Should I put my child on medication for ADHD?
Real Mom Problem
“To the mothers that have children with ADHD and are medicated for it, what was the deciding factor? I have done research on his condition, alternatives, risks, benefits, side effects...and I am still having trouble coming to a decision. Do I or don't I medicate?”
- 1. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common behavioral disorder affecting 3-5% of school-age children
- 2. ADHD is diagnosed more often in boys than in girls
- 3. Symptoms include hyperactivity, inattentiveness, and impulsive behavior
- 4. Stimulants are the most commonly prescribed medications for ADHD, but non-stimulants may also work
- 5. Some families notice marked improvement after starting ADHD medication; others prefer alternate treatments such as diet modifications, and counseling
- 6. Consult your child's doctor before beginning or changing any treatment for ADHD
- 7. Remember, the answers below are not medical advice and should not be relied on as medical advice or used in lieu of speaking with a medical professional
Real Mom Solutions
Choosing whether or not to medicate a child with ADHD can be a very difficult decision. Read opinions and advice from real moms who have been in your shoes before making the choice that's best for your family.
Meds Worked Miracles for These Moms
We tried everything under the sun for two years before we finally caved and put my son on meds. It has been life saving for him in every aspect of his life. So I will stick with what I know to work for him.
My son was diagnosed with ADHD at just four years old. I was told that he would need medication to control it. But I waited and started taking him to see a counselor to hopefully teach him how to cope on his own. We also did all the ADHD diets there were, trying to find something that helped. When he started school his kindergarten teacher insisted I put him on meds immediately. Again, I waited and continued to send him to the counselor and started him on another ADHD diet. But at parent-teacher conferences I was told that he was unruly, he had to be sent out of the classroom multiple times a day, and his grades were horrible. His teacher wanted to hold him back and put him in the "special-ed" classroom with the children that get one-on-one teaching "at their pace," with no guarantee that it would help. I was devastated. I felt I had failed my child by not setting him up to succeed. I spoke to his doctor and to the counselor and I finally decided to put him on meds. It took quite a while to find the right medication and the right dose that worked for him. (I had no idea there were so many ADD/ADHD meds on the market now! We went through at least eight medications before we found one that had minimal side effects for him.)
By the end of kindergarten my son was a straight A student and a very happy boy. At his kindergarten graduation he ran up to me after getting his "diploma" and hugged me so tight. He thanked me for helping him do better in school. He has "med free" holidays and summer vacations. The meds will probably stunt his growth a little, and they affect his appetite so he doesn't eat his lunch at school. But he's in the third grade now and is doing well in school. He's in "gifted" classes and loves to learn. I don't care if he doesn't turn out to be 6' 4" like his father. I don't care if he's skinny because he isn't hungry at lunch time. What matters to me is that my son is healthy and set up to succeed in life. If he ever feels that he doesn't want to take the meds any more, then I'll stop giving them to him. It's his choice. I'm just giving him the chance to succeed by giving him a little help focusing.
I fought for a long time against putting my son on meds for his ADHD. Once I did further research and had him placed on it, the difference was remarkable. Now he focuses well enough at school that he is bringing home threes and fours on his report card instead of ones and twos. He gets work completed, and it no longer takes him 5-6 hours to get his homework done. When he does not take his meds, it is remarkable to see how he used to be.
I have a now well adjusted 16-year-old who had a rough start to school. When he was in preschool we noticed something was off and in kindergarten he was diagnosed with ADHD. I tried the diet and counseling first because I did not want to turn to meds right away, but after a year of hardships, and tons of meetings, and almost having to redo kindergarten, I gave in and we put him on the lowest dose possible. He did have a decreased appetite and trouble sleeping at times but after that it was smooth sailing I tell you! His appetite came back and he was sleeping better then he was before and he was a totally different student and loved going to school. He took medication until he was in fifth grade and we weaned him off to see how he did for his sixth grade year and he seemed to be able to handle things on his own, which was great. We hardly ever see any problems from him now. He never lost weight nor did it "stunt" his growth. At 15 he is taller than I am and almost taller then his dad who is 6'. Every family is different and we all do things differently and it irks me that those of us who need the meds for our kids get flack for doing so. Not every child responds or does well with the diet or counseling. I made the choice that was best for our family and I am glad I did. My son is now ranked 13 among 375 classmates in 10th grade. He is a smart and bright young man with a wonderful future ahead of him doing whatever he may choose; which looks to be college, then firefighting school. So do not ever feel bad for doing what you think is best for your family because it is just that YOUR child. Your choice.
