ADD Medication

The use of medication to treat ADD is not new. In 1937, Dr. Charles Bradley prescribed Benzedrine, a stimulant, for children who were recovering from viral encephalitis, and found that it reduced their hyperactivity and distractibility.

The medications used today to treat ADD are effective and safe. Between 70 and 80 percent of children and adolescents treated with a stimulant show improvement - that is, children who have been properly diagnosed, not ones who are fidgety or a little distractible and whose pediatrician prescribes medication, or ones whose teacher suggests to their parents that they be "put on Ritalin" because they are very distractible. Only those children who have undergone a thorough multidisciplinary evaluation and are properly diagnosed as having ADD are candidates for medication. And not all of them need medication.

There are many myths associated with the use of medication with ADD. The foremost is that the stimulants have a paradoxical effect - that is, they calm students. Rather, stimulants increase the production of a neurotransmitter in the brain and bring it to acceptable levels, thereby increasing attention. They do not increase learning, they merely make the student more available for learning. And although the empirical research on the effectiveness of psychostimulants with children and adolescents with AD/HD is encouraging, this is not an easy decision for parents. Many parents feel guilty that they cannot solve their child's problems on their own; others will be criticized by friends and relatives for "putting" their child on "drugs." Still others will be so overwhelmed and confused that they cannot make a decision. Try to gather as much information as you can, and speak with a medical doctor you can trust - one who is competent, patient, and available.

Dr. Timothy E. Wilens, an Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and author of Straight Talk About Psychiatric Medications for Kids, provides a useful table on the types of medication for AD/HD. Generally, stimulants are the medication of choice, followed by antidepressants. Although many children and adolescents respond to stimulants, not all do. If there is no response, reevaluate the dose and consider another stimulant and other types of medication. Some of the common side effects of medication include loss of appetite, insomnia, depression, irritability, moodiness, and growth problems. Finally, whenever a student is placed on medication, there should be communication between the home and school. Parker's Medication Effects Rating scale is particularly effective for this purpose.

More on: ADHD


From Keys to Parenting a Child with Attention Deficit Disorders by Barry E. McNamara, Ed.D. & Francine J. McNamara, M.S.W., C.S.W. Copyright 2000 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by arrangement with Barrons Educational Series, Inc.

Buy the book at Barron's.

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