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 repentous, judgmental, and at times, downright hostile to those parents that do choose to treat their 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 for you 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 through an 8 to 12 hour period. Some practical advantages are that it contains 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 does not mean that ADHD drugs like atomoxetene are not 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 did not like the idea of putting my son on drugs every day. I felt sure, there must be a better way to beat this. I searched and tried, every other feasible option, but saw no significant change. After our best efforts, we just could not 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 he 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 was not 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 sacrificed 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 did not 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 did not 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.
Did Medication Help or Hurt my Son?
After much clarification, research and soul searching we decided to start Gabriel on the lowest possible dose (27 mg) of the long action stimulant drug, Concerta. He took it just once a day, in the morning, but only on school days, not on weekends or vacation. He experienced no side effects. Within two weeks I began to see noticeable improvement. It was working. A small dose of medication has made all the difference in the world.
Now, he completed most of his homework in his afterschool program before I picked him up. Whatever he had left to finish at home he did independently and in half the time. When asked a question, he no longerave me a blank stare or a yawn in response. When I checked his homework and pointed out a mistake, he maintained a positive attitude, and fixed it quickly, by himself. If he needed help with something, he could forgive and remember what had been explained to him and he could apply it correctly. He remembered his multiplication tables. Even his handwriting improved.
He did extra practice at home for his CRCT. He was not thrilled, but he made an honest effort. He still did not like to read for pleasure, but would read what was required for homework with much better comprehension. He passed his CRCT. He was promoted to 4th grade. In 4th grade he made honor roll both semesters, although in some classes (especially mathematics) his grades could vary wildly from a 60 to a 100 on class work and tests. Amazingly, this time he did not just barely pass his CRCT-he did well !! And now, in the first months of 5th grade, he is Citizen of the Month, pays attention and participates in class, is alert consistent good grades, and received three As and a B on his first Progress Report Card.
I Offer my Experience as Evidence of what is Possible for Your Child.
I tell you this not to be smug, brag or boast, although I am proud of what my son has achieved. I share this because I want you to know there is hope and there is help available for your child. No parent takes the decision to medicate their child lightly. But knowing what has actually worked, or not worked, for someone in your same situation cuts the learning curve, reduces the fear factor, and gives you ideas that you can build on. Meds may not be the way to go for everyone. I just know that, despite my fears, and my husband's reservations, they helped turn it around for my son, with hardly any downside.
Does he love school now? Not really. Does he enjoy homework? No. Does it all come easy? No. But success breeds more success and boosts confidence. He now believes he is as smart as the next guy and can do it if he tries. I realize everyone's experience is different, but I am confident now that this was the right decision for my son and might possibly be the answer for your child too. There is no doubt in my mind that Concerta … along with a few simple classroom accommodations … and a lot of hard work and support at home … is what helped my son bounce back from Inattentive ADHD, and was the key To finally unlocking his true potential.
I hope this article has been helpful and informative. And that something you have read here will inspire you to further investigate an option that you may not have previously known about, or considered, for your child. For more information try ADHD parent forums, or CHADD, Children and Adults with Attention Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder. Good Luck and God Bless.