When my two boys were young they were diagnosed with ADHD. I did everything I could to keep them off meds. I tried diet and therapy and fought with teachers to work with them and have patience. My oldest managed to do well in school but my younger one seemed to be slipping away from me. By fourth grade my smart, sweet boy was going to be held back or even put in special-ed. His self-esteem was so low it broke my heart. My pediatrician convinced me to try meds. Within two months he was doing so well he was put in the gifted program. He is now in eighth grade and with meds, combined with smaller classes in a private school, he is at the top of his grade academically. I don't believe medication is always the answer but sometimes it is.
Until you have spent hours and hours and HOURS trying to teach your child a simple word with her squirming and getting confused over and over and crying because, "Mommy I just want to understand," then you have no right to judge other parents for how they treat their child's ADHD. I used to be just like so many that didn't believe in ADHD and sure as hell didn't believe in medication for it UNTIL IT HAPPENED TO US. Having to watch your child suffer from it is heart- wrenching. And if you think cuddling and food is the only answer then take my daughter for a week and give it a try. Having a busy child is not the same thing as having a child with ADHD. I have a busy son that is nothing like my ADHD daughter. Trust me when I say I know boys will be boys. I believe in my child. She is brilliant and sweet and honest, she has so many amazing qualities and deserves to have the best quality of life. If I can give her something that will help her gain confidence because she can SEE positive results, then I am alright with that. Deciding to give my child medication was one of the MOST agonizing experiences of my life (I had two healthy 10 lb babies at birth - I know pain) and for anyone to minimize it and say we are lazy for it, then shame on them.
I used to be completely against medication for ADHD, I always thought "you have a hyper kid, deal with it, don't medicate because you are lazy" and believe me, I had a very hyper little boy that I refused to medicate, until he got into middle school and the teachers started suggesting it. At first I blew them off but then I saw his grades were really falling so after talking with his doctor I decided to give it a try. The medication worked and his grades really showed it!
If your child is on meds and it changes their personality they are on the wrong meds. Medication is not the cure all, it doesn't make ADHD go away, but it helps. And as these children get older, they learn skills from teachers, doctors and parents on how to deal, and cope, and manage with ADHD. Does my child need meds? Yes. He gets over stimulated at school and loud public places. He is doing a bang up job in middle school this year. I forgot to give his meds one day, within an hour of school he attacked a teacher and was suspended for a day. Do I hope he will someday not need them? Yes. Some children do outgrow it. Most don't. Would you deny a person insulin if they needed it? Do people need antidepressants? Yes. Oh, I was a big believer that ADHD wasn't real, but my kids prove it is real. If your child has ADHD and you don't want to medicate, then by all means don't. It should be the last choice not the first choice anyway.
My son was diagnosed with ADHD at five years old. I watched him for a while and I was really against medication. He was having problems. He was frustrated with his body moving everywhere and not feeling like he could control it. I did decide to put him on medication. It was scary and a trial for us. The first medication he didn't do well with. It made him calmer, but we had side effects we dealt with. We tried a second, and bam that was the one. He taught himself how to read. He is now having his IQ tested. His reading level is at a six grade level, his math is the same. He is in first grade. We have been at the same level of medication for over six months. He is growing normally. In the last six months he has grown two-and-a-half inches. He eats like a horse and melatonin is the only sleep aid he uses. For him it was the right choice. For others it may not be. He also goes to therapy. He is still held accountable for his actions and we never let him use the phrase "I can't help it, I have ADHD." I don't coddle him and make excuses for him. I think I am teaching him to live in the real world and deal with real people. I'm preparing him for the time when he doesn't need medication any more. I'm also teaching him to know if it is something he will need later. He is not ADHD. He is a person, just like everyone else. If medication is getting him the help he needs then I feel that's what he needs. My son is not a zombie. He is him just as he is off medication. Same humor, same interests. He just doesn't have to move all the time and he can stay on one subject for more than a second.
Some Moms Are Opposed to Meds
Oftentimes, ADHD can be managed with proper nutrition, diet and exercise.
It is so sad how many children are being given meds to fix their "behavioral issues." To an extent, kids are naturally hyper, but many people don't realize how big a role diet plays in a person's behavior. A friend of mine had a son who was barely speaking at three-years-old and being very aggressive and unable to focus on anything. They found he had some food allergies and when they took it a step further and gave him natural/organic, he did a complete 180 practically overnight. Man-made, processed food messes with our brain chemistry so much. Anyone who has a child that's been diagnosed with a form of ADD should try an organic diet first. Meds are really not necessary!
