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Review of "Non-Drug Treatments for ADHD"

By Richard Brown and Patricia Gerbarg
W. W. Norton, 2012
Review by Kyra Grosman, Psy.D on Mar 5th 2013
Non-Drug Treatments for ADHD

Richard Brown and Patricia Gerbarg, both medical doctors with appointments at medical schools and private practices in New York City, want to provide more options for frustrated parents to help alleviate the myriad symptoms associated with ADHD. Traditional medications work to relieve some symptoms for some people, but generally do not work well enough for many people. Based on their clinical experience, Drs. Brown and Gerbarg share the herbs, nutrients, mind-body practices, brain stimulation, and neurofeedback techniques that they deem both safe and effective enough to be used in treatments for ADHD. Because many of these treatments lack the financial backing needed to provide the randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies that are the gold standard used by the scientific community to demonstrate efficacy, their efficacy has not been demonstrated. Nonetheless, the treatments they recommend are those that Brown and Gerbarg have used successfully with their patients over the years and which they deem supported by credible scientific evidence.

Non-Drug Treatments for ADHD serves as a layman's introduction to treatment of ADHD using complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). Given that most medical schools do not provide training in CAMs, and research shows that nearly 65% of people with ADHD have sought "non-conventional" treatment,  it also serves to instruct "consumer activists"(i.e., the reader) on how to advocate for use of the treatments it describes.

The level of scientific detail regarding current thinking about the myriad causes of ADHD is appropriately sophisticated for the general educated reader. It is neither too overwhelming, nor is it so simple as to be unhelpfully reductionist. Research published on-line in the prestigious American Journal of Psychiatry a week or so prior to my writing this review demonstrated that free fatty acid supplementation produced significant, albeit small, reductions in ADHD symptoms, while artificial food color exclusion produced larger effects, particularly for those individuals with food sensitivities. Brown and Gerbarg's book do a good job explaining why this is the case. (Interestingly, behavioral interventions, a mainstay of many a psychologist's recommendations for helping children with ADHD, along with neurofeedback, cognitive training, and elimination diets were not deemed to have adequate support from existent published research to be shown to be useful.)

Brown and Gerbarg are at their most informed, convincing and useful when they write about the use of herbs and nutrients. Their take on the use of mind-body practices, such as yoga, for instance, skirts towards the superficial. Nonetheless, given the general dearth of voices from integrative psychiatrists, this is an immensely useful, helpful book. As a psychologist with an assessment-based practice, I read it with enthusiasm and hopefulness. When I see clients who are newly assessed with attention difficulties, and hesitant to try medications, or who have tried it and found that they do not work, or cannot be tolerated, it is useful to be able to steer them towards this book.


© 2013 Kyra Grosman


Kyra Grosman, Psy.D., has a private therapy and assessment practice in Manhattan specializing in the assessment of ADHD and learning disorders. She can be reached at [email protected] or by calling (646) 418-6095.

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