Q. My teenage daughter has attention deficit disorder (ADD). Her doctor has prescribed Concerta, Straterra and Adderall at different times. Each of these drugs makes her anxious, argumentative, irritable and very emotional. When she is off the medicine she returns to her regular self.
She does report an improvement in her ability to pay attention in class when she is medicated. But the side effects are not worth the benefit. Is there anything else she could take that would not affect her personality? She is going to get her driver’s permit soon and I worry about her getting distracted when she is driving.
A. The side effects you describe are consistent with stimulant-type medications like the amphetamines found in Adderall.
Dr. Edward Hallowell covers many approaches to ADD in his new book, “Delivered From Distraction.” He suggests that sleep, diet, exercise and social support are crucial. Preliminary research shows that omega-3 fats from fish oil supplements, along with a diet low in refined sugar and starch, can help people with attention difficulties.
Q. You recently answered a reader complaining of side effects from statin cholesterol-lowering drugs. I too had similar problems, including severe muscle pain, to the point I could no longer take them. I was switched to Zetia, a cholesterol medicine that is NOT a statin. I have had no side effects of any kind after using this product several years. It’s less expensive and works just as well. Why haven’t you passed this information on to your readers?
A. Although statin-type drugs such as lovastatin (Mevacor), simvastatin (Zocor) and atorvastatin (Lipitor) are powerful tools for lowering cholesterol, they are not the only way to do it. Zetia (ezetimibe) lowers blood fats by preventing cholesterol absorption from the small intestine. We’re glad this drug has worked well for you without side effects. Some people experience muscle and joint pain, fatigue, sinusitis or diarrhea.
Q. I am sick and tired of reading about the evils of hormone replacement therapy. Doctors who refuse to prescribe HRT have obviously not experienced hot flashes. Denial of HRT is inhumane. Without hormones I can’t sleep or function well at work. There isn’t enough empathy for women suffering menopausal symptoms!
A. The HRT pendulum has swung from overly enthusiastic to overly negative. Some women suffer greatly and short -term treatment with hormones can relieve hot flashes.
Research has shown, however, that HRT increases the risk of heart attacks, strokes and breast cancer. New data also show it raises the chance of urinary incontinence.
Readers who would like more information about the pros and cons of hormones as well as some non-drug alternatives may want our Guide to Estrogen: Benefits, Risks and Interactions. Please send $2 in check or money order with a long (no. 10) stamped (60 cents), self-addressed envelope: Graedons’ People’s Pharmacy, No. W-49, P. O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027.
Q. One of your readers complained that his pill splitter did not cut evenly. I had the same problem until I found a great cutter from Apro. The top is magnified and it holds up beautifully.
A. Splitting pills can be a great way to save money. We found a magnifying pill splitter on the Web site www.ForgettingThePill.com. Always check with a pharmacist to make sure your tablets can be split safely.

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