3 Reasons Medication Should Be a Last Resort for Your Child


Many people today struggle with the intensity of a challenging child and, unfortunately, wind up being advised to use medications as a first intervention rather than as a very last resort.

In their heart of hearts, everyone really wants the intensity that has gone awry to be the very source of their child’s greatness. This is not that hard to achieve. This is the whole purpose of the Nurtured Heart Approach. The Approach was developed for the most “symptomatic” kids – kids who were acting-out in the most alarming and concerning ways. In the process of working with these kids and their families, I found that symptoms are just symptoms – indicators to us, the adults, that something has gone awry. At their best, symptoms are challenges to us to find something that truly rises to the occasion of transforming them to greatness.

The problem for many loving and well-intentioned parents, teachers, and treatment professions has been that most normal and traditional approaches fall short of that promise. These approaches simply don’t have the power to transform the core intense life force that has become problematic. Most approaches actually make the situation worse.

In relation to the above, I want you to consider these reasons to avoid the pitfalls of medications as a first-line way to handle the intensity in your child.

1. Medications do not heal anything. They do not and cannot solve the core issues. At most, they throw a blanket of moderation over the symptoms and lessen them to a point that gives the illusion of “improvement.” I know improvement is appealing to those who are in the eye of the storm, but think about this: Before the meds kick in each day and after the meds wear off later in the day, the problems are still there. Nothing has changed. The adults are still squarely in relationship with the problems and are none the wiser on how to best help the child. The child is none the wiser on how to best help herself. There has been no core healing whatsoever. The impact of medications is an illusion.

2. In placing a child on medication, the unfortunate underlying message the child receives is: we need to make your intensity go away – we cannot handle it. In other words: “Your teacher can’t handle you; your parent can’t handle you; and you can’t handle yourself… you need a substance to control whatever is going on inside you.” This creates an emotional obstacle to feeling positive about the “life force” that has been given to the child. Instead of seeing it as the gift that it is, it feels like a curse.

We all have life force, and some of us simply have more. Until we get used to it, we can overwhelm others and feel overwhelmed ourselves. We need our intensity to fulfill our dreams and to live in a passionate and purposeful way. We can’t afford to drive a wedge between a child and her intensity. We simply need to learn ways to foster and inspire them to use their intensity in greatness.

3. Medications are powerful substances. Those prescribed for ADHD and other symptoms related to challenging behaviors and moods are mostly classified as Class II narcotics, the same designation as for cocaine and other such strong narcotics. Yes – they are powerful substances. I encourage you to do your own further research. I am highly concerned about the myriad physical side effects along with the long-term repercussions. Looking into this further is important.

The medical community is typically all-too-fast to prescribe, even on the basis of a first evaluation. Though they would have you believe this is a rigorously scientific process, it is actually a highly subjective process. There are a growing number of doctors who are exceptions and who take alternatives seriously, but for the most part, an innocent evaluation of symptoms will still most often net you a prescription in hand.

My experience is that medications have the unintended but powerful side effect of interfering with a child’s ability to believe in herself rather than in the medications. I have met many children who start meds and find that they can do rote tasks better, and thereby give the appearance of being more focused, but they dare not take on the important tasks, assignments, and life challenges. Here’s the reason:

A day or two into taking the meds, the child can no longer discern whether positive outcomes are due to herself or to the medications. Likewise with negative outcomes. Who gets the credit? This might seem incidental, but it is crucial.  It interferes with the child’s relationship with cause and effect and dramatically impacts her ability to trust her own impressions of life and to believe in herself. There is potentially a greater loss of self than can ever be anticipated. Worst case scenario – every day is Groundhog Day.

Ordinary parenting methods typically backfire with intense children, and I certainly understand how this frustration can move a parent to consider medications, but please know that the culprits are the techniques most people have at their disposal… not the parents, teacher, or child. The Nurtured Heart Approach puts parents, teachers, and professionals into the driver’s seat and gives them the perspective and strategies to shift children into using their intensity in beautiful ways, so that medications can truly be a last resort.

