The use of stimulant medications combined with lifestyle strategies have been the treatments that show the most efficacy for the negative symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder. The lifestyle interventions, such as behavioral therapies, exercise, getting plenty of sleep, and eating right, all work better if there is medication involved. However, people are wary of giving medications to children, and also taking medication themselves. What do we know about medication? Is there research on medications used for Attention Deficit Disorder?
Between 10 and 20 percent of the people with ADD/ADHD are not helped by any medications used for Attention Deficit Disorder. Recent research has identified a specific type of dopamine receptor that some folks with ADD carry. If a person has this genome, then methylphenidate, also known by the trade name Ritalin, will be an effective pharmacological intervention for the negative symptoms of ADD.
Some people are not helped by the first medication that is prescribed. Other medications might need to be tried. Doctors must find the correct dosage. This takes time and patience on the part of the doctor and the person with ADD/ADHD. It is imperative to find a doctor with experience treating Attention Deficit Disorder. Prescribing can be both an art and a science. Sometimes, especially with children, a medication is prescribed at the wrong level, and the child becomes lethargic and seems to lose his sparkle. This is not permanent. The dose needs to be adjusted. Stimulant medication is out of the system in between 4-12 hours. If the child does not do well on the medication, have your medical professional make changes. The parent is always in charge of medication.
All medications can have side effects. Some of these side effects are just becoming known for stimulant medications. Recent research validates what most parents know about their children with ADD. When taking a stimulant medication, a child does not eat as much. This leads to a reduced weight and a lower body mass index (BMI). Recent research by Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health concluded that the BMI of younger children was suppressed by taking a stimulant medication. In fact, the younger the child was when the medication was started, and the longer it was taken, the lower the BMI in younger children. The researchers did find something unexpected. There was a rebound in BMI in older adolescents and young adults. This was problematic, since this rebound could lead to obesity.
One worry that parents often have, especially after reading sensationalized scare pieces written or filmed about stimulant medications, is that the child's risk for stroke is increased. A recent report that used data from 2.5 million children found no link between stroke and stimulant medication taken for Attention Deficit Disorder. The American Heart Association provided the data that was presented at a conference.
While having Attention Deficit Disorder appears to be a risk factor for developing substance abuse problems, a child's taking a stimulant medication does not seem to increase the probability of having difficulties with substance abuse. In analyzing 15 longitudinal studies, researchers at UCLA came to the conclusion that people with ADD are two to three times more likely to develop substance abuse problems than people without ADD. However, this has nothing to do with whether they took stimulant medications, or not.
Medication can be life-changing for some people. It can allow parents who have Attention Deficit Disorder to help their children more. Especially when a mother is effectively treated for ADD, the outcomes affect her whole family. As always, when considering medication, do your homework. Find out about possible adverse side effects. Balance those with the benefits of taking the medication. Make sure that your information is fact-based and not a sensational story meant to sell papers or an "infomercial" designed to promote a product of dubious effectiveness. You are your own best advocate for what works for you and your children.
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