I have an eight-year-old with ADHD, very sweet and outgoing. We refused meds for years and years. He struggled to stay on task but his grades were OK. When he started falling behind in third grade, we finally put him on a low dose. The side effects were unbearable. He became socially withdrawn, angry, and depressed, not to mention the racing heart. We took him off at two weeks, and said never again. Now he is doing well, he takes ginkgo every morning and melatonin every night. Natural is the way to go, even our doctor is impressed with the results.
My husband and I are firm believers in not giving our children meds for their ADHD. We take them to a chiropractor, because that's what their pediatrician HIGHLY recommends, and it really works. Ask your child's pediatrician about setting your child up with a chiropractor. It's never too late.
I worked with special-ed students for 25 years where 85-90% were diagnosed with ADD/ADHD. Most were on medication and it did appear to help with concentration, focus and behavior, but I was always concerned about the side effects and long term consequences of medication. Luckily, new and better alternative resources are being discovered all the time. Many students are now being helped with diet and nutrient therapy. This is proving effective not only with ADD/ADHD but also Asperger's. I'm getting amazing testimonials from parents and students.
I do believe there are a minority of people on ADHD drugs who really need them. The rest of them have been conditioned to need them because they've been on the junk since they were eight years old and now they only feel normal when they're on it.
I have an 11-year-old that was diagnosed with ADHD at five years old. In kindergarten they wanted him medicated. He is a very kind child, but lacks the ability to focus. I tried it for a week. It was a once a day med and it caused him to be emotional; crying for no reason, and "out-of-it." The teachers liked him that way. But it hurt me to see him go through that. I took him off the meds. And the next year the school started pressuring me to put him on meds or see a psychologist. They were putting him in separate rooms and making him feel like a freak. He was also bullied on the bus every day. Eight days into the school year his teacher told me that his school year was going to be a big waste of time. So that same day, I pulled him out of school, called the homeschooling office, and ordered a curriculum. And five un-medicated years later he's improved a lot. He still has some difficulties with his attention, but I'm glad that I didn't listen to the doctors and teachers and followed my instinct.
Make Sure the Diagnosis is Correct
I think way too many kids are taking medications that are really unneeded. Hello, they're children...they're going to be hyper for no reason. Now don't get me wrong, if your child NEEDS the meds to function, keep using them.
My children take medication and without it there are noticeable problems with their thinking (concentration, forgetting things). While some children are misdiagnosed or are given too high of a dose I found working with my children's pediatrician and teachers over the years has helped. We started them on the lowest doses possible and went from there. It's taken several years but right now the highest dose one of my children is on is 52mg while the rest are at 36mg. In some cases, those who truly do have ADD or ADHD, a CT scan maybe able prove that there is some kind of electrical imbalance in the brain. I have ADHD myself, never went on medication until my 30s, and when I was 18 I had a CT scan that showed I had excess electricity in my brain. I also used to get migraines and headaches easily because of all the excess electricity. Being on medication has basically gotten rid of my headaches and I now rarely get migraines. It's easier for me to think when I'm on meds than when I'm off. So again, not everyone is the same but to completely write off medication as being bad is completely foolish. I find it offensive when people dismiss ADD/ADHD medication as not necessary.
My brother had ADHD, and my parents refused to put him on medication. My cousin also had ADHD and they were all for the medication. The two kids were like night and day. All I knew was I didn't want my brother to be like my cousin, the medicine didn't help her at all - it turned her into a zombie - and to this day she swears she can't function without it. She is dependent on it to the point of what I consider addiction. I also have another friend who put her child on the medication - I saw the same thing happen to her. Is there a time and place for the medication? Of course, but I think ADHD is over diagnosed and over medicated way too often.
I truly believe that many kids are incorrectly diagnosed! Red dye 40 is a huge culprit to ADD and ADHD type symptoms! I am so much worse when I consume it. One of my triplets becomes the devil child when she gets red dye. If I didn't know about it before I had kids, I would have had her diagnosed at four, but as long as you keep her away from it, she's perfect! FMRIs can easily diagnose ADD and ADHD. In a "normal" brain, electrons fire in certain areas depending upon what types of activity the person is being asked to perform. In a truly ADD/ADHD person, those firings are not occurring in the correct area. At 17, I was a part of the pilot study for the use of FMRI to brain map people with ADHD and compare them to normal functioning brains! My synapses fire in pretty much opposite areas of where they should.
