ADHD, ADD: the no-medication alternative


Recently I was commissioned to write a few articles about ADHD and ADD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Attention Deficit Disorder). I have looked into these conditions only briefly before, out of curiosity. This time a did a bit more thorough research and I was really scared by what I discovered. I am not a medical professional, so I cannot go on and say that doctors are medicating children in order to have a peace of mind by suppressing normal childhood behavior all the time. But in many cases it seems to be that way. I am quite sure that my vibrant younger brother who has managed to break both his arms, get stitches on his head, pierce his lips with a pointy tip of a yard enclosure by accident and many other “little” things that I can not recall, would be pumped with ADHD medication, if he was a child today. Yes, he got bored during class and he managed to get a private language tutor to resign, because she could not handle him. Well, he was five. He wanted to play. But guess what? He graduated and is now doing a PhD in a university with a great reputation. Would he be able to do that on medication, or would some of the side effects render him incapable of reaching his full potential?


The scariest part is that people are now trying to get children with the so called Attention Deficit Disorder on medication. Some doctors claim that the quiet boy staring out of the window is not just enjoying childhood. He might as well suffer from attention deficit disorder, since he cannot focus. But because he is not hyperactive and does not bother the teacher, he has not been diagnosed. But employers will be bothered by an inefficient staff member. Take a look here and here and you will realize that what is described as ADD is the personality of a dreamer who finds it hard to suppress their imagination and sensitivities in order to become one more super efficient employee. Yes, I am quite sure that people who doctors might call ADD patients are not helping the system function flawlessly, but that does not make them sick. I have read many articles about ADD and what I find terrifying is the fact that people accept to put chemicals into their bodies while a)there is no test or official diagnosis method for ADD and b)the medication is more or less an experimental combination of antidepressants and stimulants. This way you do not have to worry about whatever bothers you (like the financial crisis, your future, the uncertainty all around you, the unemployment, racism and sexism spreading etc) and you can happily focus on your work and work fast and efficiently (due to the stimulant). Great combination, right?

The alternative to medication

As you have probably realized, I am very (very) worried that children and adults today are over-medicated and use medication to mask symptoms instead of the root of the problem, if there is one. If a child is not paying attention at school, maybe school is too boring and not challenging enough. Maybe the kid needs to skip a class and join more stimulating courses and workshops, for example. If a child is hyperactive, it might need to start a sport or play longer outside, where she can run and jump and let some steam off. If you think about it, most children above the age of 10 today spend all their free time in front of the screen. What is a young body full of energy supposed to do with it? Of course they will jump on the couch and brake a thing or two!

Now, that said, I need to add that I believe that people -children and adults alike- with ADHD and ADD symptoms might find it hard to have a normal life, even though I hate what “normal life” looks like today. Still, people need to hold their jobs in order to survive and unfortunately attention deficit disorders can make it hard. The same goes for school and studies. The way school is structured today, it requires the child’s attention for quite some time and as the subject change from one hour to the next, the child must be able to shift focus quickly, in order to perform well. So if your child is not being unschooled and if you are not a millionaire with enough money to never work in your life, it might be useful to find ways to increase your attention span and focus.

Here is a checklist of things that you can search for online, in order to find tools to improve your attention and focus skills. This is just a basic list of ideas, but if you search for those keywords, there is a lot more to study and try out.

Organization: agendas, family planner, reminders on your mobile phone and lap top will help you to avoid missing deadlines and meetings. They are useful for you personal life as well. Right down birthdays, anniversaries and phone calls that you want to do.

Routine: for children and adults alike, having a stable routine helps focus. If you know what to expect for the rest of the day you can prepare mentally for the following task. If you have a focus issue, it can take you more time to switch from one task mode to the next, so it is a good plan to know what follows.

-Set small goals: Breaking a large task to small goals helps you keep your focus. You might find it impossible to achieve a long term goal, but achieving the smaller tasks one by one will eventually get you there.

-Sleep well: anyone, no matter how bug their attention span, cannot concentrate well with just a few hours of sleep. If inattentiveness is your weakness, it is crucial to get as much sleep as possible (but not more than 8,5 hours per night, otherwise you end up feeling sluggish).

