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Ritalin has become the quick fix answer to control ADD in the classroom and help children focus, but there is the choice of a more natural alternative to popping this pill.
The debate rages on about whether or not it is advisable to give children Ritalin to help them control their attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Some parents are steadfast believers in the calming power of this medication, while others prefer to take their child by the hand and walk the non-chemical route of psychoanalysis.
THE DO’S AND DON’TS OF DRUGS Methylphenidate was synthesised in 1944, patented in 1954, and primarily used for chronic fatigue, lethargic and depressed states, and disturbed senile behaviour.1 Today it is available for the treatment of ADHD and narcolepsy.1
While some fear that Ritalin is becoming increasingly overprescribed, there may sometimes be a very real need for its use when ADHD is correctly diagnosed. But the emphasis here must be on use and not abuse.
Correct usageWhen taken according to prescription directions, Ritalin induces an increase in inhibition of impulsivity that helps the child focus in the classroom.2 Ritalin may cause insomnia, stomachache, headache and weight loss. Sometimes these side effects are mild and can be managed but if they persist, use of the drug may be reconsidered.
Drug abuseWhile parents should be aware of the potential side effects of Ritalin, they should be extremely cautious regarding its abuse, of which there is an increasing pattern amongst adolescents.
When used intranasally, at high doses, Ritalin gives an instant ‘high’ and a sense of extreme euphoria due to a rapid release of synaptic dopamine – effects similar to those gained through the use of cocaine.2
The consequences of this abuse are dire, including: hallucinations (both visual and auditory),3,4,5 paranoia,5 euphoria,6 delusional disorder,7 depression, suicidal ideation8 and even death.9
THE TALKING CUREWhile some may think that it is better, quicker and easier to pop a pill, many owe their mental wellness to the father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud – the renowned psychologist, physiologist and great thinker of the early 20th century who made enormous contributions to the development of theories and techniques of psychoanalysis still practised today.
Psychoanalysis for childrenArgentina, for example, has the most psychologists per capita in the world and still uses psychoanalysis to solve problems. Psychologist José Sahovaler, a co-ordinator of the Department for Children and Adolescents for the Psychoanalytical Association Argentina, believes that Freudian psychoanalysis – aka the ‘talking cure’ – is still a better treatment for ADHD than medication. According to Sahovaler, medication does not address the cause of a child’s suffering. It is his opinion that psychoanalysis diagnoses and addresses the underlying causes of certain types of behaviours such as ADHD.
‘A sad child can express their sadness with hyperactivity and inability to sit still and pay attention in school, or by beating their peers,’ says Sahovaler. ‘Psychoanalysis undoubtedly takes time and effort (and money) but is much better than moulding them, oppressing them to be ”good guys”,’ says Sahovaler.
A SUBJECTIVE AND SCIENTIFIC PARTNERSHIP However, a need for a different approach to the discipline of psychoanalysis has been voiced by psychoanalysts and psychiatrists alike for some time now. According to Bradley Peterson, director of the Institute for the Developing Mind at the Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles, ‘Psycho-analysis needs to partner with contemporary science in order to transmit to the next generation some of its learnings.’
This is where functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) comes in. Researchers today are using modern brain-imaging technology such as fMRI to visualise psychoanalytic processes such as self-regulation (the way humans regulate emotions and impulses).10 In short, fMRI scans neural activity, mapping the process of transference in the brain whereby it is possible to see where self-regulation is taking place in the brain.
INTO THE FUTUREIt is believed that a combination of psychoanalysis and modern neuroscience can help to give weight to psychoanalytic theories. Psychoanalysis and neuroscience, although very different in nature – the former based on the personal and the subjective, the latter on science and facts – together, as a practice, have the potential to show how the ailing brain heals.
According to Mark Solms, a South African psychoanalyst, neuropsychologist and Freud scholar: ‘Freud’s intention was never to have only one perspective.’ Says Solms, ‘Throughout Freud’s writings, again and again he said that he was eagerly looking forward to the day when it would be possible to reunite his observations from the psychological perspective with neuroscientific ones.’10
It would seem that day has arrived.
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Natural Medicine editorial team.
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