If your child has been diagnosed with attention deficit disorder, you may be
facing decisions about ADHD medications. Fortunately, you have many options,
not only for types of medications, but also for doses and treatment
First, it's important to know a few things about ADHD treatment in general.
In the largest study ever of ADHD treatments, researchers funded by the
National Institute of Mental Health found in
1999 that the most effective treatment was a combination of behavioral therapy and ADHD
medications. In March 2005, researchers from the University at Buffalo SUNY
found that behavioral modification therapy allowed doctors to significantly
lower the doses of ADHD medications that children need to take.
So, while ADHD medications can clearly help many children manage symptoms,
the drugs may be most effective -- with the fewest side effects -- when used in
combination with behavioral therapy.
How do you know which ADHD medication is right for your child? Most experts
advise parents to work closely with their child's doctor, and understand that
finding the best dose and ADHD medication may be a gradual process.
"Treating ADHD is more an art than a science," says Richard Sogn, MD, a
clinical specialist in ADD/ADHD and a discussion
board leader at WebMD. After all, every child is unique, and every child's ADHD
symptoms are slightly different. Finding the medication that works best -- or
the combination of drugs -- is a process.
With all ADHD medications, the goal is to make your child's day go more
smoothly, more productively. Until recent years, this was done by giving a
child two or three doses of the stimulant Ritalin, which is considered a
short-acting medication -- it wears off after three or four hours. Many newer
medications are longer-lasting -- meaning they slowly release for up to six,
eight, 10, or 12 hours. Yet the short-acting drugs still have their place in
"While stimulants are still the mainstay of ADHD treatment, in recent years,
doctors have found success in trying other drugs as well. In recent years the
FDA has approved Strattera, a nonstimulant ADHD medication. In September 2005
the FDA issued a public health advisory about rare reports of suicidal thinking
in children and adolescents taking Strattera. The agency asked Strattera's
maker - Eli Lilly and Co. - to include a warning on the product's label."
"Some doctors also prescribe antidepressants, although these have not yet
been approved by the FDA to treat ADHD. All the drugs are generally considered
safe for kids. But all can also cause side effects."
As you try to find the best ADHD medication for your child, it's important
to chart any changes you notice, advises Sogn. Look for positive changes --
better focus or calmness -- as well as negative changes that could be side
effects, such as lack of appetite or difficulty sleeping.