The excellent news is that the Nurtured Heart Approach has been proven to create the transformation very quickly and in an enduring way. Instead of a child believing that she gets a great deal more from adults through negativity, the child is moved to believing that she can fully invest her energies and intelligence in successes.

A last important note: please DO NOT yank your child off of any medications if she is on them currently. Rather, study an approach like the Nurtured Heart Approach or another equally influential method and put it fully into motion to see how it plays out. If and when you start to see a consistent impact in the new and desired direction, and you begin to see that this is not an accident, but rather a function of what you are doing, then consult your physician with a request to begin weaning your child off the meds. Some doctors will deny such a request, but most will create a smart plan. If your current doctor won’t help with this, consider finding any number of doctors that can now help in such matter.

To Your Greatness!


Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.


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  1. People need to stop referring to psychiatric drugs as medications, most especially when referring to child drugging. Even if they can be argued to be medicaments to adults in an extreme state of mind, those same drugs are not “medication” to a developing brain when Little Johnny is throwing a temper tantrum.

    Well, I’m at least glad there was a post. I thought this site was dead. News hasn’t even been updated in about a week.

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  2. I think what you point out about the child not knowing whether they should take credit for accomplishments or credit the toxic drugs is important. I work in the Admissions Dept. of a state hospital and see the same kind of thing happening to people with supposed “mental Illness.” they give all credit to the drugs and take no credit for themselves. Of course, they’re so drugged emotionally most of the time once the psychiatrists get their hands on them that they no longer really care one way or the other and become apathetic.

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    • I am so very grateful to Howard for his posting. I have been in this field for over 50 years having seen thousands of children and families as a psychiatric social worker in private practice, chief pediatric social worker at one of the famed Hospitals in Long Island New York, chief social worker on the in and out patient elective psychiatric Unit at another major Brooklyn Hospital, Field supervisor in the graduate Social Work program at The State University at Stony Brook, L.I., an administrator of one of the largest municipal programs for the developmentally challenged and a social worker in the New York City Schools for over 25 years.
      Before any medications are attempted, there are several courses to follow and most importantly, as far as I am concerned, whatever else is done, the use of the program which Howard Glasser has pioneered for so called “Difficult Children,” and even more importantly for all children should be followed. I will give a prime example below.

      I have rarely seen medication make a difference positively in the long run though seeming to rescue all the adults involved temporarily. I have seen many children disabled by those meds some made psychotic and all capable of functioning at a high level once properly handled. There are some children who are truly hyperactive literally bouncing off walls and still, they are not missing Ritalin as a nutrient. I do think that with proper testing in the case of severely hyperactive children nearly from birth, there is certainly a case for looking into the work of Environmental Medicine practitioners such Doris Rapp, M.D. and others as well as the tremendous impact that Niacinimide has had with no side effects for some of those children http://www.doctoryourself.com/hoffer_ABC.html Also Please take a good look at the book by a very well respected Pediatrician who is also knowledgeable about The Nurtured Heart Approach® (NHA), Sandy Newmark, M.D. has written in his book “ADHD Without Drugs.”

      I was brought in as a consultant to a special education program special school inn the New York City Board of Education for “Emotionally disturbed” students to teach them some of the basic strategies of the Nurtured Heart Approach.

      One morning as I was walking into school, I saw one of the junior high School students who I had come to know walking in a way that was far more spirited than usual and apparently humming and singing to himself in an easily audible level. I knew he had been on Ritalin at fairly high levels and thought that he probably wasn’t taking the meds that day. When I arrived in his class, within less than 10 minutes, this usually somewhat dull slightly isolating young person had done several silly things and was annoying the class. I waited to see if the teacher or Aide would follow through with some of the interventions I had taught them and when they didn’t, I took an aide aside and told him to energize the youngster frequently positively recognizing him according to the NHA when he was quiet and controlled himself for even a moment.