-Work on your personal relationships: Try and show to the people around you that you care through your actions and words. You might be thinking of your siblings, but constantly forgetting to call them. Put an effort to remember that little things that make people happy and when you meet someone new, try and remember as many things as possible about them. Make it a habit to note the name, profession, hobbies of someone you meet for the first time. This exercise will help you stay focused when you receive the new information.

-Face your responsibilities: If you are not focused and attentive, it is highly likely that people will step in and do things for you out of fear that you will forget to do them or you won’t do them on time. This can become convenient, as responsibilities get off your back. But if you want to really be an independent adult, you need to take care of your own responsibilities. That could be anything, from carefully managing your finances, to little things, like doing your chores on time.

-Eating right: Try to avoid foods that spike your blood sugar as much as possible. Processed foods with loads of sugar and high fructose corn syrup are a bad idea. So are foods with high glycemic index (GI), like refined grains and of course all processed baked goods. Some natural foods like bananas, potatoes and sweet corn also have a high GI, but as long as you eat small amounts within the context of a healthy, balanced diet, you should be fine.

Fresh fruits and vegetables with low GI are a great alternative to processed foods with high GI that will spike your blood sugar temporarily and will leave you feeling more tired and unable to focus after a while. Image source:

Fresh fruits and vegetables with low GI are a great alternative to processed foods with high GI that will spike your blood sugar temporarily and will leave you feeling more tired and unable to focus after a while.
Image source:

5 responses to “ADHD, ADD: the no-medication alternative

  1. I’m writing this from a teacher’s perspective. What has often caught me by surprise is that it is often the parents who insist that their child has ADHD or such. What has happened to the wild children? Every teacher knows that the legs are the first thing that boys develop and then comes the hand coordination skills. So it is natural that boys get bored at class were you are practicing how to make the perfect letter A. Same goes for girls. They are expected to be quiet and obedient. What if you are a tomboy? You get bored and start disturbing the class. If this is reported wrongly to the parents they run off to the doctor and get a piece of paper saying their son/daughter suffers from ADHD. Of course I’m exaggerating but you get my point. There are children with ADHD and they should be treated for that, whether it is medicine or even better what you suggested, right life style. And this is really the core of the problem. What I find the most disturbing about the whole thing is that adults need lists like the above. We don’t know how to do our job as a parent anymore. When our children fail to fit to the norm there must be something wrong. What has happened to variation? Or common sense?

    Thank you Non-hip hippies for the reminder. I’m not suffering from ADHD but this list is a good reminder to me about controlling my own life.

  2. Thank you for your comment and input MI. It’s great to have a teacher’s perspective on the subject as well! I did not know the part about the legs developing first. Very interesting. Explains much of the kicking that took place in our house when we were young 🙂 I also absolutely agree about your comment on variation. I am quite sure that many of the well-known poets, painters, musicians and even philosophers that we admire nowadays would be diagnosed as ADHD/ADD patients if they were young today. But I do agree with you that there are children with ADHD that can actually compromise their quality of life and they should be treated accordingly. That is a good chance to note that I am not saying ADHD/ADD is an imaginary condition. What I am saying is that many more people (especially children) are diagnosed with it while the number of people who actually suffer from it is much smaller. Lets hope that common sense will be back at some point. It seems to be taking a looong vacation.

  3. I have ADD myself, and my parents never wanted me to use medication. It influences the way you are. And it can sometimes get in the way of developing yourself as a younger person.

    My method was easy. People with ADD can actually hyper-focus on things they find interesting.

    When I was struggling with my concentration on homework, I used to draw for an hour in between my homework. (I have always loved drawing, and I can draw for 8 hours strait, without thinking about something else. I won’t even hear it when somebody vacuums my entire home. which is exactly what the hyper-focus is…) That actually trained me to focus on other things. No medication needed!

    Very interesting post though!
    Thanks for sharing!


  4. This means that corn and grains are not part of this plan.
    Vegetables are low fats, low carbohydrates and low in calories.
    While working out on a regular basis is definitely
    going to have a positive impact on your life, you can definitely take that change
    to the next level when you follow the Cross – Fit paleo

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