To treat ADHD or not? To use prescription medications or not? Behavioral therapy or not? Diet or other natural or alternative approaches or not? Partly because the illness primarily affects children, partly because the prescription medications currently available are burdened by stigmas relating to drug abuse, and partly because of societal issues questioning the very existence of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), its treatment raises many questions whose answers need to be based on science, independently created and unbiased, and easily understood. To those ends, HealthTalk produced a two-part webcast on ADHD treatment.
To supplement the HealthTalk programs, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the American Psychiatric Association have published a new ADHD Parents Medication Guide. It is available in both English and Spanish. The guide provides information on ADHD symptoms, treatment options, types of medications, drug side effects, disorders that can co-occur, psychosocial treatments as well as a section on unproven treatments.
Left untreated, ADHD can have profound effects on a child’s school performance and can increase their risk of disciplinary problems and dropping out. I’ve previously written about both the negative impacts it can have on school and the proven improvement that treatment can provide. But ADHD can also lead to a host of other problems as this list from the Parents Medication Guide dramatically shows:
Potential Consequences when ADHD is Left Untreated
• Increased risk for school failure and dropout
• Behavior and discipline problems
• Social difficulties and family strife
• Accidental injury
• Alcohol and drug abuse
• Depression and other mental-health disorders
• Employment problems
• Driving accidents
• Unplanned pregnancy
• Delinquency, criminality, and arrest
Numerous studies have proven the value of medication in treating ADHD. The largest of these is called the Multimodal Treatment Study of Children with ADHD, or MTA for short. It showed that methylphenidate (one type of the various stimulant medications used in ADHD treatment) is effective in treating ADHD, either alone or in combination with behavioral therapy. Moreover, it found that treatment that includes medication is superior to behavioral treatment alone. Best of all are approaches that combine medication with behavioral therapy.
Behavioral therapies include three approaches; namely, parent training, child-focused treatment, and school-based interventions. These methods teach the parents, the children and their teachers about ADHD and how they can all better develop skills needed to manage its frustrating behaviors and their negative consequences.
There are two major groups of ADHD medications: stimulant and non-stimulant. The stimulant medications include methyphenidate and amphetamines, which have been available for decades and are known to be highly effective. They have been shown also to be quite safe when prescribed, taken and monitored properly. Only one non-stimulant medication is currently approved by the FDA for ADHD: Strattera (amoxetine). It too has been shown to be both safe and effective and may be more appropriate for certain children who either don’t respond well enough to stimulants or who have other co-existing disorders.
The ADHD Parents Medication Guide was developed by an independent group of medical professionals and parent advocacy groups. Of note, no pharmaceutical funding or editorial support was used in its preparation. The following organizations contributed to its development:
American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP)
• American Psychiatric Association (APA)
• Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD)
• Child and Adolescent Bipolar Foundation
• Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health
• Mental Health America
• National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
• National Institute on Mental Health (NIMH)
The ADHD Parents Medication Guide is available for free. More information about ADHD including archives of past webcasts, news about upcoming programs, reference materials and blogs is available on our ADHD homepage.