Updated 18 July 2017

SA has one of the highest prescription rates for ADHD medication

Should more focus should be placed on investigating the behaviour of ADHD children and attempting to correct symptoms through lifestyle and dietary changes?

South Africa has one of the highest rates of prescribing medication for ADHD – it’s even higher than in the USA! It seems that we haven’t caught up with international trends which are moving away from medication being the first and often the only route taken when ADHD is diagnosed

Around the world there is far greater emphasis on investigating the symptoms of ADHD and finding out why the child behaves as he/she does; and then finding solutions which may, but do not necessarily, include medication.  This is part of an eco-systemic approach which ADHASA has advocated for two decades.  It also involves examining the impact of the child/adult with ADHD on the environment; as well as the effect of the environment on them, and making adjustments to ensure a better fit.   

These adjustments may also include healthy eating, supplements, exercise, counselling and other therapies (including medication for severe cases) which can help a child cope far better with the challenges of ADHD.  They can strongly reduce symptoms of ADHD and sometimes eliminate them completely.  

Healthy eating and supplementation help to raise levels of nutrition and have the child functioning on higher levels all round. In addition ADHASA sees many children improving when put on a diet of eating real food, and avoiding artificial colourants, artificial flavourants & certain antioxidant preservatives.  An unsupportive lifestyle with junk food, high stress levels etc can make symptoms of ADHD very much worse. 

ADHASA has a list of brand-name food products, which are free of the unsuitable additives, available to subscribing members.  

ADHASA has seen thousands of children’s lives turned around simply by changing what they eat.  Impossible children have settled down; socially isolated children have made friends; homework upheaval has calmed down; concentration has improved; and these are just some of the many improvements that we see.

Each child is different.

“It is so rewarding when we bump into early ADHASA members – they often remind us of their desperation and their children’s struggles when we first met, and then they tell us of their children’s success: some are national sports champions; others have graduated ‘cum laude’ as professionals; and there are the top businessmen, and so much more.  All children should have the opportunity to eat real and nutritious food” noted Heather Picton, CEO of Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Support Group of Southern Africa (ADHASA).

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More ADHD kids given medication than therapy


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Dr Renata Schoeman has been in full-time private practice as a general psychiatrist (child, adolescent and adult psychiatry) since 2008, currently based in Oude Westhof (Bellville). Renata also holds appointments as senior lecturer in Leadership (USB) and as a virtual faculty member of USB Executive Development’s Neuroleadership programme. She serves on the advisory boards of various pharmaceutical companies, as a director of the Psychiatric Management Group (PsychMG) and is the co-convenor of the South African Society of Psychiatrist (SASOP) special interest group for adult ADHD, and co-founder of the Goldilocks and The Bear Foundation ( She is passionate about corporate mental health awareness and uses her neuroscience background to assist leaders in equipping them to become balanced, healthy and dynamic leaders that take their own and their team’s emotional, intellectual, social health and physical needs into account. Renata is academically active and enjoys research and collaborative work, has published in many peer-reviewed journals, and has presented at local and international congresses. She is regularly invited to present at conferences and to engage with the media. During her post-graduate studies, she trained at Harvard, Boston in neurocognition and neuroimaging. Her awards include, amongst others, the Young Minds in Psychiatry award from the American Psychiatric Association, the Discovery Foundation Fellowship award, a Thuthuka award from the NRF, and a MRC Fellowship. She also received the Top MBA student award and the Director’s award from USB for 2015. She was a finalist for the Businesswomen’s Association of South Africa’s Businesswoman of the Year Award for 2016, and received the Excellence in Media Work award from SASOP during 2016.

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