A December 15 New York Times feature about the pharmaceutical industry’s influence on the rise of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) diagnoses and stimulant prescriptions may cause concerned parents to research alternatives such as Suntheanine. A study published in Alternative Medicine Review found that the ingredient safely helps children with ADHD to sleep better, which may improve their attention span and behavior during the day.
New York Times revelations
In its article, The Selling of Attention Deficit Disorder, the New York Times stated that the number of children on medication for ADHD has grown from 600,000 in 1990 to 3.5 million today. “The numbers make it look like an epidemic. Well, it’s not. It’s preposterous,” Duke University Professor Emeritus Keith Conners is quoted as saying.
The article points out that the rise of ADHD diagnoses and stimulant prescriptions coincides with a two-decade campaign by pharmaceutical companies to publicize the syndrome and promote medications. The Food and Drug Administration has cited every major ADHD drug, including Adderall, Concerta, Foaclin and Vyvanse for false and misleading advertising. Some have been cited multiple times.
These drugs are regulated in the same class as morphine and oxycodone because of their potential for abuse and addiction. That prompts the concern that children may become habituated to the pills and feel they cannot cope without them. Overdosing can cause severe heart problems and psychotic behavior. The Times describes a slide presentation about Adderall XR which lists such side effects as insomnia, significant appetite suppression and mood swings. Those side effects, the article notes, increase significantly among patients who take more pills than prescribed.
The article also reveals the many tactics used by pharmaceutical companies to sell physicians, parents and even children themselves on the use of these drugs.
How Suntheanine may help ease ADHD symptoms
When children with ADHD can’t sleep night after night, the results can be frustrating for the entire family: the poor school performance … the missed classes … the hyperactive behavior … the problems with moodiness. If only they could sleep better at night, they might be able to function better during the day!
In 2011, the first research appeared to confirm what some parents already knew. The University of British Columbia study found that Suntheanine may help improve your child’s sleep quality without significant side effects. The researchers reassuringly noted that the benefits were consistent among children regardless of whether they were also taking stimulant medication.
It’s estimated that 25-50 percent of children and teens with ADHD experience some type of sleep problem, which could affect their performance in school as well as contribute to problems with hyperactivity and emotional issues. It’s also estimated that boys are three times more likely than girls to have ADHD.
This randomized, 10-week, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, published in Alternative Medicine Review, involved 98 boys diagnosed with ADHD, ranging in age from 8-12 years. Participants consumed two chewable tablets twice daily (at breakfast and after school), with each tablet containing 100 mg. of Suntheanine. Their parents completed the Pediatric Sleep Questionnaire at baseline and at the end of the treatment period. In addition, the boys were monitored with an actigraph – a wristwatch-like device that records sleep activity levels and related data.
The Actigraph watch findings indicated that boys who consumed the Suntheanine obtained significantly higher sleep percentage and sleep efficiency scores, along with a non-significant trend for less activity during sleep (defined as less time awake after sleep onset) compared to those in the placebo group.
“The most exciting part of this research is that L-theanine can safely help those with ADHD sleep better. Lack of sleep may be attributed to further attention deficits during the day and possibly inattentive behavior,” commented registered dietitian and author Dr. Felicia Stoler, DCN, MS, RD, FACSM.
Lead researcher Michael R. Lyon, M.D. cautions: “Some lower cost products may not contain enough of the proper form of L-theanine to be effective. We analyzed six commercially available products labeled as L-theanine, and discovered that five contained significant amounts of another compound. The safety and effectiveness of these mixtures have not been determined. Only Suntheanine contained pure L-theanine, which is why we chose to use it for this study.”
Stoler concludes that while this research was based upon boys, “Certainly anyone who is having difficulty sleeping, should consider this as a safe option for improving sleep. Without adequate sleep, our bodies cannot rest, recharge, repair and renew properly! Sleep is something that many of us overlook, but lack of it can have serious negative effects on health!”