“Boys Adrift”—Medications for ADHD and Environmental Toxins

Dr Sax now talks about The Third Factor.

“ADHD and ADD are used interchangeably in “Chapter 4 “The Third Factor”.”

“Timmy is 5 and won’t sit still in kindergarten. After considerable pressure from the school counselor and kindergarten teacher, the mother, Carol,  takes Timmy to a busy pediatrician. The doctor gives Timmy’s mother 3 options:

  • Do nothing
  • Hold him back a year
  • Medicate

Dr. Sax gives great examples of what parents did who did medicate and the repercussions from the medication. In this example, Timmy was given a low dose of Concerta. Initially it helped him stay in his seat and  focus. The doctor that prescribed it also said to take it over holidays and school vacations, but Timmy’s mother, Carol, decided not to have him take it over the Christmas holidays. The first two days that he was off the drug, the old impulsivity and energy were back but with anger or edge Carol hadn’t seen before. When she said he had to come in, he didn’t. When she went outside to get him he threw a plastic hockey stick at her.

Carol agonized over her  decision to keep him medicated but kept him on the drug every day for the next two years. Then she read that stimulants like Concerta can limit a child’s growth if the child is on it starting at age 5 like Timmy was— by up to 4 inches. Carol and her husband were short, and so when school let out she took Timmy off the drug. That summer she was prepared for him to be impulsive again, once off the medication, but she saw something she had never seen before—he was lazy. He wasn’t that he didn’t want to do his chores, he didn’t want to do much of anything.

Dr. Sax said, “Many boys do look and feel more or less OK while they’re taking these medications. What these parents don’t know—and what the doctor also may not know—is that even relatively short-term use of these drugs can lead to changes in personality. As a result of taking these medications, the boy who used to be agreeable, outgoing and adventurous may become lazy and disengaged.”

“Professor Williams Carezon and his colleagues at Harvard Medical School were among the first to report that when they gave stimulant medications—such as those used to treat children who had been diagnosed with ADHD—to juvenile laboratory animals, the result was that those animals displayed a loss of drive when they grew up. These animals look normal but they are lazy. They don’t want to work hard for anything, not even to escape a bad situation.”

“The nucleus accumbens is the brain’s motivational center. More precisely, the nucleus accumbens is the part of the brain that is responsible for translating motivation into action. If a boy’s nucleus accumbens is damaged, he may still feel hungry—he just won’t feel motivated to do much about it. If you damage the nucleus accumbus, the result is likely to be less motivation, less engagement, less drive to achieve in the real world. That may be the end result of longterm use of medications such as Adderall, Vyvanse, Ritalin, Concerta, Metadate, Focalin or Daytrana.”

Dr. Sax continues, “I generally recommend that parents choose a safer alternative. If a parent is convinced that a child needs a medication for ADHD, then I often suggest a nonstimulant such as Wellbutrin, Intuniv, or Strattera. All medications have risks but the non-stimulant medications do not pose a risk of damage to the nucleus accumbens. They don’t mimic the action of dopamine.”

Dr. Saks continues with a hopeful story of a medicated child that was taken off of medication because his parents didn’t like the changes in his personality. His parents found the right school for him  and this child grew into an energetic, confident young man. My takeaway from this chapter is to be very careful about any medication, especially long-term medication that you give your child.

The Fourth factor that Dr. Sax attributes to the lack of motivation and drive  are endocrine disrupters. What are those? Substances that mimic the action of hormones, especially female hormones. These can be found in the water, in packaging, or any environmental toxins.

“Back in 2006, scientist studying fish in the Potomac River reported an unsettling discovery. The scientist collected fish from all seven tributaries of the Potomac, extending 200 miles up the Shenandoah River into Virginia and more than 100 miles up the Monocacy River and Conococheague Creek in Maryland. At every one of these 7 sites, the scientists found that at least 80 percent of the male smallmouth bass they examined were at least 80 percent feminized:the sex organs in the male fish were making eggs instead of sperm.”

  • “The Washington Post also reported—in a seemingly unrelated story–that more and more young men attending colleges and universities are struggling with impotence, and even losing interest in sex.”
  • “Doctors in San Juan, Puerto Rico, began noticing something strange as early as 1980. Girls as young as 7 and 8 were going through puberty.”
  • “Scientists with the fish and wildlife service have found emasculated  male alligators in the wildlife preserves around Florida’s Lake Apopka. The alligators had shriveled testicles and high female hormones. The scientists had linked the emasculation of this male alligators to manmade environmental toxins.”


Dr. Sax goes on to warn about plastics bottles that are left in the hot sun leach into the beverage. He says any  plastic needs to be avoided. It’s accelerating girls puberty and slowing down boys puberty. He says use glass baby bottles and metal water bottles. Don’t even use plastic liners inside of baby bottles.

Exposure to environmental estrogens for boys can lead to:

  • Obesity
  • ADHD
  • delayed puberty

But only in boys…

Dr. Sax continues, “Researchers found that more than 1 in 6 boys who were late to begin puberty also were diagnosed with ADHD, compared with fewer than 1 in 35 girls in the same study. We are seeing a substantial increase in the number of boys who are overweight, inattentive, and late to begin puberty.

3 more areas of concern:

  • Boys’ bones are becoming more brittle.
  • Neither Male or female :”Scientists are finding that exposure to environmental estrogens early in life, particularly in utero ad early infancy, blunts or eliminates sex differences in behavior. Females become less feminine, males become less masculine.”
  • “Private Parts: Your son maybe less than half the man your father was.” American boys today are more than twice as likely to be born with genital abnormalities such as a undescended testicle or the opening of the penis on the bottom of the penile shaft instead the tip of the penis compared with American boys 40 to 50 years ago.Young men today have significantly lower testosterone levels than their grandfathers had.”

Dr Sax’s suggestions at the end of this chapter are

  • Don’t give your baby a pacifiers or vinyl soft toys made with palates—look for “PVC-free” and “Phthalate-free”.
  • Don’t microwave food for your children in any plastic containers or any plastic packaging. Many food comes in “boil in a bag” packaging. Take the food out of the plastic bag and put in a glass or ceramic bowl instead.
  • When heating or reheating food in the microwave don’t allow plastic cover to contact the food. Use a cermanic or glass dish instead.
  • Avoid plastic bottles for your own beverages and children’s beverages– use glass instead.
  • Don’t use plastic baby bottles. Use glass instead.
  • Don’t allow your dentist to put sealenats on your children’s teeth unless the dentist can assure you the sealants are phthalate-free.

If you can only read one chapter in this book, read Chapter 5. It has so much more to tell you than my small summary. There is so much we can do about limiting the plastics that are children are exposed to. I was talking about this chapter to a group of friends right after I wrote it. They were understandably discouraged. One friend said, “We tried to do non-gmo for awhile and it wore me out. I was spending hours in the kitchen.” Another friend said, “Everything is bad for us. What is the use?” It is discouraging. And we don’t know everything that is affecting our food and water and in this case any beverage in a plastic bottle. Let’s get educated and do our best. That’s all we can do.




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s