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ADHD in Children Health Center

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Understanding ADHD -- Diagnosis and Treatment

What Are the Treatments for ADHD? continued...

A doctor needs to monitor the dosage of the stimulant medication closely, both to determine the most effective level of drug and to watch for any side effects. Generally, most side effects of stimulants are mild and may include decreased appetite, stomach aches, sleep problems, headaches , and an increase in anxiety .

However, in rare cases, stimulants can have more serious side effects. For instance, some are linked to a higher risk of heart problems and sudden death in children with preexisting heart disease. They may also worsen psychiatric conditions like depression or anxiety or cause a psychotic reaction in some individuals. Before your kids start taking an ADHD medicine, talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits.

Non-stimulants. Atomoxetine ( Strattera ) and clonidine ( Catapres and Kapvay) are two non-stimulant drugs for ADHD. Another drug, approved for children aged 6 to 17, is guanfacine (Intuniv), which uses the same active ingredient as guanfacine hydrochloride (Tenex), a blood pressure medicine that has been used as an ADHD treatment.

Of course, these drugs have their own side effects and risks, and your doctor will want to watch for problems. In 2005, the FDA issued a public health advisory about rare reports of suicidal thinking in children and adolescents taking Strattera.

Other drugs. In some cases, doctors may try prescribing other antidepressant medications, such as drugs called SSRIs, bupropion (Wellbutrin), venlafaxine (Effexor) or others.

Psychological therapy. Of the psychological therapies, behavior modification may be the most commonly recommended for children. It can be quite effective, particularly if the therapist helps parents learn techniques to help the child's behavior. It is often combined with specific educational interventions, such as help with learning skills. Psychotherapy, including cognitive behavioral therapy is a valuable option, particularly if the child has low self-esteem, depression or anxiety.

9 Lifestyle Tips

These tips may help your child -- and you:

  1. Join a support group. Organizations include Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD).
  2. Boost your child's self-esteem. Because a child with ADHD may have difficulty processing directions and other information, he or she is apt to be bombarded with corrections, leaving him with a low opinion of himself. Do whatever you can to boost your child's self-esteem.
  3. Praise and reward good behavior promptly.
  4. Be consistent with discipline, and make sure other caregivers follow your methods.
  5. Make instructions simple and specific ("Brush your teeth. Now, get dressed."), instead of general ("Get ready for school.").
  6. Encourage your child's special strengths, particularly in sports and out-of-school activities.
  7. Set and follow routines for meals, bedtime, play, and other activities.
  8. Make time for play and exercise -- outside in a natural setting if possible. Don't let homework or screen time monopolize all of your child's time after school.
  9. Simplify your child's room to minimize distractions, such as toys and improve organization.


WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Smitha Bhandari, MD on November 13, 2015
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