      The Aide did the best he could and as I had developed a strong positive relationship with this and other students in that class, even in the few times I had come to the class to supervise, I added my positive recognitions as well. He stopped the silly and disruptive actions. His teacher asked him publicly if he was not taking the medication today. He answered that he had not as his parent had run out of the meds. I then noted that he had controlled himself beautifully over the past nearly half hour even without the meds. He smiled and nodded positively. I then asked if he could continue to control his behavior today even without the meds. He said he thought he could. In fact, the rest of the day, he remained in control and as I had brought it out clearly to the teacher and the two Aides in the room at the time, all of them, especially the Aides, continued to give out regular recognition for positive behaviors more than ever before not just to this young man, to everyone in the class in my observation. The Aides came to me at the end of the day to remark about how this had been an important lesson for all of them.

      In conclusion, let me say that having learned and taught the NHA program over the past 6 years, beginning to use it just from the books at first and then on to Advanced week long Training in Tucson, I have found it to be the most effective and easiest system of all those systems in which I have been trained to teach to parents, teachers,therapists,and others responsible for children.

      I hope many of you will at least explore the “Nurtured Heart Approach”® which is open for a free extensive seminar on the web site http://www.childrenssuccessfoundation.com/
      Bud Weiss, MA, LCSW

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  3. I meant to add something about hospitalizing patients especially on the first occasion. M. Scott Peck, M.D. in the 70s pioneered his work of Community Building often able to prevent the need for hospitalizing persons who were having psychotic episodes by getting the family to bring together approximately 40 persons, family members friends etc. for a day. Peck and his helpers would do their community building linking people together in non judgmental ways opening up resources and connections among the group that not only could meet the needs of the identified patient, the sessions often acted to relieve much of the symptoms of the I.P.

    Over the past several years, the program of “Open Dialogue” http://www.dialogicpractice.net/team-profiles/ pioneered in Finland has been brought to the US from. In Finland, it has been enormously effective in preventing the need for fist hospitalizations as well as reducing greatly the need for any medication or for future hospitalizations.

    There is much to be learned when the shortcut of medication, often leading to a revolving door admission sequence, is not the only resource for these episodes which in my observation are signals our culture needs to sort out similar in some ways to the Canaries in the Coal mine.

    The work of Dr. Xavier Amador, “I Am Not sick. I Don’t Need Help,” http://www.xavieramador.com/ can be most useful in transition while programs such as Open Dialogue and further education about the applications of resource building and “Inner Wealth” building for all is further understood.

    According to the research of the Finns, medications have mostly been shown to be detrimental for this population in the long run often cementing poor future growth of the individuals involved. For the time being, short term use for extremes in the instance of a lack of personal and social resources may continue as we learn from the Finns who are pointing the way to a more humane society capable of pulling together for support of the most vulnerable in crisis.

    Bud Weiss, MA,LCSW

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  4. Sorry for being so long winded here. I didn’t want to close my comments on this subject without siting one of the most effective remaining practitioners and teachers of M. Scott Peck, M.D.’s work, Dr. Bob Roberts http://www.projectreturn.com and http://mysoulsaidtome.com/index.php
    This is an extraordinary journey into the bowels of hell emerging into a loving humane atmosphere for those discarded by society. Our prison population in the US is an embarrassment at best and egregious beyond description. If we look at programs like those shown in the powerful movie “Doing Time, Doing Vipassana,” we see who we really are and can be together. http://www.dhamma.org/en/av/dtdv.shtml and video samples

    Be well and to all our greatnesses TAOG, Bud Weiss, MA, LCSW

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  5. Howard, you’re awesome, but you forgot one important point: the “medications” aka drugs given for these childhood behavioral problems have never been shown to improve long term outcomes in any meaningful category, including self-concept, academic achievement, high school graduation rates, delinquency rates, or rates of employment as an adult. If parents understood that these drugs did NOTHING to improve their child’s life in the long run, while exposing them to serious risks in the short and long term, I have to believe that the vast majority would look for other options. The main reason people continue to participate in this fraud is that they are assured that “untreated ADHD” leads to all of these awful outcomes, but are never told that the “treatment” doesn’t affect the mentioned outcomes in the slightest, except possibly to make some of them even worse.

    Glad you’re still out there pitching after all these years – you’ve always been an inspiration to me. Thanks for your post!

