Homeopathy for ADHD? Cure or Con? A CBC Report Checks the Facts!


In my practice I provide services for the diagnosis of ADHD, Learning Disabilities and other cognitive disorders, as well as evidence based treatments for ADHD. These include classroom based interventions, behavioural treatments, specific skill training and Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. You can learn more about my services from my web page at www.relatedminds.com or www.relatedminds.com/adhd. Other information on my practice can be found at: http://Therapists.Psychologytoday.com/70682, http://www.bcpsychologist.org/users/jimroche or http://psyris.com/drjimroche.
This month, again, I met several individuals who were frustrated with the progress their children were making at school. ADHD was causing all sorts of problems. Their child was off task, couldn’t get an assignment completed, had fallen behind in reading and math ...and recently was engaging in risky behaviour and fighting. I asked when their last medical check-up was, and what their doctor had suggested.  As with many parents they didn’t want to discuss this in any detail, but finally told me they were seeing a “holistic practitioner” of some sort, and were using “natural remedies” at home? I asked “What do you mean by natural remedies?”
Usually for ADHD they mean fish oil, some vitamins, avoiding certain foods...and often supplements and homeopathic “medicine.” When asked how they came to this choice they talk about their fear that their child will become a “zombie” and how the “big drug companies” can’t be trusted. Often they have been attempting these unproven..and often disproven treatments for years because of the fears that their child will “become a zombie” or “He will become addicted.” By the way, research is pretty clear, for kids with ADHD taking medication and receiving appropriate treatment will make them LESS likely to use drugs...but honestly, the research seems to have no effect. Often they persist in their views and refuse to read the scientific literature.  Let’s start here:
Read Dr. Russell Barkley. He is the expert on ADHD. Period. Yes, his research and publications are supported, in some cases, by research grants from big companies. He tells you. Most people supporting the use of “natural remidies” don’t tell you about that, and ....well...guess how big the natural remedy lobby is? Here is his website:
Another really good - and free - source of information is from the National Institute of Mental Health in the US.  Here is a link to their brochure that explains EVERYTHING about ADHD and medications:
Now medication is not always the answer. Because of the nature of ADHD medication can’t fix problems that have developed over time. Training, coaching, support and therapy can help with those.  And medication is simply not always needed. But you can’t make a good decision if you refuse to learn about it, talk about it and understand it. Canada and it’s mental health services have similar publications, but this NIMH  one is really excellent.
Now, back to my topic ....Homeopathy ...is it a cure or a con? 
CBC recently had a short investigation of homeopathic medication which I thought you might enjoy watching. Homeopathy is often an idea that my patients present to me in these meetings, however they seem to know nothing about how it works (or doesn’t work) and often have been told some startlingly misleading information. 
There is no evidence published in science based journals (except those published by homeopathic practitioners) that I am aware of that shows homeopathy works for ADHD, or any of the other may illnesses, disorders and diseases it makes a claim to cure. Yes, they will argue the opposite, and below I’ve provided some information to counter their arguments. An interesting read are the comments by the supporters of homeopathy on the CBC website which went up after the program viewed. They can best be described as void of evidence, name calling and paranoid ideas about big pharma, government and mistrust of medical doctors. 
It’s a sad and scary read. Here in BC we actually have several practitioners who offer “homeopathic vaccines” to children and travelers! I suggest several good web sites to clients to help them understand the story behind homeopathy. These are listed below. Start with the CBC report, as it’s actually entertaining. Then take a look at the other sites.
 
