Dr Stixrud, a neuropsychologist , says, ‘The fact that TM appears to improve attention and executive functions, and significantly reduces stress with no negative side-effects, is clearly very promising.’
by Global Good News staff writer
7 Mar 2012
With about 5.4 million children and 1.5 million adults using Ritalin, Adderall or other drugs for ADHD, demand for these medications is now far greater than the supply available in the US. Jeanne Ball describes the severity of the situation in a Huffington Post article entitled ADHD Drug Shortage: Can Meditation Fill the Gap? saying that some people go from one drugstore to another trying to fill their prescription.
But, Ms Ball points out that there is an option being recognized by a growing number of health care professionals who have become aware of ‘the viability of effective meditation for overcoming ADHD’. She goes on to share her own experience as a teacher of Maharishi’s Transcendental Meditation Technique noting, ‘I routinely witness meditation’s transformative effects on children and adults with ADHD.’
A case in point
Ms Ball presents two case studies. The first is of a 14-year-old boy who came to her Transcendental Meditation centre. She describes his mother to be like many whose children have ADHD—‘desperate to get her child off Ritalin’. The mother tells of the negative side effects of the drug on her son saying, ‘Because of the medication, he can’t sleep, he has anxiety, loss of appetite, and he’s underweight. The medication has stunted his growth. He’s not as tall as other boys his age. His self-esteem is down.’
But things changed quickly after the boy learned the Transcendental Meditation Technique. When he ‘stepped out of the instruction room after learning to meditate, his first words were, “Mom, I love this!”
Ms Ball explains that this particular technique of Transcendental Meditation does not involve concentration or control of any kind. Nor does it demand a long attention span, making it an easy practice even for those with ADHD.
To his doctor’s delight and surprise, the boy was able to stop his use of Ritalin soon after he began his practice of the Transcendental Meditation Technique. His mother also reported that he regained his appetite, put on 10 pounds, grew 3 inches, sleeps very well, and is able to focus on schoolwork.
The young man himself expressed a change that he noticed with respect to the impulsiveness that ADHD had caused saying, ‘TM helps me stay on task. It makes me solid.’
Ms Ball then presents the comments of experts as well as the results of research on meditation. She writes that scientists believe that ADHD occurs due to ‘a lag in the brain’s natural development,’ and that studies show that meditation can help relieve this situation.
Mind & Brain, The Journal of Psychiatry recently published an article reporting on the effects of the practice of the Transcendental Meditation Technique by students with ADHD. Twice daily practice of 10 minutes resulted in significant ‘improvement in brain functioning and reduction of ADHD symptoms within three to six months. The researchers found improved beta/theta ratios, increased brain processing, heightened EEG coherence and improved verbal fluency among the meditating students, compared to controls.’ Earlier studies on ADHD students showed that those who practised the Transcendental Meditation Technique also enjoyed a 50% decrease in anxiety as well as better executive functions.
Dr Sarina Grosswald, co-author of the study reported in the journal article, feels that information from the research indicates that, to a large degree, ADHD is driven by stress.
Dr William Stixrud, a neuropsychologist working on the study with Dr Grosswald, points out that stress interferes with memory and makes it difficult for one to learn, pay attention, organize, or complete tasks. Because ADHD lowers the ability to deal with stress, which in turn results in reduced executive functions, Dr Stixrud finds it consistent ‘that a meditation technique that reduces a child’s stress should also improve cognitive functioning’.
Ms Ball briefly compares the effects of the Transcendental Meditation Technique as shown in the research with the results of other interventions used for treating ADHD.
For example, decreases in inattentiveness and hyperactivity were seen in a mindfulness program used on children with ADHD. However, no significant change in anxiety was found. Neurofeedback, which requires as many as 40 sessions using specialized technology, produced mixed results. Referring to the positive effects of the Transcendental Meditation Technique, Dr Grosswald explained that, while she does not view it as a quick fix, over time the practice ‘allows the brain to create the neural connections that correct the underlying problem’.
A tool for life
In the second case study, which Ms Ball presents, she tells of a young woman who had taken a break from her studies because, despite medication, she was overwhelmed. Her anxiety was noticeable and an MRI showed the prefrontal cortex of her brain to have ‘functional holes’.
The woman learned the Transcendental Meditation Technique and quickly enjoyed a greater inner calm than she had ever known. With time, she grew in confidence and became steadier. A couple of months after beginning her twice daily practice, the young woman was able to start a gradual decrease of medication and resume college, enjoying A’s in her classes.
Ms Ball writes that both this college student and the young boy got much more than the coping tool which they were seeking when they came to learn the Transcendental Meditation Technique. They got a ‘lifelong tool, a do-it-yourself technique to expand consciousness and awaken the transcendent—bringing more “being” into life.’
The boy, who started the Transcendental Meditation Technique with just the desire to stop taking the medicine, said after learning the practice, ‘I never knew there would be so many other benefits.’
© Copyright 2012 Global Good News®