ADHD, Drugs, and If You Knew Then…

If you had it to do over again, would you still give ADHD drugs to your child? About half of parents (52 percent) felt strongly that they would, according to a July 2010 survey of the parents of almost a thousand kids by Consumer Reports Health. About half (44 percent) strongly wished that there was another way to help their child besides the medication.

More parents were highly satisfied with the medication (41 percent) than felt strongly that they were concerned by the side effects of the medication (32 percent).But clearly this is a balancing act between benefits and costs.

What other strategies did parents report helped a lot?

  • Changing schools to one better suited to help with ADHD (45 percent)
  • Giving one instruction at a time (39 percent)
  • Using a tutor or learning specialist (37 percent)
  • Providing structure and schedules (35 percent)
  • And seven other strategies, from changing class seats to taking fish-oil pills (12 to 27 percent)

An important key to managing ADHD is to set specific, measurable goals at home and at school. Then, when you try an intervention you can monitor progress, evaluate the treatment, and readjust the plan.

If you are considering ADHD medications, read this important brief post about long-term success and permanent side effects.

To me, the role of medications is not to “solve” ADHD, but rather one possible way to provide a window of relief and focus for a year or two in which to pursue lifestyle changes that can make a long-term difference. These might include changes in nutrition, in physical activity, in sleep, in chemical exposures, in peer groups, in study strategies, in parenting strategies, and in school environments.

Dr. Alan Greene

Dr. Greene is a practicing physician, author, national and international TEDx speaker, and global health advocate. He is a graduate of Princeton University and University of California San Francisco.

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