Occupy Medicine Part 2:
The Power of Attention

In Part 1 of this series, we looked at the need to take back the power of our own health from a pharmaceutical industry that has used fear to enslave us with promises of “better living through chemistry” by silencing our symptoms. It’s time to start learning how to occupy our world more effectively in order to find the freedom of recovery.

The Attention Deficit Epidemic

When there’s no time to notice the complex relationships and conditions of our life, we have no choice than to reach for quick fixes.  Nowhere is this more obvious than in the current epidemic of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADHD) that seems to be ravishing our children. More than 4 million children are taking stimulant medications and the numbers are rising each year. As a developmental pediatrician, every day I meet parents feeling pressured to place their children on stimulants to help them “keep up” in school.  As parents you are not to be blamed. The pharmaceutical industry would like you to believe that your child has a chemical imbalance that makes him “Ritalin deficient.”

But the truth is that ADHD is not a disease like diabetes, it’s a symptom like fever.

ADHD is like fever

Fever is like a fire alarm telling us that something is out of balance in our body.  Sometimes it’s helpful to cool down a fever in order to allow your child to feel more comfortable but it would be crazy if your doctor told you to keep giving your child Tylenol everyday for the rest of his life.  But that is exactly what our medical system is telling parents to do with stimulant medications for their distracted children.  While drugs like Ritalin and Adderall may temporarily buy you time to make changes in your child’s life; there are no long-term studies on their safety or effectiveness in children.  Far more subversive is the sense of futility parents feel in helping their children. It’s time for parents to free themselves from the complacency the medical system promotes and become activists in their children’s health.   It’s time to listen carefully to what the alarms of distractibility and hyperactivity are telling us about our children’s world.

The Big Picture

Liberating our children begins by taking a step back and looking at the big picture of their lives. Contrary to what drug companies want you to believe, we are more than just expressions of our chemistry and genes. The real revolution begins with our understanding of Epigenetics, which has demonstrated just how much power the environment has over the actions of our genes.  What’s more, only 1% of the active genetic material in our body is human! The real 99 % is all the other genetic material that comes from the food we eat and the microbes living inside our body. We are walking communities in constant dialogue.  But the truly big picture of the world we occupy encompasses the houses we live in, the technology we use every day, our schools, friends and the family we live with.  Neuroscience has shown that each sight, sound, smell and feeling has the power to shape our mind. If we want our children to find freedom from a life of drugs, we must stop simply putting out fires and start creating an atmosphere that fosters our children’s individual strengths. That’s where the secret to long lasting recovery is to be found.

In Part 3 of this series, we will take a deeper look at the ways our differences become our strengths and learn how to use the power of our diversity to help our children live happier more successful lives.

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