How is ADHD treated?
The standard treatment plan for those with ADHD typically involves education, counselling, training and medications.
These treatment options do not cure the condition, they simply help to relieve the symptoms of ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). It often takes time and effort to determine which combination of treatment works best for the patient.
Psychostimulants are the most commonly prescribed drugs for ADHD. They seem to balance and boost the neurotransmitters of the brain and aid in improving inattention and hyperactivity.
Some examples of psychostimulants include:
- Methylphenidates – Ritalin, Concerta and Metadate.
- Dexmethylphenidate – Focalin
- Amphetamines – Dexedrine (dextroamphetamine), Adderall (dextroamphetamine-amphetamine) and Vyvanse (lisdexamfetamine)
The above drugs are available in long-acting and short-acting forms. The right dosage can vary with each case, it is best to speak to your doctor about side effects and risk factors.
Stimulant medications and heart issues
Although rare, a number of heart-related deaths have occurred in teenagers and children who took stimulant based medication for ADHD. It is important to note that in these cases, it was found that the patient already had an underlying heart defect or issue.
Your doctor should always check for any signs that may be the result of a heart condition before prescribing stimulant based medication for ADHD.
There are a few other medications that have been known to be an effective treatment for ADHD, these include:
- Clonidine (Kapvay, Catapres)
- Antidepressants (Wellbutrin, and others)
- Guanfacine (Tenex, Intuniv)
- Atomoxetine (Strattera)
Antidepressants and atomoxetine tend to work more slowly than other medications such as stimulants. However, they are often a good choice for your child if they have experienced severe side effects after taking stimulants or if they are unable to take these due to an underlying heart-related issue or condition.
Some adults may be prescribed stimulants and antidepressants as a combination therapy.
Administering ADHD medication to children safely
It is of utmost importance that you ensure your child takes the correct dosage of the prescribed medication for ADHD. This will ensure optimal treatment results. The following can be done to ensure medication is given and taken properly:
- Administer the medication carefully. Your teenager or child should not be in charge of their own medication as this may lead to misuse.
- If you have young children, keep the medication in a childproof container at home.
- Do not send the medication with your young child to school. Rather speak to the school nurse or teacher and arrange for them to give it to your child as prescribed.
ADHD behaviour therapy for children
Counselling and behavioural therapy can often be beneficial for those with ADHD, and especially in children. This involves working with a social worker, psychologist or mental health care professional to come up with coping techniques and strategies in dealing with the condition. These techniques are also helpful if the child has another condition such as depression or anxiety as well as ADHD.
Adults with ADHD are also advised to seek professional help in order to recognise symptoms and cope with the condition.
Therapy examples can include:
- Psychotherapy – This therapy explores behavioural patterns and finds ways to deal with the issues, allowing the child or adult to talk about their issues with the condition and to be involved in the formulation of workable coping mechanisms.
- Behaviour therapy – This kind of therapy involves bringing in teachers, friends and parents to help learn different strategies such as reward systems or timeouts in order to deal with the condition. It may also assist adults in dealing with impulsive behaviours by teaching self-regulation and modifications techniques that help the person to identify and divert themselves from the negative behaviour.
- Parenting skills therapy and training – This often helps parents to develop ways to guide and understand their child’s behaviour and how to deal with it.
- Family therapy – This typically involves the families of children with ADHD, where the professional will consult with them on their issues with the condition and help everyone involved in dealing with it.
- Social skills therapy and training – Children with ADHD may have difficulty socialising with others, this form of therapy allows them to learn the appropriate skills needed for interacting with others.
Ongoing treatment for ADHD
It is best when a team approach is utilised for a child with ADHD, this involves the parents, family, friends and teachers all working together with a mental health professional. In educating all parties on the condition, it will make it more bearable as everyone involved will be better equipped and able to cope with it and help your child to better cope with the various challenges they face each day.
Until the symptoms of ADHD have improved in your child, you should expect regular visits to your doctor in order to ensure that the condition is monitored.
If your child is experiencing a loss of appetite, their symptoms are getting worse or there is no improvement with the treatment, it is best to immediately consult with your doctor.
Alternative medication for ADHD
Little research has been conducted on alternative medication with regard to treating and helping to improve the symptoms of ADHD. If you are thinking about exploring any alternate means of treatment, then it is best that you first speak with your doctor so as to not have these interfere with any prescription medication being taken.
There are several alternate treatments that some people regard as effective, however, there is no scientific evidence to their effectiveness as yet. These can include:
- Meditation or yoga – Relaxation techniques such as these have been found to help ease anxiety and stress associated with ADHD. These can also help the child or adult to learn discipline and relax. Certain breathing techniques can also be taught here to help calm the symptoms of ADHD such as restlessness.
- Special diets – Most experts believe that certain foods that can promote symptoms of ADHD should be eliminated. These include sugary foods, caffeine and alcohol in adults, as well as other food groups that have been found to have common allergens such as milk, eggs and wheat. Studies have shown evidence supporting special diets and their positive impact on those with ADHD.
- Herbal supplements – Some suggest that herbal supplements such as cannabis oil can be used to ease symptoms of ADHD. However, there is no scientific evidence to support this at present and studies are still being conducted on this matter.
- Mineral and vitamin supplements – Increasing vitamins in one’s diet has been known to have positive effects on ADHD. Caution is advised with the intake of vitamins, as ‘mega doses’ of these can have negative results and side effects.
- Exercises – Regular exercise has numerous health benefits. In children exercise is an effective way of releasing pent-up energy that may be leading to agitation and restlessness.
- Neurofeedback training – This is also known as EEG (electroencephalographic) biofeedback, where the child has a session to focus on specific tasks as a machine tracks the brain waves and patterns of the child. The end-goal of this treatment is to teach the child to keep the brain waves active in the frontal brain area, so as to allow for them to focus on the task at hand more effectively.