When their child is diagnosed with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), many parents struggle with the decision of whether to pursue medication as a means of managing symptoms of inattention and/or hyperactivity. This is an important and difficult decision- one that should not be taken lightly. Below is a list of helpful things to consider:
- There are three basic options for the treatment or management of symptoms associated with ADHD:
– Preparation and modification of the environment – a behavioral approach
– Medication – a medical approach
– A combination of environmental modifications and medication
- Research tells us that academic, social, behavioral, and mental health outcomes (including anxiety, depression, and substance abuse) are best for children with ADHD who receive a combined approach to treatment (i.e., both medical and behavioral). In cases where one approach or the other is utilized, outcomes are best for children who receive a medical approach.
- The use of any and all medications is a family decision to be made in conjunction with a qualified and knowledgeable medical professional. Parents should not be pressured into using medications by their school, service providers, family, or friends.
- Parents are encouraged to make an active decision about the use of medication. In other words, rather than making a passive decision based on a “gut feeling” about putting a child on medication, families are encouraged to actively investigate the benefits and consequences associated with the use of medication and make an informed and thoughtful decision.
- The decision to move forward with a trial of medication is not permanent. Most ADHD medications are out of a child’s system in 12 hours. If medication is tried and the side effects are too significant or detrimental to a child’s functioning, then a parent can easily decide through consultation with the prescribing physician to terminate its use.
- Sometimes the benefits of medication are immediately evident in a child’s ability to stay with a task and exercise control over his/her behavior. However, medication does not change bad habits (or lack of good habits). These things improve more slowly with time, training, and opportunities for learning.
- The decision to use medication for the treatment of ADHD is a “quality of life” decision. Medication is not necessary to sustain your child’s life or rid them of an illness. Instead, the decision is made to improve day to day and long-term outcomes. There are side-effects associated with the use of many ADHD medications. Both the benefits and the side-effects must be considered in determining whether the medication does, in fact, improve the overall quality of life.