22 Mar Prescription Meds vs. Natural Remedies for Special Needs
Traditional medicine has a time and place but when we noticed our son’s behavioral issues progressively getting worse and worse with prescription drugs, we knew there had to be a better way.
So we turned to more natural remedies.
And it’s a good thing we did.
Where it started
Kevin was as ‘normal’ a child growing up as you can imagine. He was happy and well grounded. He had friends. Kevin enjoyed school and his grades reflected it. He was disciplined in his schoolwork and would do his assigned homework immediately when he got home. Then he would engage in things most kids his age would do at the time, whether see his friends down the block, or head to practice for some of the sports he enjoyed and participated in. Baseball, basketball and floor hockey were among some of the youth sports programs he enjoyed.
Soon after Kevin’s accident at the age of 15, we had suspected he suffered injuries to his brain that weren’t immediately identified, at least in some of the initial scans. It was a horrific accident, one that was extremely jarring to his head and neck.
Kevin’s memory and mental capacity diminished. Gradually at first, it seemed. His speech became more garbled and incoherent. And then suddenly, his schoolwork began to suffer. No longer was he that eager and self-disciplined child that was so conscious of getting his work done on time. His grades and performance in the classroom quickly started to decline. His social life became less active, and he seemed disinterested. Meetings with his teachers pretty much confirmed what we were now witnessing.
We knew something was wrong
Despite some scans and analysis, his doctors were a bit unsure which direction we should go regarding treatment and therapy. There certainly would be speech therapy to begin the process of relearning and rebuilding his cognitive functions and mental capacity.
Kevin was eventually relegated to special education classrooms and curriculum his remaining two years of high school. That is a subject for a future blog and how we learned the hard way about how to best advocate for your child.
As those weeks, then months followed, Kevin’s behavior became even more concerning and a bit erratic. There were periods of high anxiety, along with an occasional outburst. Some of the doctors we were seeing at the time seemed to be more focused on the symptoms (anxiety, etc.) rather than the root cause (his brain injury).
And then suddenly it seemed we were now redirected toward a path of ‘trial and error’; a path in search of prescription drugs to treat the behavior.
From that point on, life for us seems like a bit of a blur and in many ways, a horrible nightmare. At the advice of well-trained and seemingly well-intended doctors, we tried numerous things for Kevin over the course of time. Everything from various anti-anxiety to anti-seizure (at one point they were looking at whether the brain injury was inducing undetected seizures) medications and even anti-psychotic medications.
The results of most medications we tried often made him even worse.
Depending on the med, there were ones that seemed to cause him to want to take all his clothes off; others that made him want to flee the house or walk away from us in a crowd; and yet other meds that made him even more agitated and aggressive than usual. Some of these medications are highly addictive and discontinued use requires a care and thoughtful withdrawal plan. Usage of many of these resulted in weight gain, constipation, and bouts of insomnia and sleeplessness.
Generally speaking, none of these seemed to help Kevin; it often only made things worse.
Eventually, we found doctors that were more focused on the brain and less focused on prescribing medications.
We came to fully realize what we pretty much felt all along; that use of medications for someone with a traumatic brain injury simply doesn’t always work. And use of them (if at all) should be on a very conservative dosage level and adjusted or abandoned altogether if behavior seems to worsen. My wife was more cautious and less willing than I to allow Kevin to try different medications in search of ‘the right one’. She was right; I was wrong. And I regret to this day some of the meds I insisted we continue with Kevin.
Please know, I am not blaming any of our doctors for decisions we’ve made regarding Kevin’s ongoing medical care and methods of treatment. Nor am I suggesting that patients and caregivers totally avoid prescription drugs for treatment. I’m only suggesting that you as the caregiver of your special needs loved one is the ultimate decision maker regarding treatment. It is critical to gather as much information as possible, while at the same time being willing to change course based on your own observations and gut instincts.
As Kevin’s primary caregivers, we accept that we are the ones fully responsible and accountable for medical care choices made regarding his ongoing care. Doctors can only treat what they see. I get it. You see a particular symptom and you prescribe accordingly. But the human brain is a very complex organ, and one treatment ‘playbook’ does not fit all.
Use of more natural alternatives to prescription drugs proving to be beneficial
Over the course of time, we’ve found that more natural and herbal type remedies seem to help Kevin and we certainly feel they are much safer than prescription drugs. Things like lavender oil, chamomile, and mint fragrances seem to help calm him at times, if only for a short, temporary while. For his restless nights, Melatonin often seems to help relax him and eventually lull him into a comfortable sleep.
As a parent or caregiver, trying to manage your loved one’s behavioral issues can become quite stressful, especially when out in full public view. Just a simple visit to the doctor or a quick run into the local store for groceries can sometimes result in unfortunate drama. You want to be prepared for the worst and have something in your ‘arsenal’ that will help calm him or her, ideally even before a situation breaks out. While in our experience most people have been incredibly compassionate and understanding when Kevin erupts sometimes in public, nobody really likes a “scene.”
Check this article out if anxiety is one of your special needs individual’s challenges. We found it to be interesting. While Xanax is a prescription drug that we’ve tried in the past, and still use on very rare occasion, it is one of those drugs we want to avoid. There are negative effects. It is highly addictive. And most doctors agree it should not be taken more than 3-6 weeks when prescribed.
We’ve tried some of these remedies for Kevin with some success. We will continue to try more of them and let you know the results.
In the past couple years, we’ve also tried CBD (cannabidiol), with varying degrees of benefit for Kevin. At some point, we hope to dedicate an entire blog to this topic. While CBD and other cannabis products continue to gain popularity as an accepted alternative form of treatment, we realize there are still some concerns regarding its use and the overall public perception.