    —- Steve

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  6. Just to add some more to the discussion re the dangers of Ritalin and other similar or worse medications and a totally benign useful nutrient often useful for many issues, here is an excerpt from the book, Niacin; The Real Story. Again, as far as I am concerned whether nutrients are supplemented or not, the use of NHA ( the Nurtured Heart Approach ® — http://www.childrenssuccessfoundation.com ) will assist in building the child’s inner wealth while simultaneously detoxifying the mental stresses endured by all prior to NHA’s use and perhaps the use of this important nutrient resource explored in this note about the work of William Kaufman, M.D.:
    “Children’s Learning and Behavioral Disorders
    “ADHD is not a disease; it is a nutritional deficiency. “—LENDON H. SMITH, M.D. An an old “Shoe” cartoon strip, an overweight, cigar-smoking “Perfesser” is sitting at a diner counter. He is urged to eat his carrots because it’s been shown that they prevent cancer in rats. His response is, “Why would I want to prevent cancer in rats?”

    Then there is methylphenidate (Ritalin), which has been shown to promote cancer in mice. This drug is cheerfully given to millions of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) children every day. The Massachusetts News (November 1, 1999) placed the figure at 4 million. Yet four years before that, the National Institutes of Health Toxicology Study (July, 1995) stated, “There was some evidence of carcinogenic activity of methylphenidate (Ritalin) in male and female B6C3F1 mice based on the occurrence of hepatocellular neoplasms (liver cancer).” (1)

    This small but demonstrated carcinogenic potential of this commonly-prescribed drug deserves more attention and much more consideration of safer alternatives. Any bets on how many compliant parents have seen, let alone actually read, the full text of Ritalin’s other side effects? Fortunately, there appears to be a vastly safer alternative: vitamins, particularly vitamin B3.

    B3 AND HYPERACTIVITY Over fifty years ago, niacinamide pioneer William Kaufman, M.D., Ph.D., observed: “Some patients have a response to niacinamide therapy which seems to be the clinical equivalent of ‘decreased running’ observed in experimental animals. When these animals are deprived experimentally of certain essential nutriments, they display ‘excessive running,’ or hyperkinesis. When these deficient animals receive the essential nutriments in sufficient amounts for a sufficient period of time, there is exhibited a marked ‘decrease in running. . . [A person] in this group may wonder whether or not his vitamin medications contain a sedative.

    He recalls that before vitamin therapy was instituted, he had a great deal of energy and ‘drive,’ and considered himself to be a ‘very dynamic person.’ Analysis of his history indicates that prior to niacinamide therapy he suffered from a type of compulsive impatience, starting many projects which he left unfinished as a new interest distracted him, returning perhaps after a lapse of time to complete the original project. Without realizing it, he was often careless and inefficient in his work, but was ‘busy all the time.’”

    This report appeared, almost as a side note, on page seventy-three of Kaufman’s 1949 book, “The Common Form of Joint Dysfunction.” So accurately does it describe the problems of ADHD children that it is difficult to believe that vitamin B3 (which never causes cancer) has been so thoroughly ignored for so long.
    Kaufman continues: “With vitamin therapy, such a patient becomes unaccustomedly calm, working more efficiently, finishing what he starts, and he loses the feeling that he is constantly driving himself. He has leisure time that he does not know how to use. When he feels tired, he is able to rest, and does not feel impelled to carry on in spite of fatigue. If such a patient can be persuaded to continue with niacinamide therapy, in time he comes to enjoy a sense of well-being, realizing in retrospect that what he thought in the past was a superabundance of energy and vitality was in reality an abnormal ‘wound-up’ feeling, which was an expression of aniacinamidosis (niacin deficiency).” (2)
    Dr. Evan Shute began investigating the use of vitamin E for abruptic plancentae in 1936 and discovered it cured cardiovascular disease. Even before this, Max Gerson, M.D., was treating migraine headaches with vegetable juices, and therein found an effective therapy for various forms of cancer. William Kaufman treated arthritis patients with niacinamide and noticed that it was also an effective remedy for hyperactivity and lack of mental focus. These and other natural healthcare milestones highlight just how dissimilar orthomolecular medicine and drug medicine truly are.

