Let’s talk about ADHD medication.
In my Facebook group ADHD Warrior Squad I have set an alert every time the word ‘medication’ is used. I am notified at least 10 times a day.
Many of my clients ask about medication and my opinion. Should they medicate their child?
I have been asked by members of our Together Stronger Club to provide training on medication.
When I present a webinar to parent groups, there is always a question about medication. When I deliver ADHD training to schools, I am asked by teachers about medication and the impact on a pupil’s behaviour.
What is going on? Why do so many people want to talk about ADHD medication? Why is it such a hot topic?
Maybe it’s because it is such a huge decision. ADHD medication alters brain chemistry and so must be considered carefully.
But maybe there is so much discussion because it gives a kind of hope that it is the answer to all ADHD difficulties?
So let me throw my cards on the table and give you my thoughts:
I’M NOT QUALIFIED
I am actually reluctant to talk about medication because I am not medically trained and am not qualified to give advice. It is a personal decision for any parent and you must do your own research. In my Facebook group, if there is a discussion about crushing or mixing tablets with food I delete the comment or thread. I have been advised that this could alter the metabolic structure and effectiveness of the medication, so I always urge parents to seek advice from their prescribing professional. I feel I am on shaky ground and so monitor comments carefully.
MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE
Then there’s my personal experience of ADHD medication. When my son was 8 years old back in 1996 he was offered the only drug available which was Ritalin. The dose was 1 tablet. This didn’t suit him at all. It made him morose, affected his appetite and took away his sparkle. On the other hand, he told me that his eyes ‘no longer wobbled’ and he learnt to read. His first book he ever read was ‘Mr Biff the Boxer’. The day before his first GCSE he announced he no longer was taking his Ritalin and we could do nothing about his decision. I wish he had the options that are available now. Now there are different medications both stimulant, non-stimulant and the dosages can be altered. But that was how my son felt at the time, and we honoured his decision.
IT’S NOT THE ONLY TREATMENT
I also hear too many occasions where consultants are offering medication before advising of any other strategies. We know there are many ways to support a child with ADHD. Our children need help with organisation, time management, emotional regulation and awareness about sensory issues. Alongside this package of treatment, medication could also be added to the mix but parents must be made aware of a range of strategies. By the way, if your child is starting medication, I would advise keeping a diary and note down food intake, sleep, moods and focus. Then insist on early and frequent reviews with your prescribing consultant.
Many of my clients have children who are taking medication. I hear many success stories. Medication does work for many of our children. Teachers report that pupils are more focussed and less impulsive. The effects of medication are short-lived so if your child tries it and decides to stop, there are no reports of long lasting damage. Be open that the first medication may not work, and you may need to try different dosages and combinations to get the desired outcome.
Parents may feel reluctant to medicate as there are feelings of guilt that you’re drugging your child. Funny that this debate never comes up when talking about medicating for diabetes or asthma. You wouldn’t deny a partially sighted person a pair of glasses, or a child with cerebral palsy a wheelchair. So why are we reluctant to medicate our children if their brains need it? Ditch the guilt.
You may decide that medication is not on the agenda or that you tried it and your child did not benefit at all. Of course that is okay. My son has been unmedicated and gets on with his life. There are many alternatives that help an ADHD brain such as eating a high protein diet and omega fish oils and avoiding caffeine and sugar.
ADHD medication can work effectively for many of our children. You may see marked changes in some aspects of their behaviour. But…….medication does not hold some kind of magic fairy dust. Alongside medication your child still needs accommodations, reasonable expectations but above all … understanding and kindness 💛
I hope that helps.