When is ADHD Medication a Good Idea?

Posted by:

Uncapped amber medication bottle and tablets

It is an unfortunate truth that people in our society are overmedicated. Some doctors rush to prescribe medication before researching alternative treatments, and some people think treating their symptoms with a pill is the easiest way to solve their issues. Medication is a wonderful thing, when it’s administered properly. The key is to know when it is a good idea and when it’s not the best course of action.

This is especially true for ADHD, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, which is a controversial diagnosis itself. There are still people who believe ADHD isn’t real and that all children on ADHD medication have lazy parents who just don’t want to deal with their bad behavior. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. Nearly every mainstream medical, psychological and educational organization in the United States long ago concluded that ADHD is a real, brain-based disorder and that children and adults with ADHD benefit substantially from appropriate treatment. Any parents who suspect their child has ADHD should consult their pediatrician and a Newport Beach psychiatrist.

That being said, there has been some doubt over appropriate medication levels and the medications themselves, especially Ritalin, or methylphenidate. This calls into question the practice of treating ADHD with medication and whether or not it’s really necessary.

Some people can manage their ADHD without medication. In fact, if a child is diagnosed before the age of 6, most professionals attempt to treat it only with behavior therapy. Adults can sometimes educate themselves on the disorder enough to learn how to best manage it for themselves. But everyone is different, and in some cases, the best way to treat ADHD involves medication.

But how do you know when medication is the best course of action? That will be up to you and your child’s medical team. The largest long-term study of the treatment of ADHD, the MTA study, showed lasting benefits of medication―and when compared to behavioral therapy alone, medication was the clear winner. So if behavioral modification fails to work, it may be time to give medication a try. The dosage can always be adjusted as needed.

Even if you do decide to medicate your child, the ADHD treatment should always be multi-faceted. Behavioral interventions by parents and teachers have been shown to be very effective. One method a teacher can use involves contingency management. With this strategy, students receive daily report cards that outline how well they have met their goals such as not interrupting others or remembering their homework. When they meet those goals, they receive an award.

There are also therapeutic recreational programs, where children with ADHD interact with each other at summer camps or similar situations. These programs offer traditional camp activities and sports in addition to behavior interventions by trained staff. This helps children with ADHD to develop social skills and be continuously coached until the behaviors are learned.

Healthy living may also help people of all ages with ADHD maintain their focus. Exercise is very powerful, and research suggests that even small amounts of physical activity every day can help children with ADHD ignore distractions and stay focused on tasks. Physical exercise is not currently used as a form of treatment, but it is always recommended. This is one of the reasons why it’s important for young children who are in school to have recess and P.E. classes.

Sleep is also important Cutting back on sleep can make children easily irritated and distracted. To a child with ADHD, not getting enough sleep can be devastating and cause behavioral issues. Setting an early bedtime and keeping TVs and tablets out of their rooms will help them form good resting habits.

There have not been many studies done on how dietary habits affect ADHD, but it seems that there are some foods that can worsen the symptoms and have an impact on behavior. Candy, soda and cake mixes can all affect ADHD, and even frozen fruits and vegetables can contain artificial colors that can worsen hyperactivity. While it’s impractical to forbid these foods entirely, make sure your child understands how much they can affect behavior and moods.

If natural and behavioral methods fail and you do decide to try medication for your child’s ADHD, don’t allow the stigma associated with it to keep you from getting help for your child. If one of your children had diabetes, no one would look down on you for medicating. ADHD is a real disorder, and sometimes behavioral therapy is not enough to help the child.

Medication is not a cure for ADHD. When it is used properly, medication is a tool that allows many people with ADHD to benefit from other educational, behavior and psychological treatments and have a higher quality of life. For children who have been appropriately diagnosed, it can mean the difference between success and failure at school and in their social lives.