Dr Mate on Dopamine and ADD Drugs

Dr. Mate discusses the role of dopamine and how ADD drugs work to increase dopamine levels.

“3 Steps To Conquering ADD” promotes natural methods for increasing low dopamine levels.

AMY GOODMAN: As we return to our conversation with Canadian physician and author Dr. Gabor Maté. His four books include Scattered: How Attention Deficit Disorder Originates and What You can Do About It and Hold on to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers. Talk about how the drugs affect the development of the brain. When kids are saturated with these drugs to sit still in school so they’re not fidgeting at their desk, they can’t focus on reading or on the teacher or just plain old disruptive. What happens?

DR. GABOR MATÈ: There is a number of issues here. How the stimulant drugs work is that in ADD, there is an essential brain chemical necessary for incentive and motivation that seems to be lacking. That is called dopamine. Dopamine is simply an essential life chemical; without it, there is no life. Mice in a laboratory that have no dopamine will starve themselves to death because they have no incentive to eat. Even though they are hungry, even though their life is in danger they will not eat because there is no motivation or incentive. So partly, one way to look at ADD is as a massive problem of motivation because the dopamine is lacking in the brain. Now the stimulant medications elevate dopamine levels, and these kids are now more motivated. They can focus and pay attention.

However, the assumption underneath giving these kids medications is that what we’re dealing with is a genetic disorder, and the only way to deal with it is pharmacologically. And if you actually look at how the dopamine levels in the brain develop- if you look at infant monkeys and measure their dopamine levels, and they are normal when they are with their mothers, and you separate them from their mothers, the dopamine levels go down within two or three days.

In other words, what we’re doing is we’re correcting a massive social problem that has to do it disconnection in society and the loss of nurturing, non-stressed parenting and we are replacing that chemically. Now, the stimulant drugs do seem to work and a lot of kids are helped by it. The problem is not so much whether they should be used for not, the problem is that 80% of the time the kid is prescribed medication, that is all that happens. Nobody talks to the family about the family environment. The school makes no attempt to change the school environment. Nobody connects with these kids emotionally. In other words, it is seen simply as a medical or behavior problem but not a problem of development.

Original Article – http://www.democracynow.org/seo/2010/11/24/drgabormatonadhd_bullying

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