The CBC report on Homeopathy:
A good quick rundown of the history of this practice can be found at “Quackwatch:: 
For an in-depth analysis of Homeopathy, I always suggest Science-Based Medicine, this article is a great resource for ideas about “plausibility: and why so many of the “research” protocols used by homeopaths are simply wrong:
http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/index.php/homeopathy-and-plausibility/
The UK Government has made this finding on the efficacy of homeopathy: 
"The Committee concluded—given that the existing scientific literature showed no good evidence of efficacy—that further clinical trials of homeopathy could not be justified.... The Committee carried out an evidence check to test if the Government’s policies on homeopathy were based on sound evidence. The Committee found a mismatch between the evidence and policy.... The Government acknowledges there is no evidence that homeopathy works beyond the placebo effect (where a patient gets better because of their belief in the treatment). The Committee concurred with the Government that the evidence base shows that homeopathy is not efficacious and that explanations for why homeopathy would work are scientifically implausible.... Given that the existing scientific literature showed no good evidence of efficacy, further clinical trials of homeopathy could not be justified."
The article can be found here:
http://news.discovery.com/human/uk-government-study-homeopathy-worthless.html
Oddly, when doing a web search for this article 90+ percent of the search results were pro-homeopathy. right below the article above was one that claims “Homeopathy is an evidence-based science.” 
A great website about "alternative medic" and especially Homeopathy:
Finally, here is an excellent article on the efforts in the UK and other parts of Europe to put some controls on homeopathic practice:
http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/uk-ban-homeopathy/
Cure or Con?
Well, you have got to make up your own mind, and getting through all the hype and nonsense on the web isn’t easy. It is especially difficult because understand homeopathy means understanding medical research design, statistics and probability (Hey, great book: The Drunkard’s Walk ...explains it well, easy to understand and funny!) What I know is that regular folk, who haven’t majored in biochemistry and math, can be very VERY easily fooled by the reports they read on the web. I think the article by Steve Novella on “plausibility” helps clarify some of the odd outcomes that are published, and helps you understand how people misuse statistics ...and misuse the very idea of “published in a professional journal.” Good grief, many of these organizations have created journals that do nothing but publish favorable articles that support their practice! 
You can laos watch the CBC report. Ontario homeopaths are about to become the first province in Canada to regulate homeopathy — the goal is to lend credibility to this unproven practice. “We are credible because we are regulated...” (We could regulate fortune tellers ....actually, they need a business license ...no proof of efficacy ...no proof of anything!)
In the report we read, “For the first time in Canada, we conduct a test of homeopathic medicines, investigating the science behind these so-called medicines. In light of our results, we ask both the Ontario government and Health Canada why they are lending credibility to the homeopathic industry. Johnson also meets up with a rep from the world's leading manufacturer of homeopathic medicines, who admits that even the company says how homeopathty works is a mystery.”  (Notice just asking the question and answering “It’s a mystery as to how it works” is MISLEADING.  Most scientic evidence I’ve read says it doesn’t work ..it’s a placebo effect, or ...the natural course of an illness.”  This reminds me, here is another great resource for information on homeopathy, “”Quackcast.” This is a podcast available from either the website below or from iTunes. Dr. Mark  He concludes, “Clinical trials of homeopathy are of poor quality and treat self limited diseases. The better the study, the less well homeopathy does. In the best meta analysis to date, it is concluded that homeopathy doesn't work.”
http://www.quackcast.com/epodcasts/files/077c17cfb5bb4f80cb4a008246563446-6.html

If you like listening instead of reading, here is another great source of podcasts that can help you learn to use the scientific method (Brian Dunning- SKEPTOID:
http://skeptoid.com/episodes/4034
Back to the CBC broadcast: in it “we witness a Vancouver group of skeptics taking part in a group overdose of homeopathic remedies. Perhaps most disturbing we learn that some homeopaths are treating cancer patients with homeopathic remedies. A leading cancer specialist says there is no role for homeopathy in the treatment of cancer, that it is a "scam that is not evidence-based."
The reaction to the CBC story, as is often the case, was complaints from those who support homeopathy, one person actually filed a complaint with the CBC Ombudsman, Kirk LaPointe. He has now ruled on that complaint, and you can find his report at The Office of the Ombudsman website
Here is part of the Ombudsman’s answer: “Homeopathy, from the Greek words homeo (similar) and pathos (illness or disease), is a form of medicine in which practitioners treat patients using highly diluted preparations of substances associated with ailments. It abides a belief that the body’s own healing systems can be stimulated by these ultra-dilute substances. It furthers the view that the human soul perceives the presence of these minute substances, even when there are practically no atoms of them detectable, and that the remedy stimulates defense. This belief is commonly referred to as the “like cures like” Principle of Similars. It defies principles of allopathic medicines. Homeopathy also subscribes to the view that water has a form of memory. The online resource, Wikipedia.org, concludes: “The collective weight of scientific evidence has found homeopathy to be no more effective than a placebo,” an inert treatment that simulates a  medical intervention and can generate a perceived or real patient improvement. The most recent significant study of homeopathy came from a 2009 British Commons committee following months of testimony. The committee considered the ultra-dilution notion “scientifically implausible” and that systematic reviews and analyses “conclusively demonstrate that homeopathic products perform no better than placebos.”
It is pretty common practice for those selling homeopathic cures to try to silence their opponents. As to why? I don’t know.  They seem to control the internet. Just do a search for treatment for ADHD, autism, Aspergers and other serious childhood or adult disorders and you are going to be overwhelmed by pages supporting homeopathy and other alternative medicines, and usually selling them.  MY suggestion is: Have an open mind, but as they say, not so open your brain falls out! Openness doesn’t mean ignoring or inventing facts.
Posted on September 9, 2011 and filed under "ADHD", "Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder", "behaviour", "science".