Complementary, Holistic, and Integrative Medicine: Depression, Sleep Disorders, and Substance Abuse

A. Sawni, C. C. Breuner
  • Pediatrics in Review, August 2012, American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)
  • DOI: 10.1542/pir.33-9-422

What is it about?

The use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) has increased dramatically in the pediatric population in the United States. (1) Concerns regarding adverse effects, cultural and personal reluctance, and unknown consequences of long-term use of pharmacologic treatments for depression, sleep disorders, and substance abuse, make many parents and adolescents uncomfortable; thus, they seek treatments that are “more natural” and “safer.” Medication as the first line of treatment generally is not recommended to treat mild depression. Sleep disorders in children often are related to the child’s environment (chaotic home life, anxiety, poor sleep hygiene, etc). Promoting a healthy mind, body, and spirit in children is important in developing emotional stability. Achieving this goal involves good nutrition, exercise, a healthy environment, proper sleep hygiene, and supportive family, friends, and community. Integration of CAM therapies such as mind-body therapies (meditation, yoga, self-hypnosis, relaxation), herbs and supplements, and massage may be helpful as well.

Why is it important?

Depression affects a large number of children and adolescents. Prevalence rates for depression range from 1% to 2% of prepubertal children to 3% to 8% of adolescents. Despite scientific evidence supporting the effectiveness of psychopharmacologic intervention, the use of antidepressants has received negative publicity and is not easily accepted by many parents. Medication as the first line of treatment generally is not used to treat mild depression; thus, some CAM therapies may provide effective alternatives for treatment of mild depression. Children, adolescents, and young adults are using CAM to treat depression.

The following have contributed to this page: Dr Anju Sawni