ADD/ADHD, but without the drugs
Australia currently has well over 50 000 children on prescription drugs to manage their behaviour, diagnosed as being ADD/ADHD related. This makes us the third highest consumer of ADD/ADHD medication (per capita) around the globe. With approximately 4% of all primary school children affected, the prescription of Dexamphetamine has grown almost four fold between 1984 and 2001, while Ritalin prescription rose by 18 million tablets (an increase of over tenfold) during that same period.
While the argument and disparity of opinion regarding the diagnosis of ADD/ADHD, especially in schools is ongoing, the treatment and management of the behavioural impact is still largely relying on pharmaceuticals.
Less known, are the number of adult sufferers of ADD and ADHD. A recent study conducted by the World Health Organisation across 10 countries, found that as many as 3.5% of working adults may be affected. However, the number of pharmaceutical treatments of the condition in adults lies quite low, with the US well in the lead with 12.7% of sufferers seeking treatment, verses countries such as the Netherlands sitting at just 2.7%.
Alternative treatments for these two conditions range from nutrition (as a common denominator is irritable bowel syndrome among ADD/ADHD sufferers), to brain-gyms such as the Dore program and specific exercise schemes. Although, producing some results, the outcomes of these programs have not been consistent, founded on a scientific and evidence based platform, or made a strong impact in the reduction of the use of pharmaceuticals.
Just released in Australia however, is a new approach (technology) that combines neuro-motor training using audio triggers and sensory feedback, with movement and timing exercises. The technology has produced groundbreaking results in the US over the past 10 years of clinical trials and research.
Using a computer-linked technology known as Interactive Metronome, ADD/ADHD sufferers participate in a series of active sessions wearing headphones and following an audio prompt, to undertake an exercise setting off an electronic sensor, the timing of which is measured with accuracy of 100's of a second. The concentration, timing, and rhythm it requires, along with the repetitive nature of the program, stimulates the individual's ability to focus and strengthens the neural pathways. This allows sufferers to become more task orientated in other areas - such as in the class room and at work. This has a profound impact on their ability to be focussed and less disruptive in their behaviour.
With notable results being achieved after just 12 sessions in both children and adults alike, this new approach to ADD/ADHD management is likely to be welcomed by medical professionals, parents, and teachers here in Australia as it did in the states.
Certification courses for this technology are held in late April in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney for health professionals and educators. Home operator courses are scheduled as per demand.
Interactive Metronome is also available as a home unit. Its additional benefits of generating improvement in cognition, timing/coordination (sport performance), and academic application (1-2 grade improvement in numeracy and literacy after just 12 sessions), makes it ideal for just about everyone in the family.
"Whether non-medicated treatment methods will take a foothold in Australia in terms of ADD/ADHD management, needs to be seen, however those that have chosen this technology over medication in the US, have definitely achieved some notable results and improvements", said Paediatric Occupational Therapist and Clinician, Dillen Hartley.
Traditionally, Australians often take a sceptical view when it comes to following in the foot-steps of our big brother the US, but in terms of reducing the use of medication in the treatment of ADD/ADHD, we may be well served to consider following this approach.
After all, the long term effects of ‘drugging' our school children has not fully become apparent yet, but common sense tells us that it can't all be good...
And, why should we, especially if we do have pharmaceutical-free alternatives these days.
By Erik Bigalk Medical Research Writer
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