I know, I know. The issue of whether or not to use medication as a primary treatment for children with ADHD is a controversial and emotional one. Many parents of ADHD kids are adamantly opposed to the idea of drugs and refuse to even consider it as an option Sadly, there are those that are contemptuous, judgmental, and at times, downright hostile to those parents that do choose to treat their i hate math child’s ADHD symptoms with medication. But despite public anxiety over the treatment of a behavioral condition with drugs, doctors have continued to prescribe stimulant medications…and parents have continued to use them to help their children… because – quite simply – they work better than anything else. The disadvantages are possible side effects (which could be “jitteriness”, loss of appetite, tummy aches, or headaches)…and the temporary nature of medication. If you stop using it you forfeit the benefit or gains.
Commonly Prescribed ADHD Medication and How it Works.
The most preferred ADHD drugs are stimulants. The most common of these are Adderall, Ritalin, Daytrana, Dexedrine, and Concerta. Long acting stimulants like Concerta are taken once a day, and employ a time release delivery throughout an 8 to 12 hour period. Some practical advantages are that it maintains smooth and consistent levels of medication all day…eliminates the need to take a pill at school…and is usually still in effect while homework is being done. Interestingly, stimulants are used to treat both Hyperactive and Inattentive ADHD.
Stimulants are used in small amounts and in the brain they increase the levels of dopamine and norepinephrine. In particular, additional norepinephrine may help to increase attention, while dopamine may promote calm. It’s also been discovered that these drugs tend to work most in the prefrontal cortex of the brain, which is an area of the brain thought connected to attention and to things like impulsivity. Important research suggests that knowing the area of the brain in which ADHD drugs work might be used to customize drugs that treat ADHD better. Be prepared that sometimes, it may take some trial and error to find the medication and dose that works best for your child.
There are other medications that are not stimulants that can be used as ADHD drugs. The most common of these is atomoxetene, sold under thebrand name Strattera. Atomoxetene was originally created to work as an antidepressant, and this information helps to explain how it works. Instead of creating more norepinephrine, it blocks absorption or reuptake of norepinephrine. This leaves more available in the brain to help improve attention and focus. However, it also has been associated with psychotic and highly suicidal reactions in a number of children and organizations like the Food and Drug Administration require a black box warning on it. This doesn’t mean that ADHD drugs like atomoxetene aren’t useful, but you do have to be extremely careful when weighing the risks of using this drug. There are some other options that have been prescribed for ADHD, such as the anti-depressant Wellbutrin. But stimulants are usually the first line of defense and the most frequently chosen ADHD medication.
Why I Decided to Try Medication for my Son’s ADHD.
At first, I, like a lot of parents, was highly resistant to our pediatrician’s suggestion that we try treating my son’s Inattentive ADHD with meds. I just really didn’t like the idea of putting my son on drugs every day. I felt surely, there must be a better way to beat this. I researched and tried, every other feasible option, but saw no significant change. Despite our best efforts, we just couldn’t seem to get a handle on this thing, while my son continued to struggle and slide downhill. Then two events forced me to reconsider.
For the first time, when they called Gabriel’s name at his school’s honor assembly, he received not one academic award, and was the only one in his class to leave the stage empty handed. He was humiliated and devastated. Then he had to go back to his classroom where all the other kids were celebrating, comparing awards, and unkindly teasing him (when the teacher wasn’t looking) which, of course, made him feel even worse. Trying not to cry, and with his head hung low, this 3rd grader, my baby, looked beaten. It was as though all the air had been sucked out of him. I tried to cheer him up, but when I got outside the school I burst into tears and cried for a long time.
I made up mind then and there that drastic action was called for. In addition, I felt increasing pressure to find a solution because Gabriel’s statewide CRCT exam was fast approaching and if he didn’t pass he would be held back. This I had to prevent, come hell or high water, as I knew it would absolutely wipe out what little confidence and self esteem he had left. I had to try something different and I had to do it fast. So, reluctantly, I called his doctor and revisited the idea of treating Gabriel’s Inattentive ADHD with medication. I asked myself, how could I continue to refuse to even try something that could dramatically improve Gabriel’s life? If it didn’t work… or if it proved harmful…I was in control and would stop it immediately. But what if it worked? When looked at that way I was willing to take a chance.