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Do Georgia Kids Need a Pill to Succeed?

A Cherokee County doctor recently made national news for giving kids prescription medications in order to help them boost their grades. A local parent disagrees and offers another solution.

Every now and then I get complacent when it comes to talking about and teaching about synthetic food dyes and the other chemicals in our “food” supply. For brief moments, I’ll think, “Maybe I’ve said all I can say.” After all, a lot of scientists and parents and writers and activists are fighting the good fight, too. But then, as it always happens, just when I think, “Maybe today I’ll write about my fear of fourth grade homework,” something stops me in my tracks, making it clear that the battle to educate and empower parents about the link between diet and behavior is far, far from over.

It happened today. I was flitting about the Internet just before it was time to get my daughter from preschool when I saw this headline link on MSNBC.com: “ADHD or not, kids prescribed Adderall to boost school grades.” Thank God I wasn’t drinking anything because I would have spit it all over my computer monitor. Adderall? To boost grades – even if a child isn’t “officially” diagnosed with ADHD? I had to click the link.

I should make it known that I don’t believe for one second that ADHD is a “fake” diagnosis as some people do. I do believe it is often misdiagnosed as something a child has when in fact what a child has is a reaction to the chemicals he’s putting in his body every day in the form of “food.” So, do I think some kids need ADHD medication after they’ve given everything else in their family’s power a shot? Absolutely. But here’s the gist of the MSNBC article that happens to be about a Cherokee County, Ga., doctor (the article originally appeared in the New York Times): Two powerful pharmaceuticals with black box warnings and with reported side effects including suicidal tendencies, sleep disorders, stroke, heart attack and even sudden death are being given to kids in overcrowded classrooms within lower socio-economic schools to help them boost their focus and their grades – because it’s hard to pay attention and perform well in such a setting. (One of the drugs, Adderall, has been called prescription speed and is said to be highly addictive.) To be clear, it seems there is nothing “wrong” with these medicated kids other than having to navigate a public school system that has failed them. Their circumstances stink. I get that. I agree with that. I have no plan to revamp America’s ailing schools. But are we really going to send a generation of students the message that they don’t have to overcome adversity by pulling up their boot straps and, call me crazy, working for it? They just have to pop a pill? I think that’s really sad.

What makes it doubly sad is that science has proven again and again that kids’ focus, attention to detail, even the quality of their handwriting can be improved by simple changes in their diets. Kids today are bombarded with petroleum based food dyes (Red 40, Blue 1, Yellow 5, etc.) in everything from cereal and granola bars and crackers to pickles and toothpaste and ibuprofen. The philosophy some people want to rely on that “A little bit won’t hurt my child,” is not based in reality. In today’s American grocery store, there’s simply no such thing as a little bit of food dye. Just try picking up the “fresh baked” cinnamon rolls, muffins and doughnuts at your local mainstream grocery chain’s bakery. Yellow 5 and 6 are everywhere. It’s coal tar, and it’s linked to asthma and allergies in addition to ADHD and other neurological symptoms.

Making the dietary changes necessary to help our kids feels hard. Because it is hard. At first. I know. I cried the tears. I wondered how it could be done. But when you compare saying goodbye to food dyes to getting a child without an actual neurological problem a prescription to an addictive stimulant simply to “level the playing field,” it isn’t so hard to put down that carton of cinnamon rolls. Isn’t that a less risky approach to boosting our children’s grades or ending their tantrums or helping their sensory disorders? Eliminating toxic chemicals from a child’s diet comes with no side effects. Well, no negative side effects. No hypertension. No lack of sleep. No headaches. Positive side effects of eliminating fake food dyes may come in the form of more smiles and fewer tantrums, no homework battles, no more chewing pencils or clothes, no more bedtime fights, no more inexplicable crying, improved grades and quality of school work, more positive reports from the teacher, less hyperactivity, ability to pay attention. Now that’s what I want to be addicted to!

For the “drugs to boost grades” article I originally referenced, click here

For more information about my family’s journey with food dye and resources to learn more about why they are so dangerous, follow these links:
http://www.mamasagainstdrama.com/2012/08/the-colorful-truth-about-fake-food-dyes/

http://www.mamasagainstdrama.com/2012/04/three-food-changes-for-a-healthier-child/

http://www.cspinet.org/fooddyes/

http://www.diefooddye.com/

Brooke Bernard wants to take moment to tell you she’s not a doctor and she’s sharing her “opinions.” She also wants to tell you that you’ll never regret it if you help your kids go dye-free. Find her parenting blog each Wednesday at http://www.MamasAgainstDrama.com.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Christine Rea October 12, 2012 at 09:49 PM
Brooke, I read the same article. I had to pick my jaw up off the floor when I finished reading it. I am curious about your journey and plan to read the links you provided. Thanks for sharing and let's pray that Dr. Frankenstein in Cherokee County doesn't do too much damage to our future.
Jessie October 13, 2012 at 01:27 PM
When I read what this "doctor" was doing I was outraged! His medical license should be revoked immediatley and a full criminal investigation should occur.
Brooke Bernard October 16, 2012 at 11:08 PM
Thanks, Christine and Jessie, for reading and commenting! Here's what's so scary: "New studies suggest stimulants alter the structure and function of the brain in ways that may depress mood, boost anxiety and lead to cognitive deficits." That's from the Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics.
disgusted parent October 16, 2012 at 11:29 PM
The food changes do not work. Been there done that. My child was suffering and by no means did I want to put my child on the medicine, but I have and his quality of life is better. He is growing and thriving. If you haven't been there, you can't judge. When your child tells you they feel better, you do what has to be done!

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