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So Young and So Many Pills – Neurotherapy: The Best Alternative to Medication

Writeen by Justine Loewenthal
Registered Counsellor and EEG Technician


As a therapist, I am concerned by the number of drugs children are given from a very young age. As a mother, I can only empathise with parents who feel they have no alternative but to fill the script for a cocktail of two or three or four psychotropic drugs without understanding what they are for or exploring other alternatives.

Children are given drugs for many reasons: ADHD, anxiety, depression, epilepsy, concentration, sleep, bad behavior, asthma, diabetes and so on. Some symptoms need the help of medication and in these cases is absolutely essential, but more often than not the symptoms require a more holistic approach incorporating diet, supplements, Neurotherapy, other therapies like play therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy, and parental guidance.

In an article published in "The Wall Street Journal" on 28 December 2010, the writer, Anna Wilde Mathews, indicated some statistics from 2009 of how many children were on various types of medication in America. Some of these are:

ADHD medications – 24 357 000
Antihypertensives – 5 224 000
Antipsychotics – 6 546 000
Antidepressants – 9 614 000
Asthma medications – 45 388 000
Non-insulin diabetes – 424 000
Sleep aids – 307 000

In this article, Dr. Danny Benjamin, a Duke University pediatrics professor, was quoted in saying that research "findings underscore that children's reactions to medicines can be very different than those of adults. Long-term effects of drugs in kids are almost never known, since pediatric studies, like those in adults, tend to be relatively short. We know we're making errors in dosing and safety." Dr. Benjamin suggests to parents to do as much research as possible about a drug before giving it to their child.

With ADD being so frequently diagnosed in our country, parents often do not see the drugs prescribed for this as a Schedule 7 drug. In fact, these high schedule drugs have the potential for physical and psychological dependence. Some children would not be able to learn at school or cope socially without their dose in the morning. There is no disputing the fact that some of these children need their medication, but all too often a medicine can mask the real underlying cause of the symptom, be it academic, social, emotional or psychological. This, in effect, puts a plaster on the symptoms without addressing the cause. Take this scenario: You are a parent of an 8 year old boy who has behvaiour best described as Jeckyll and Hyde. One moment, he is meek, calm, gentle and loving. Almost without warning, he changes into an aggressive, violent, and frightening child who holds a knife to your throat and threatens to kill you. This is behvaiour of a severe disturbance where medication is a good option to stabilize his brain to the point where reasonable normality can be seen. His brain will also be more receptive to therapy and other interventions. This is an example of the severe cases. For most of the children who make up the statistics outlined above, parents are unaware of, or unprepared to explore, the alternatives to drugs.

Neurotherapy, one of the best alternatives to mediaction, trains the brain to regulate itself and addresses the cause of the brainwave dysregulation instead of treating the symptoms. By looking at a person's brain profile scientifically, areas of the brain not working together efficiently or producing too much or too little of a specific speed of brainwaves can be identified, and a neurotherapy process can be tailor-made to help to correct these. These safe electrical changes that take place in the brain as a result of neurotherapy directly translate into changes in behavior, attention, mood, sleep, activity level, social interactions, and ability to learn.

Over the past decade, the dynamic field of neurotherapy has changed considerably. Instead of a process being based wholly on the symptoms of a client, we now have an amazing assessment tool at our fingertips in the form of a Quantitative EEG. This helps tremendously to scientifically assess the needs of each client. Dr. Belsham, a Child Psychiatrist in Johannesburg, in his article in Issue 13 of Special Kids Magazine, highlights the fact that when medication is prescribed to a child, there should be significant enhancement of the child's healthy development and global functioning. Dr. Belsham also recommends a multidisciplinary approach to treating a child as opposed to using medication alone.

Our children are faced with plenty of stress and so much environmental pressure is put on them. They participate in extra murals almost every day and still need to find time for homework. Perhaps, what we really need to give our children is more time – more time to play and learn and explore and be with friends, and more time with us as parents to show our children that we love them just the way they are.