Alternative Treatments for Children Who Have Been Prescribed Psychiatric Medication

Presented by

The Safe Harbor Project, a nonprofit organization
P.O. Box 37
Sunland, CA 91041-0037
(818) 890-1862
Web Site:

Why are children given psychiatric medication?

About 35 years ago it was extremely uncommon for children to be given any kind of mind-altering substance. Even giving a child coffee was considered bad parenting.

However, today, according to the Family Research Council, we see an estimated 6 million children in the United States being given powerful psychiatric drugs.

What caused this big change? It actually goes back to 1963 when President John F. Kennedy signed into law the Community Mental Health Center Act, which included a large sum for children. This was unusual because up until this time few children were considered to have mental disorders. President Kennedy thought the money would be used to help “maladjusted” children grow into normal adults.

The increase in funds, of course, attracted the interest of psychiatrists and psychologists since it was now profitable to treat children. This became clear in 1968 when the American Psychiatric Association published the second edition of its official book of mental disorders, and for the first time it contained a section on mental disorders in children. They used the term “hyperkinetic” to describe very active children. Later editions followed and in 1980 the American Psychiatric Association used the term Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) to describe these children.

Since ADD is the most common reason for giving psychiatric drugs to children, it’s important to know what it is.

What is ADD?

ADD is not a disease like polio or chicken pox, although some people think it is. One big difference is that ADD was not “discovered.” It was voted into existence – as are all official mental disorders – by a committee of the American Psychiatric Association for the third edition of their diagnostic manual in 1980. Another difference is that, unlike polio or chicken pox, there is no known cause for ADD. In fact, the manual, called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM), states, “For most of the DSM-III disorders…the etiology [cause] is unknown.”

ADD, as described in the DSM, is really a combination of behaviors in children. If the child fits these behaviors, he or she is said to have ADD.

For this reason, many people within and outside the medical field don’t agree that ADD exists as a “disorder.” They point out that the behaviors of “ADD children” could be caused by many things and to label these children with ADD not only makes the child feel bad but allows the real source or sources of the problem to be missed.

The following are some of the common problems that can cause “ADD” behavior:

A. Severe problems at home such as parents undergoing a divorce.
B. Bad nutrition.
C. Study difficulties
D. No challenge in the classroom for bright students
E. Lead poisoning.
F. Allergies to foods or other things.
G. Medical problems including pinworms, heart trouble, hormone problems, blood sugar problems, etc.
H. Bad eyesight.
I. Hearing problems.

Drug use becomes more widespread

On November 27, 2000, USA Today reported that between 1990 and 1999, Ritalin sales grew 500%. The government quotas on amphetamines – meaning the amount they will permit to be manufactured – grew 3750% between 1993 and the year 2000. Over 80% of amphetamines are used on children.

The use of drugs to deal with unwanted childhood behavior has become so widespread that a study by Duke University found that only 1/3 of the children being given stimulants for ADD even fit the criteria of ADD.

Treating other childhood disorders with drugs

With the wide distribution of drugs for ADD, it has become acceptable to give children mind-altering drugs. It has also become profitable to look for other mental disorders in children. Children as young as 6, 4, 2, and even infants are being given powerful mind-altering drugs for things like depression or manic depression.

Many things that used to be considered normal childhood behavior or something correctable with good parenting, proper nutrition, or a sound medical exam have now become accepted as “mental disorders” with the treatment now being psychiatric drugs.

Even in adults it has been found that a high percentage of these “mental disorders” actually stem from undiagnosed physical problems. Psychiatrist Richard Hall of the University of Texas did numerous studies on this and found in one instance that ordinary medical tests showed that 46% of the psychiatric patients he studied had mental problems caused or worsened by physical ailments. And these patients were not tested for many other problems like food allergies, toxic conditions, or nutritional imbalances.

What’s wrong with drugs?

Some people think there is a difference between “bad” drugs (street drugs) and doctor-prescribed mind-altering drugs. But there is no difference. They all act on the same principles.

