It's bad enough when Big Pharma tries pushing dangerous and unnecessary drugs on adults.

It's far, far worse when they do it to our children.

Many of us in medicine have long believed Ritalin to be dangerous and addictive, and the latest research published in the online issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that it may have the same effect on kids as cocaine on a drug addict.

The Rockefeller University study found that both drugs have similar chemical structures and similar pharmacological effects. They both stimulate the reward center in the brain.

One of them we're trying to get off our streets. The other is being handed out to our children. I can't think of anything more tragic, especially when there are real answers out there that don't involve hazardous and addictive drugs.

Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, is one of the most poorly misunderstood diagnoses in medicine, by both parents and physicians alike. And if there's a drug as over-prescribed and as easily abused as Ritalin, I can't think of it.

The prescriptions have created a whole new playground black market, where kids have been known to buy, sell and trade their Ritalin. That alone should tell you everything you need to know about this drug.

But let's look at its possible side effects: hallucinations, restlessness, high blood pressure, uneven heartbeats, hives, rash, fever, nausea, vomiting, sleeplessness, dizziness, numbness, and more.

Yet despite all that, kids want it badly enough that they'll pay for it, fight for it, or get it in whatever way they can. Many of these kids don't even have ADHD – they just want the drug.

More than a decade ago, the Drug Enforcement Agency warned that Ritalin was addictive and was being widely misused, especially by those kids who didn't really need it in the first place, but were prescribed it anyway.

The shame of it all is how easily all of this can be avoided, because there are few things as heartbreaking as a child dealing with the side effects of Ritalin, or watching your kid become someone else once he starts taking this drug.

ADHD symptoms are often caused by allergies, thyroid hormone resistance, and nutritional deficiencies. In some cases they may be triggered by the lack of a key digestive enzyme, which then allows toxins to enter the bloodstream. All of these can be corrected through nutritional therapy instead of Ritalin.

So before you turn to a dangerous drug, have your child tested for these deficiencies. Once you know what's missing, add the right supplements to his routine and watch him get better – not worse.