5 Reasons Not to Use Medication to Treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is one of the most prevalent childhood mental health diagnoses. Between 50% and 80% of diagnosed children will continue to meet diagnostic criteria through adolescence and adulthood. Considering that 25-35% of children do not respond to stimulant medication and that ADHD is often a lifetime condition, viable treatment alternatives to medication should be considered.

Of children diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, 2.5 million (56%) take medication for symptom management. The prevalence of medication treatment is greatest among children aged 9-12. Methylphenidate (Ritalin) and amphetamine/ dextroamphetamine combinations are the most commonly prescribed stimulant medications for treatment of ADHD symptoms and are generally administered from one to three times daily. Stimulants work to reduce core symptoms of ADHD by inhibiting the neuronal dopamine transporter and norepinephrine.

While many families choose medication management to treat their child’s ADHD symptoms, here are 5 reasons to consider alternative treatments.

Research suggests that 25-35% do not respond to stimulant treatment. Children exhibiting inattentive symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder, which are associated with slower processing speeds and cortical slowing, typically do not respond to stimulant treatment.
As children enter adolescence, many refuse to take their medications multiple times per day because of the stigma associated with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
On the other hand, stimulants are often misused by teens both with and without ADHD.
Medications have side effects. In a national study of over 600 children, researchers reported growth suppression of 23% for height gain and 47% for weight gain for children receiving medication compared to those with no medication. No evidence was found for growth rebound once medications were stopped.
Studies demonstrate that medication improves behavior and not necessarily performance. A study of boys with ADHD found that medication improved attention during a baseball game, but not performance. In the academic setting, children with ADHD on medication have been shown to have normalized classroom behaviors but have failed to demonstrate improved scholastic function.
 

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