Dr. Art Mollen: Is medication necessary for children with ADHD?

Aptitude: If you have a child who has a hard time focusing, staying on task and finishing their job, they may have ADHD

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ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, a condition that includes many different symptoms including hyperactivity, impulsivity, inattention, and loss of focus.

If you have a child who has difficulty concentrating, staying on task and finishing work, you may have ADHD. More and more children are being diagnosed with it, however, they may not have a disorder at all.

First, it is a subjective diagnosis based on a child who has symptoms for at least six months or more and usually before the age of 12 years.

Causes

It is not clear exactly what causes it, however an imbalance of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters has been linked to it, as well as heredity, as it can work in families.

Since this is a subjective diagnosis, there is no simple blood test to diagnose it. However, recent evidence has suggested that acetaminophen taken during pregnancy increases the likelihood 1.4 times and smoking during pregnancy doubles the risk.

The most important thing is that it has nothing to do with intelligence or ability and is not a character defect. It is important for your child to know about this fact. Many famous people have ADHD, including Michael Phelps.

Teachers are often the first to suspect that a child has ADHD, since their behavior in the classroom and their ability to concentrate are different from those of other students.

However, teachers should not diagnose it, but bring patterns of behavior to the attention of a parent. So the child can be evaluated by a psychologist or pediatrician.

Children often feel judged by their teachers, and parents feel judged for not being able to control their child. So when parents seek help for their children, they want an immediate solution, which often means medication.

Use of medicines

In fact, half of preschool children diagnosed with it are taking medication. Does your child also need medication?

Medications seem to work 65 to 80 percent of the time. Some of the more common short-acting and long-acting drugs include Ritalin, Adderall, Vyvanse, Focalin, Concerta and Strattera.

However, recent studies have suggested that children diagnosed with it improve more rapidly when their treatment involves behavior modification in the first place. Less than one in three children with ADHD receive medication and behavioral therapy.

In addition to  behavioral and medications therapy, social skills training shows the child how to take turns and share with others.

Studies suggest that a system of rewards both at school and at home and in a structured setting can also help.

Some studies suggest that diet helps, but there is little scientific evidence to support claims – although a child who eats more sugar will be more hyperactive. Hence limiting sugar is always a good idea, but it is not necessarily going to solve ADHD.

Also vitamins, minerals and alternative remedies including zinc, fish oil and spring oil are no better as there is simply insufficient scientific evidence that works or can replace medically tested treatments.

Dr. Art Mollen is a doctor of osteopathic family and an expert in health, fitness and preventive medicine.