The Future of ADHD Treatment and Management
Will ADHD or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder always be treated by drugs, or does the future hold the promise of other approaches that could be completely effective? The answer is 'Yes', and given the right research funding, it is possible that some developments could happen within the next 20 years or less.
Genetic SwitchingAs a first step we need to learn a great deal more about ADHD, how it develops and why. We already know that this disorder is largely hereditary, and that there are probably a number of genes involved. If an individual child has any of these genes, it does not necessarily mean that the child will go on to develop ADD or ADHD; however, the presence of those genes will increase the risk that the child will develop this condition if they are exposed to the right triggers.
Genes work by coding for specific proteins and molecules, and it is the 'expression' of these genes that will turn ADHD on. When a gene is expressed, it can affect how an individual metabolises food and how the fundamental chemistry of their body works. When researchers learn precisely what effects the body chemicals coded for in the ADHD genes have on brain operation and development, they will be able to come up with better treatments.
Genes can be switched on and off in an individual, a bit like a light switch. Once researchers understand how ADD or ADHD genes work, they may also be able to learn how to deactivate ADHD genes after they have been triggered. The science of 'gene switching' is still in its infancy, but the balance of simple dietary elements like mineral ions can be involved in gene switching. This means that it is not impossible that specially designed dietary or medication plans could one day be prescribed on an individual basis in ADHD sufferers.
Developmental ScreeningIdentifying the genetic component is only one very small element of the future of ADHD treatment.
If attention deficit disorder has not been recognised in early childhood, the chances are that the brain of a sufferer will have already developed with some 'bad wiring'. The brain is a very flexible body organ. For the brain to develop properly, it needs certain kinds of stimulation at specific points in its development, so that it 'learns' to make the right internal connections.
If a young child loses the use of an eye for a period so that the eye has to be covered up for months, it can lead to a lifelong sight problem. This is because certain neural pathways were not properly established. In the same way, if a child does not get the right stimulation during critical phases of development, then it could quite possibly lead to lifelong problems that are expressed as ADHD symptoms.
It is easy to foresee that genetic screening will become a standard practice for children who are born into a family that has a history of ADHD within it. When ADHD genes are found within a child, specifically designed stimulation and therapy plans could be put into place to help make sure that a child's brain develops properly, and to help to ensure that ADHD genes are not triggered into an active state.
Biofeedback TherapyImagine for a moment.
A child sits in front of a computer or television screen wearing a special 'virtual reality' hat. Inside it, the child is playing a computer game, where they have to guide the game components and complete specific tasks by the power of their thoughts. The elements are controlled simply by how they 'think', possibly needing to reach a state of complete physical relaxation to achieve one goal, or achieve a state of mental concentration to achieve another. Specially designed games and programmes can be used to retrain the brain and help it lay down corrected neural pathways, so that ADHD abnormalities are removed.
If you think that this sounds far fetched, think again.
The technology to achieve this is already with us, and a more rudimentary version of this therapy is already available privately for those that can afford to pay for it. However, such technologies offer great hope for the future for affected children and adults alike. Once a greater understanding of how the brain should be working has been achieved, biofeedback technology can be refined and improved to fully treat ADHD symptoms. Projects to examine in brain activity imaging will provide the 'patterns' that need to be achieved in ADHD sufferers, and studies like this are already underway.
The future may be closer than you think.