ADHD and Phamacological Treatments

Many healthcare professionals get the wrong interpretation about the research on attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). They believe that stimulant-based medications are the most clinically and cost effective treatments of ADHD children. The truth is, researchers have lesser regard for medications compared to behavioral modification methods.

Deemphasizing medications

In a research headed by William Pelham of the State University of New York at Buffalo, they found that medication does not have to be to be the most important component of treating ADHD when children, parents, and teachers are taught behavioral modifications. At the APA’s Annual Convention, Pelham said, "Medication should not play nearly as large a role as it does currently in treatment of ADHD."

Side effects of medications

This is especially important today since long-term side effects of medications on ADHD are not fully known. But studies suggest that many children with ADHD who take medications in higher dosage experience significant weight loss, stomach upsets, and insomnia. Over years of treatment, children who ingest drugs in large amounts may be shorter compared to the height of those who take medications in lesser dosage. For many children, the battle with medication side effects is constant.

In general, long term safety has not been determined. For one, there have been no randomized controlled trials that assess the benefits or harms of stimulant medications beyond two years. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Heart Association believe that children must be carefully assessed for heart conditions before they receive stimulant medications.

The United States Food and Drug Administration has issued black-box warnings to a number of ADHD medications. Amphetamines like Adderall have warnings about the risk associated with taking medications such as drug abuse, drug dependence, as well as sudden death.

Behavioral intervention

Moreover, while medications can address ADHD symptoms like impulsiveness, restlessness, or fidgeting, they do not really address the disorder’s impairments, according to Greg Fabiano of SUNY Buffalo. Medications do not directly address problems like deficits in math skills and reading, lack of successful peer interactions, and difficult relations with family members.

Behavior interventions – for example, cognitive behavioral therapy, social skills training, behavior therapy, management training, psychoeducational input, parent and family therapy, interpersonal psychotherapy, and school-based interventions – could address these problems.

In their study of the effects of intervention for children with ADHD in first through fourth grade, George DuPaul of Lehigh University and colleagues found that the students significantly improved their reading and math performance. They found an interesting side benefit: Behavior improved for some students.


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