight loss might be a minor thing, but for others it can be a significant and swift drop in weight, and that’s naturally going to be alarming to parents, Carlton says.

•  Cost is becoming too much. When drugs take care of the symptoms, but not the underlying causes of a problem, their use becomes never ending. “To be effective, drugs like Ritalin and Adderall must be taken daily,” Carlton says. “Over time, parents end up spending a lot of money and their children aren’t seeing permanent results.”

Carlton knows from personal experience what it’s like to seek drug-free treatments for brain-based disorders. Years ago, he suffered from bipolar disorder and felt as if he “spent half my life in line at the pharmacy” until he discovered neurofeedback training.

Already a health professional, he evolved over time from neurofeedback patient to practitioner.

Carlton refers to neurofeedback as “fitness training for the brain.” It uses “operant conditioning,” a term that refers to the brain’s natural ability to learn from experience, which in turn can help it heal.

Here’s how it works: The process begins with a brain map, which locates the specific areas that need help to function more efficiently. Once these areas are identified, neurofeedback training can improve their function. The technology uses computers to monitor brain-wave patterns while the patient relaxes and watches a movie or video. The visual and audio inputs are varied, providing feedback based on the training goals from the brain map. The results are lasting and there are no side effects, Carlton says.

ADD and ADHD are far from the only conditions Carlton treats. His patients include adults and children suffering from a multitude of disorders, including depression, autism, seizures, traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic-stress disorder.

But finding alternatives to prescription drugs for young people has become a rallying cry for him.

“What are we teaching kids by handing them drugs to solve their problems?” he asks. “We’re teaching them the answer to their problems is in that bottle.”

About Dr. Ed Carlton

Dr. Ed Carlton is founder of the Carlton Neurofeedback Center (www.carltonneurofeedbackcenter.com) and author of the book The Answer. He is a chiropractor, but prior to that worked for nine years as an engineer. Carlton’s interest in his current profession came about because of his own experience with bipolar disorder.

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