In fact, on October 31, 2000, the Christian Science Monitor web site reported, “Ritalin is on the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA’s) Top 10 list of most often stolen prescription drugs. It’s widely available on college campuses, as well as in high school cafeterias. Kids are popping, snorting, even dissolving and injecting Ritalin, putting it in the same drug class as cocaine ”

Ritalin and amphetamines used in treating ADD are classified by the U.S. government as Schedule II Drugs, which means they are legal but highly susceptible to abuse. They are one step up from Schedule I Drugs which are completely illegal.

A study at the University of California at Berkeley, which followed 500 children for more than 25 years, found that use of Ritalin and other stimulants used in the treatment of ADD increases the likelihood that a child in later life will take up smoking, cocaine, and other stimulants.

As to other psychiatric drugs used on children, the simple fact is that these drugs have strong side effects and it’s unknown what these drugs do to growing nervous systems. The manufacturers of Ritalin list under “Warnings”: “Sufficient data on safety and efficacy of long-term use of Ritalin in children are not yet available.”

Another problem is that, whether legal or illegal, all mind-altering drugs do just that – alter the mind. The child is no longer in his or her normal mental state. These drugs alter the child’s perception of the environment he is in and so make it harder to experience the normal, drug-free emotional and social growth of childhood.

Additionally, once a child has been taking these drugs for a month or two, a physical dependency commonly occurs. The child can experience severe withdrawal effects, even suicidal tendencies, unless he or she is weaned off slowly.

Alternative treatments for children

Many drug-free alternative treatments exist for children.

Nutrition is a common source of trouble and can include a poor diet, too much sugar or caffeine, food sensitivities, and allergies.

Many hidden medical conditions can also cause severe mental symptoms.

There are many qualified practitioners who can help you find drug-free alternatives for your child. Do the following to locate one – and simply tell the practitioner that you are looking for drug-free alternatives for your son or daughter:

1. Go to our website at and look on our list of practitioners to see if you can find one in your area that will fit your needs.
2. Go to the website and look on their directory for a doctor in your area.
3. Check the Yellow Pages for a nutritionist or chiropractor in your area who has experience in treating children’s behavioral problems without drugs. Many do these days. You may have to call around some but they are there.
4. There are doctors known as osteopaths who are regular doctors who tend to concentrate on getting the body to heal naturally. In addition to regular medical activities, they work with muscles and bones and their relationship to the rest of the body. You can find an osteopath by contacting the American Osteopathic Association at Click on “Find a D.O. [Doctor of Osteopathy] by State” at the top of the page on the left. They can also be reached at (800) 621-1773. Again, tell them you are looking for drug-free alternatives for your child’s behavioral problems.
5. If you feel your child’s troubles stem from difficulty studying, contact a tutor or organization that improves study skills.
6. If you still need assistance, you can contact the Safe Harbor Project at (818) 890-1862 and perhaps we can help. There is no charge for our services.


The following books are good information sources on drug-free alternative treatments for children. They are available at or or large bookstores.

· The Hyperactivity Hoax by Sydney Walker, M.D., St. Martin’s Press, 1998.
· No More ADHD by Dr. Mary Ann Block, 2001,
· ADD and ADHD: Complementary Medicine Solutions by Charles Gant, M.D., Ph.D., MindMender Publishers
· A.D.D., The Natural Approach by Nina Anderson and Dr. Howard Peiper
· The A.D.D. and A.D.H.D. Diet by Rachel Bell and Dr. Howard Peiper
· Is This Your Child’s World? by Dr. Doris Rapp

Further information on drug-free alternatives can be found at


Note: The information presented here is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of physicians or healthcare practitioners. It is also not intended to diagnose or prescribe treatment for any illness or disorder. Anyone already undergoing physician-prescribed therapy should seek the advice of his or her doctor before reducing the dosage or stopping such treatment.