Pediatrician believes ADHD does not exist
By Jimmy Tomlin
HIGH POINT – If there’s such a thing as an “ADHD Establishment,” Dr. Bose Ravenel stands firmly in the anti-establishment camp.
And that badge – he refers to himself as “a rebel with a cause” – is one the 70-year-old High Point pediatrician wears proudly.
“I don’t relish it,” he says, “but it doesn’t bother me because I’m convinced about what we’re doing.”
Ravenel, who has practiced in High Point since 1988, has co-authored a new book – with noted family psychologist John Rosemond – that likely will make him a lightning rod for criticism from the aforementioned ADHD Establishment.
In the book, “The Diseasing of America’s Children: Exposing the ADHD Fiasco and Empowering Parents To Take Back Control” (Thomas Nelson, $24.99), the authors not only hold the ADHD Establishment’s feet to the fire – they toss the establishment into the fire, using such pointed phrases as “a travesty of science,” “flimsy evidence,” “a scandal waiting to erupt,” and “an effort that has resulted in the manufacture of diseases that do not exist.”
Specifically, the authors contend that those “diseases that do not exist” – namely, ADD (attention-deficit disorder), ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder) and ODD (oppositional defiant disorder) – are based on bad science, most likely do not derive from a genetic brain disorder, and therefore do not require potentially harmful medications for treatment.
They further contend that the classic ADHD symptoms such as inattention, forgetfulness, inability to focus, hyperactivity and impulsivity can be addressed through a behavioral treatment model rather than resorting to drugs.
“We believe the professional literature is skewed in the direction of overstating the effect of medications on these children and understating the potential harmful effects,” Ravenel explains.
Ironically, Ravenel admits he’s a former member of the ADHD Establishment.
“That’s why I don’t blame them, because I was there with them,” he says. “I never knew any different. As a busy doctor, you tend to read the journals that are published by authors who have heavy pharmaceutical company ties, so you’re not aware of this whole alternative perspective.”
About seven or eight years ago, though, Ravenel says he began to question the alarming rate at which children were being diagnosed with ADHD, particularly considering the absence of the disease in previous generations.
“That got me to begin looking seriously at those rare individuals who would write articles suggesting that ADHD is not real – I looked at why they said that,” Ravenel recalls.
His conclusion? ADHD is B-O-G-U-S.
Ravenel and Rosemond argue in their book that in the 30-plus years since ADHD was recognized as a behavior disorder, no objective diagnostic criteria have been developed; no ADHD gene has been discovered; and no ADHD biochemical imbalance has been quantified.
“We don’t believe there’s any evidence to support (ADHD’s existence), and there’s a compelling amount of evidence to support what we’re proposing,” Ravenel says. “We think everybody ought to be trying this alternative first.”
Ravenel’s primary concern, he says, is the longterm impact of ADHD medications such as Ritalin, Concerta and Adderall.
“Even establishment members would agree that no one knows what the effects of longterm exposure to these psychotropic drugs would be,” he says.
The authors recommend a four-prong behavioral approach in lieu of medication:
• Reframe the child’s self-image from that of a person with a disabled brain to one with great potential. That can be done, they say, through an old-fashioned parenting approach that combines “powerful love and powerful discipline.”
• Eliminate or restrict the child’s exposure to electronic media such as TV, video games and computers. “Children get addicted to these electronic stimuli,” Ravenel says.
• Change the child’s diet from the typical American diet of fast food, processed carbohydrates and sugars to more healthy foods. Also, fish oil supplements have been shown to benefit learning and behavior, Ravenel says.
• De-emphasize the current educational trend that requires kindergartners to learn what once wasn’t learned until first grade, because that trend causes more children to struggle and fail.
This approach has made believers out of numerous parents who have brought their children to Ravenel’s practice at Cornerstone Pediatrics, he says.
“If you talk to parents whose children were faced with the prospect of their child being on medication for the rest of their life, and then within just a few weeks or months the problem is solved, they get really passionate,” Ravenel says. “And they can’t believe other parents are not being exposed to the same idea.”
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