ADHD: Medicate or Meditate?

by Jeanne Ball

TM: An effective alternative to medication?
Parents and educators are searching for alternatives to the use of drugs for treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). The mind-body practice widely known as the Transcendental Meditation technique is becoming more recognized an effective adjunct or alternative to ADHD medication.

Peer-reviewed scientific research studies show that the Transcendental Meditation technique improves focus, attentiveness, memory and decreases hyperactivity, anxiety and depression. It is easy to practice and results come immediately.

There is growing concern about negative side effects and long-term health outcomes associated with ADHD medications. Groundbreaking research is showing the effectiveness of the Transcendental Meditation technique as a non-drug approach to treating ADHD.

ADHD, the brain, and medication

Neuroscientists and researchers tell us that an imbalance in brain functioning can cause ADHD symptoms. The brain is made up of millions of cells that continually talk to each other, sending signals across the gaps between brain cells. The messenger molecules that carry these signals are called neurotransmitters. The neurotransmitters dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin regulate thinking, hyperactivity, impulsivity, inattentiveness, memory, emotions, and depression.

The active ingredients in the most commonly used ADHD medications are amphetamines. As powerful stimulants, these amphetamines artificially increase the amount of certain neurotransmitters in the brain, speeding up brain activity. This is of great concern to medical researchers, doctors and parents. According to researchers, when the drugs flood the brain with these artificially produced neurotransmitters, the brain's ability to produce these neurotransmitters by itself is diminished. This can potentially cause the brain to suppress the natural growth and development of the brain cells that create the neural networks. The young brain isn’t given the chance to develop on its own and mature in its own functioning.[1]

How meditation works

Unlike drugs, the Transcendental Meditation technique doesn’t just treat the symptoms, it influences the cause of the disorder. This means that the technique doesn’t create just a temporary effect, but can improve the condition permanently by reducing stress and creating more efficient and orderly brain functioning.

Scientific research studies published in such prestigious journals as the International Journal of Neuroscience[2], Psychophysiology and others [3] have shown that the TM technique creates widespread "EEG coherence " throughout all areas of the brain. Everything good about the brain depends on its efficient, orderly functioning. Scientists have found that this improved brain functioning through daily TM practice improves IQ, creativity, comprehension, memory and academic performance. People practicing the TM technique commonly report immediate relief from anxiety and hyperactivity, and greater ability to concentrate and focus in their daily life.

Under supervision of their doctors, patients with ADHD who learn the TM technique are often able to reduce or eliminate their medications within 3-6 months.

How the TM technique is different

The TM technique is unique—distinguished by its effortlessness, naturalness, and profound effectiveness. The technique is practiced for 15-20 minutes twice a day, while sitting comfortably with eyes closed. It doesn't take years to master and can be easily learned by anyone, even children, in just a few days. The technique is non-religious and requires no change in lifestyle or belief—one doesn't even have to believe in it for it to work. Because the practice is effortless, you don't have to be able to concentrate or even sit still.

The TM technique allows awareness to naturally settle inward, transcending the busy activity of the mind, to a state of restful alertness. During the practice, the body gains deep relaxation—much deeper than ordinary relaxation.

Over 350 peer-reviewed scientific research studies have shown the TM technique to be the most effective mind-body practice for decreasing anxiety and depression and promoting self-actualization.

Many people with ADHD and other learning disorders have tried counseling and other forms of meditation, without desired results. With regular practice of TM, many are able to end their dependence on medications while thriving in school or work for the first time in their lives.

To view ABC, BBC and PBS video news clips on the use of the TM technique for treating students with ADHD, click here.



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3. Travis F. Eyes open and TM EEG patterns after one and after eight years of TM practice. Psychophysiology 28 (3a): S58, 1991.
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10. Candelent T., et al. Teaching Transcendental Meditation in a psychiatric setting. Hospital & Community Psychiatry 26: 156-159, 1975.
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12. Eppley K.R. et al. Differential effects of relaxation techniques on trait anxiety: A meta-analysis. Journal of Clinical Psychology 45: 957-974, 1989.


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