If we start off by saying that one or another ADHD medication is the “right one” for a specific child, then we would be committing a serious medical, moral and ethical mistake. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder affects people in different ways, and it’s not possible to even begin to define the ‘best’ medication for your child. For every individual patient, it is essential to have proper guidance from qualified healthcare professionals and pharmacists before deciding on a course of treatment.
This article describes the basis on which most prescription decisions are arrived at by qualified practitioners. Our main goal is to help you arrive at the right questions to ask when discussing this important subject with your general practitioner or healthcare adviser, and also to be able to make the best informed decision for your child’s health and wellbeing.
What is ADHD?
The standard definition of the condition is that it is a mental health disorder that generally results in behavioral problems such as inattentiveness, and hyperactivity or impulsiveness. It usually becomes diagnosed in children as they mature into early school-going age, but symptoms may begin to manifest earlier. In general, about 60% of children who have ADHD will continue to show some signs of the disorder into adulthood, but usually to lesser degrees.
What are the Current Medications?
The most common classes of medications currently prescribed are separated into two groups, methylphenidates and amphetamines. They are chosen primarily based on their speed of reaction in conjunction with known side effects.
Both of these work by affecting the levels of dopamine in the brain, although through different mechanisms. Dopamine is a “feel-good” chemical, and this contributes to its rapid action for ADHD mood and activity effect.
Methylphenidate affects how dopamine and norepinephrine are recycled in the prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain that controls mood. This may explain how it works in ADHD. Amphetamines work to increase the supply of dopamines to the cortex. Basically, they both have the same effect of raising dopamine levels.
There is a general class of drugs that work without affecting dopamine production or uptake. Serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) work to increase levels of serotonin in the brain and by blocking its reabsorption, making more serotonin available. They are not as effective as stimulants for treating attentional and cognitive symptoms, but do work to reduce impulsive and hyperactive behavior.
There is No Cure for ADHD
It is essential to start off noting the view that no medication exists today that can cure ADHD. All current options address the symptoms of the problem, attempting to restore your child to positive behavior and outlook. For that reason, trying to find the “right” medication becomes a very subjective decision that you should take with the help of the rest of your family, and your healthcare providers,
Listen to What the World is Saying
For an interesting exercise, we researched the subject “advice for parents with adhd child” on Google, and analysed the steps that the top websites advise. Some of these include national and international reference sites, medical institutes and specialist organizations – we didn’t look at any commercial sites with a product to sell.
Be involved. Know how ADHD affects your child. Focus on teaching your child one thing at a time. Discipline with purpose and warmth. Set clear expectations. Spend special time together every day. Work with your child’s school. Connect with others for support and awareness.
Keep it interesting. Give praise and encouragement. Provide structure. Encourage exercise. Practice good sleep hygiene. Keep distractions to a minimum. Don’t allow ADHD to be in control. Keep working to modify behavior.
Don’t waste your limited emotional energy on self-blame. Learn all you can about ADHD. Become an effective case manager. Join a support group. Work together. Learn the tools of successful behavior management. Set up an effective discipline system. Set aside a daily special time for you and your child.
Manage aggression. Create structure. Break tasks into manageable pieces. Simplify and organize your child’s life. Encourage exercise. Regulate sleep patterns. Encourage out-loud thinking. Promote wait time. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Don’t get overwhelmed and lash out.
Maintain a positive attitude. Keep things in perspective. Don’t sweat the small stuff and be willing to make some compromises. Believe in your child. Follow a routine. Simplify your child’s schedule. Do your best to be neat and organized. Create a quiet place. Spend ten minutes cuddling with your child.
Reward your child for helpful behaviour. Teach your child what to do if there’s a problem with another child. Teach your child how to regulate their own behaviour. Give your child the chance to practise social skills. Build rest breaks into activities at school. Allow time for physical exercise breaks while your child is doing learning tasks. Be ready with some fun but low-key activities which your child can do if they start to get overexcited.
Don’t yell. Do be brief. Don’t think too far ahead. Do learn and be compassionate. Don’t ask too much of your child. Do celebrate the wins. Don’t address every little thing. Do coach and collaborate.
Use rewards, not punishments. Praise good behavior and ignore the bad. Work together with your child. Encourage your child every day. Practice motor skill improvement to reduce frustrations. Consistency pays.
Plan the day. Set clear boundaries. Be positive. Intervene early. Create a bedtime ritual for better sleep. Avoid over stimulating activities in the hours before bedtime. Make sure your child gets lots of physical activity during the day.
Provide structure, but don’t be overbearing. Take time to point out your child’s “wins” each day. Make homework time fun. Get active. Ensure your child’s bedroom creates a soothing atmosphere.
What Can You Learn from This?
The most interesting observation we can draw from this is that medication is not at the top of any list. The one thing that drew all of these ideas together is that you should always start off by consulting with qualified healthcare providers and your friendly pharmacist to see what the best course of action is. Your child is unique and requires special attention, which only you and they can give.