    While conventional medical authority would promptly admit malnutrition as one cause of cancer, and certainly as a cause of heart disease, there is a profound reluctance to allow that optimum nutrition could be curative of either. With ADHD, orthodox medicine seems unwilling even to admit nutrient deficiency as a causal factor, let alone a curative one. Parents can change that. Just say no to drugs. Consider nutrition and niacin instead. ”

    Hoffer, Abram ; Saul, Andrew W. ; Foster, Harold D. (2012-02-01). Niacin: The Real Story (Kindle Locations 1268-1480). Basic Health Publications, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

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  7. To be sure, the work of one of the true heros in psychiatry in my estimation, Peter Breggin, M.D. “Talk Back to Ritalin,” also details just how little evidence there is to ADHD being well treated by Ritalin or other even more serious medications.

    Instead, while he apparently had not been introduced to NHA at the time of that writing, he speaks clearly of helping the families to find more effective behavioral approaches and dealing with the often seen enormous stress on particular families due to their fiscal and other circumstances seeing the social context as far more important in the vast majority of so called ADHD than any other factors. NHA addresses these more easily and effectively than any other approach in my experience.

    Bud Weiss

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  8. Howie I echo your concerns and as a prescribing APRN who has used your approach since 2000, I want to make the point that in some cases, medication used properly, can support the process of emerging greatness. Again, used judiciously…

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  9. Oh my lord… to all of you adults bitching in the comments about how people are drugging their children and the medication (look I wrote it without quotation marks cause guess what that’s what it is), DO any of you have any mental disorders? Have any of you ever struggled to get out of bed each morning because the pain is just too much? Have any of you felt absolutely terrified every time you talk to a person or are around people you don’t know? Have any of you fail classes because you keep zoning out or can’t sit still? Have any of you ever attempted to commit suicide or had suicidal thoughts? Have any of you ever self-harmed? When you get overwhelmed do you stop breathing? Do you have panic attacks at least once a week? do you cry yourself to sleep? DO you even understand in the slightest bit the daily struggle people with mental disabilities go through and how hard it is to do something as simple as go to a store or getting out of bed? Of course, nothing I say will change your opinions I simply hope you read this and it makes you think. I am currently on Concerta (an ADHD medication) and I have anxiety, social anxiety (yes they are different things), ADHD, ADD, and conversion disorder. If I didn’t take my meds my Anxiety which is already bad would be a whole lot worse, my marks would go down etc. My meds are a blessing for me as they allow me to feel just a little bit closer to ‘normal’. Of course, there is nothing wrong with having a mental illness of any kind but my medication make that constant fight against myself to not seem so bad. I’ve been on meds for 2 years and it’s already had a huge impact on my life (i’m 16). When you lot start policing something you don’t even have the slightest idea about just cause ‘it’s your opinion’ and you’re convinced you’re right cause you read one study that told you so. Hate to break it to you but you are not suddenly an expert on all things mental health, you’re not a therapist nor do you have any of these mental disorders you feel you can voice your opinions on so strongly. Also about the whole cancer thing, at this point, there are so many things that contribute to people getting cancer that there really is no way to prove that medications cause it. Because if there’s a family history of cancer you more likely to get it, if you drink a lot, basically almost anything you put in your mouth at this point increases your risk for cancer. ALSO y’all are acting like you’re all high and almighty protecting your kids from the evil ‘drugs’ doctors are trying to give them when you all clearly have no problem with animal testing or letting your child suffer. Of course, medication shouldn’t be anyone first resort and if you’re taking medication it doesn’t magically help the problem but with therapy, it really can change your life. So before y’all go preaching all this shit please please remember that you have NO IDEA what it’s like to always have a weight pressing down on you, to not be able to focus on anything the teachers saying and then get in trouble despite the fact that you were trying so so hard, to never want to leave your room, to want to hurt yourself because you don’t know what else to do or because you need to feel something, to want to kill yourself because of something as simple as only getting a 70 on a test. YOU DON’T KNOW!

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