Treating ADHD Without Stimulants

Treating ADHD Without Stimulants
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Exercise has been shown to be effective in controlling attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder symptoms, and carries only positive side effects.

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

Every year in the United States, doctors write 20 million prescriptions for stimulants, like Ritalin, to give to kids for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. And. it goes up every year. In fact, more than any other drug class—another 0.8 million added every year to that 20 million. That’s a lot of amphetamines for a lot of kids.

These drugs are thought to act by increasing dopamine and norepinephrine levels in the brain. Guess what else can increase dopamine and norepinephrine levels? Exercise. And, it happens within minutes of getting on a bike; levels shoot up. Medications take an hour to work; physical activity works almost immediately.

But, does it work for ADHD? According to the latest review, there isn’t a lot of research out there. But, the current evidence suggests that both “acute and chronic” physical activity can “mitigate ADHD symptoms.”

So, while “medications and exercise with regard to ADHD shows that they both work to more adequately regulate dopamine and norepinephrine levels in the brain,” some of the new long-acting formulations of drugs can work for up to 12 hours—whereas the therapeutic effect of exercise may only last an hour or so.

But, the drugs “produce unwanted side effects, and have the potential for abuse. Exercise has been shown to be effective in controlling ADHD symptoms, [and] has essentially no side effects.”

While that’s not really true, “[I]t should be noted that a major difference in the two treatment modalities is that medications have a defined effect on ADHD symptoms alone, whereas exercise produces physical, mental, and emotional advantages that are far-reaching.” So, exercise does have side effects, but they’re all good.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to ADHD CENTER via flickr and Editor182 via Wikimedia

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

Every year in the United States, doctors write 20 million prescriptions for stimulants, like Ritalin, to give to kids for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. And. it goes up every year. In fact, more than any other drug class—another 0.8 million added every year to that 20 million. That’s a lot of amphetamines for a lot of kids.

These drugs are thought to act by increasing dopamine and norepinephrine levels in the brain. Guess what else can increase dopamine and norepinephrine levels? Exercise. And, it happens within minutes of getting on a bike; levels shoot up. Medications take an hour to work; physical activity works almost immediately.

But, does it work for ADHD? According to the latest review, there isn’t a lot of research out there. But, the current evidence suggests that both “acute and chronic” physical activity can “mitigate ADHD symptoms.”

So, while “medications and exercise with regard to ADHD shows that they both work to more adequately regulate dopamine and norepinephrine levels in the brain,” some of the new long-acting formulations of drugs can work for up to 12 hours—whereas the therapeutic effect of exercise may only last an hour or so.

But, the drugs “produce unwanted side effects, and have the potential for abuse. Exercise has been shown to be effective in controlling ADHD symptoms, [and] has essentially no side effects.”

While that’s not really true, “[I]t should be noted that a major difference in the two treatment modalities is that medications have a defined effect on ADHD symptoms alone, whereas exercise produces physical, mental, and emotional advantages that are far-reaching.” So, exercise does have side effects, but they’re all good.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to ADHD CENTER via flickr and Editor182 via Wikimedia

Nota del Doctor

Other benefits of exercise include a strengthening of cancer defenses (see Exercise & Breast Cancer and Is It the Diet, the Exercise, or Both?), an improvement in cognition (see Reversing Cognitive Decline), and a longer lifespan (see What Women Should Eat to Live Longer).

This reminds me of other safe, natural, side effect-free solutions (like tap water gargling) to prevent the common cold (see Can Gargling Prevent the Common Cold?), and drinking water to improve scholastic performance in kids (see Does a Drink of Water Make Children Smarter?). The fact that they are cost-free is both an advantage (they’re free!), and disadvantage (no corporate budget driving their promotion, so we never hear about this kind of research). If only corporations could find a way to stuff exercise into a pill bottle for their stockholders…

For additional context, check out my associated blog post: How to Treat ADHD without Drugs.

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

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