Growing polypharmacy and alternatives to medication for children

By Dr. Stephanie Higashi, DC

Our children are our future and our most important asset to invest in for our long-term survival. We can either nurture them and create health and happiness or we can mishandle their health in a way that will be detrimental to their future function, production, and health.

A growing trend has unfortunately developed where the answer to most health issues, symptoms or conditions is pharmaceutical. The epidemic of medicating and not looking for root causes or preventing disease is something that must change.

In the past, medications were reserved for the infirm, the elderly or only after tragic accidents. But now, in the marketplace, we are seeing more medications commonly prescribed to children at an alarming rate for everything from pain to depression, anxiety, attention issues and hyperactivity. It must be remembered that for every reaction, there is a counter-reaction or effect. Thus, putting chemicals into the body will cause a resultant effect, otherwise known as a side effect.

Most physicians, parroting what drug reps say, will say the side effects are rare – which may not be true. Sometimes the body can auto-correct and recover from the medications; but sometimes, there are permanent effects that can’t be reversed. This is something that is understated and under-evaluated. The desire for a quick fix – a pill – causes people to select the “simple” solution that may be the worst long-term solution. Even worse, some are in the grip of polypharmacy, the simultaneous use of multiple drugs for a single condition.

As a doctor of chiropractic and CEO of a bi-coastal multi-disciplinary healthcare franchise, I am faced daily with patients wanting to know what is the best solution. The best advice and wisdom I can share after seeing these conflicting quandaries is find the cause of a problem and fix it. Taking a drug to mask or to avoid confronting and handling the source of a problem is not anything but a temporary solution. Most people don’t really analyze the fact that numbing the body does not make the problem get better.

Feeling pain or other symptoms and signals from the body allows a patient and doctor to search and find the root cause and find ways to solve and prevent further problems.

Alternative therapies that can be used to treat children without the use of medication

Because children’s bodies are in an active growth phase, they respond well to very light touch of treatments and recover faster than most adults.

  • Children do fantastic with diet evaluation, well-balanced nutrition and foods rich in nutrients if they have signs indicating any deficiencies.
  • Children also do amazing with physical therapy, exercise and rehabilitation. Their bodies are like moldable clay; it’s easy to have their muscles and nervous system trained based on the growth phase they are in. This is good and bad since heavy backpacks or poor posture also molds them improperly – which, in turn, affects their nervous system, organ system function, and lymphatic drainage.
  • Children also respond well to massage. Many children aren’t introduced to massage at an early age; however, because they are extremely active and their muscles and bones are growing, they too have subjective perceived stress in life and massage is a great way to aid them. Children find it very therapeutic and often only require 15-30 minutes to have a substantial impact and relief.
  • For children with alignment issues, chiropractic is a great therapy to ensure they are growing properly and straight. The misalignment can be structural, meaning they were born with vertebral defects causing misalignment or functional, meaning something they are doing is causing the misalignment. Like a tree that grows crooked because of the wind pushing it in one direction, so will a child’s body if it’s misaligned and never corrected while they are growing. One of the most common reasons adults have problems with their spine and joints and can’t understand why is that usually they had a problem when they were younger that was never addressed or treated. For parents to find the right chiropractor for their children, I suggest finding one that has done some additional pediatric training and is familiar with pediatrics. Additionally, word of mouth recommendation is always good. Most importantly is that the child feels comfortable and likes the doctor.

Many things are preventable with proper lifestyle and education and easily treated naturally. If the conservative approaches don’t work, more aggressive treatments can be done. If medications are in fact the only solutions, at least the correct order is performed; meaning: trying the most aggressive conservative approach first and only trying medication after all else has failed.

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