7 questions to ask before using ADHD meds

ADHD medication Children with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are at a significantly greater risk for substance abuse problems than other children, according to recently reported research in the July, 2014 issue of Pediatrics. This raises many questions that parents should consider before placing their children on medication to treat a disorder that affects 8 percent to 11 percent of our youth.

  1. Why are kids with ADHD more likely to abuse drugs?
    Many youngsters with ADHD are impulsive and have poor judgment. They have problems with self-control and tend to be more reactive than mindful. These are some of the same characteristics of kids who abuse drugs. Some experts also speculate that children with ADHD may be “biologically more vulnerable” to addiction problems due to the possible similar brain chemistry of these disorders.
  2. Does taking medication for ADHD increase the likelihood that my child will abuse drugs?
    No. In fact, effective treatment for ADHD decreases the likelihood of substance abuse problems.
  3. Is medication the only treatment for ADHD?
    No. The two most effective treatments for this disorder are medication and behavior therapy. The latter typically involves both parental counseling and working with the child to learn organizational skills and self-control strategies. In many situations, therapy and medication occur simultaneously.
  4. Will my child outgrow ADHD during adolescence?
    ADHD is a chronic disorder.  However, as kids get older, they learn various strategies to deal with the symptoms and may no longer need medication.
  5. What are the risks of medication?
    Every drug has potential side effects, and these should be discussed with your child’s physician. In addition, the researchers in the Pediatrics article reported that “misuse and diversion of stimulant medications are more widespread problems than abuse or addiction.”  In one study, between 16% and 23% of youngsters were asked to give or sell their stimulant medication to others. Adolescents on psychoactive medication have to be carefully monitored to minimize the likelihood of medication misuse.
  6. At what age should children be treated for ADHD?
    The American Academy of Pediatrics clinical guidelines recommend that symptoms of ADHD generally be treated for children 6 years of age and older. There are instances when younger children should be treated, but be careful. The Centers for Disease Control reported that more than 10,000 toddlers are prescribed stimulants for ADHD. Don’t confuse normal childhood activity with symptoms of ADHD.
  7. What is the most important advice you give to parents?
    ADHD is often misunderstood and thus can be either overlooked or misdiagnosed. It’s critical that you work with a professional who has specialized training and experience. While many physicians and child psychologists are quite skilled in treating this disorder, some are not.  Ask lots of questions and don’t be reluctant to seek a second opinion.
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