Some people do benefit from ADHD medication; however, it's very dangerous and should be part of an overall plan -- not the cure all, because it's not! You can't take this stuff forever; it will really start to affect your body and your brain. It can be useful for helping kids learn HOW to organize and get into routines that can help them -- but should NEVER be relied on as a fix for your kid! I really believe a lot of kids who are diagnosed with ADHD have disorganized parents, busy schedules, not enough motivation and drive, and just don't know how/don't have the support to do things step-by-step. And as it happens, a lot of these kids are from divorced homes or both parents have to work. It does say something, regardless of how many people want to step in and say "well it's different for us because..." I get it, everyone has an excuse.
Personally, I don't like medications. If told my child needed meds for ADHD, I would say no, we're doing something else first. Diets, behavioral changes, even different approaches to school would be tried. I know in some cases the meds help. Meds are not a "cure" and I feel that they are only effective short term. There are also a lot of misdiagnosed kids out there who's parents or teachers don't understand that this kid is just an active, hands-on learning kind of kid. Some kids CAN sit to learn, but there are many who need multiple ways of interacting with what they're learning to get it.
ADHD medications are over-prescribed for sure and should not be allowed to be prescribed by anyone other than a psychiatrist who can easily see drug seeking or poor parenting when determining ADHD. As for the stunting of growth, that's true but again if prescribed by a pediatric psychiatrist then they know what they are doing. In my years of practice with many pediatric psych MDs, they all refused writing scripts over summer months and encouraged weaning during extended holidays and even some weekends depending on dose. ADHD is real, it does exist but I'd bet half the kids on meds are not ADHD. I do not think primary care physicians or pediatricians or even adult psych MDs should be prescribing psychological medications to children. It's not their specialty. I think they are practicing outside scope and that they should practice the specific medicine they are trained in. If something is considered a specialty then you should be referred to a specialist. I have no problem with a pediatric psych MD diagnosing your child, referring them to a psychologist for testing to confirm diagnosis, starting you on psych meds, monitoring and getting the doses correct, and then sending you back with appropriate codes and treatment plan for a primary care physician to follow. You'd have been properly educated on the medication and if an issue or dosing needed adjustment, you'd go back to the specialist. It's currently legal for pediatricians and primary care physicians to write stimulants but they shouldn't. They are not the specialist and our children deserve the best.
My son was diagnosed at six with ADD. I fought his diagnosis. He could sit and watch a movie, he could take a toy apart, and put it back together, he could hold an adult conversation with anyone. What he could not do was figure out how we were making words out of letters, and math problems on paper frustrated him. At 14 he was diagnosed as dyslexic. He sees letters, words, and numbers all twisted! Once they found the diagnosis he did great in school. Medication did nothing but cause him to not want to eat. When I said it wasn't working the doctor said we will have to put up with it. I finally quit telling him that it wasn't working. I no longer believe just one doctor. I go with my instinct. I also think that a lot of (BUT NOT ALL) the kids are put on meds because it is just easier than dealing with the kid.
These Moms Dealt Personally with ADHD
I was on meds for about nine years. I was diagnosed with ADHD at seven and I was only on meds during the school year. On the weekends and school breaks I was off of it. Honestly, if I could afford it, I would go back on meds. They also helped with other issues.
I have ADD and was on meds till I was 12. I didn't sleep or eat. It did help me focus. I weighed exactly 50 lbs for four years and it majorly stunted my growth. I have had joint issues because of it. I have had bone scans done and my growth plates are not all correctly grown together. I am 26 years old and have had joint issues since I was a preteen. I am exactly 5'8" and per my growth plates should be about 5' 10-11". I will not put my son on meds if the school says he needs them. There are other resources out there that can teach you to cope and focus. I was taught them and it really helps me when I use the techniques to focus and get tasks done. I was on Ritalin.
As someone who has suffered with ADD and ADHD my entire life, I would say that most parents are willing to do the work it takes to treat a kid with attention issues. I had parents who wouldn't medicate AT ALL! As a young kid, my mom was willing to get me to the behavioral therapist to work with my concentration issues, but as a teen, my schedule became too hectic and she stopped making me go! I needed that help and because I didn't get it, I resorted to self medicating as a teen to the point that I ended up in rehab at 18. As part of my program, I got clean, but the therapist felt I needed the concentration meds to help me function in life. If meds are making your child a zombie, the dosage is not correct! You have to work them. It's not "give my kid a pill and they are all better!" And trust me, as soon as you find something that works, the body chemistry will change and you have to start working the process all over again! With me, the constant working of the meds is enough to drive me batty, I couldn't imagine what my mom went through trying to get me help without meds! I commend her for sticking with it as long as she did!