Is Medication Right for Your Child?

By Eileen Bailey

After your child is diagnosed with ADHD, a discussion of medication normally follows.  While some parents may feel that medication is prescribed too often and the decision to give medication to your child is taken lightly, the opposite is quite often true.  Most parents take time to determine if medication is needed.  Most parents seriously weigh both the pros and cons of medication before deciding if it is best for their child.

There are a number of factors to take into consideration when deciding if medication is best.  The side effects of ADHD medication include decreased appetite and difficulty sleeping.  However, medication helps focus and concentration and helps to decrease hyperactivity.  Social skills and organization also appear to improve with ADHD medication.  While not every child shows improvement with medication, the majority does.

Whether your child should begin medication is a decision that must be made based on your own personal beliefs and your lifestyle.  The decision should be thoroughly discussed with your physician. 

I chose to use medication with my son.  He was 12 years old when he was diagnosed with ADHD.  Although I was concerned about the long term effects of taking stimulant medications, I decided to give it a “trial” run and decided to try it for a 30 day period of time.  After that, I would review the month and determine if we wanted to continue.  Only hours after my son took medication, I could see a difference.  I could see his improved attention (I had him sit down and read a book).  I could see his coordination improved.  I could see him focus more (I sent him up to clean up his room and for the first time ever, it was completed.)

After the initial month, we sat down with the doctor.  My son indicated that during school he no longer felt “stupid.”  He said he could see a big difference.  I had the teachers send home notes regarding his behavior during this month and they all stated that he had drastically improved in classroom behavior.  Homework had been completed and handed in.

The improvements over the month helped us to make the decision to continue with medication.  We continued, however, to visit the doctor on a monthly basis to monitor the medication and to create behavioral strategies.

If you do decide to start medication, there are a number of ways you can help:

A doctor must prescribe medications for ADHD.  The majority of medications are stimulants and these are considered to be controlled substances.  You will need to pick up a prescription from your doctor once a month.  These prescriptions cannot be called into a pharmacy and cannot be written for more than a one-month supply.


Schedule regular visits with your physician.  When first starting medication, you might want to request appointments every two to four weeks.  The doctor should be monitoring heart rates while on medication.  To help monitor the impact of medication, ask your doctor for a behavioral checklist.  Have these completed by teachers, caregivers and yourself.  Bring the completed forms with you to your appointments so that you can review how your child is reacting to the medication and whether dosage needs to be adjusted or a different medication should be tried.

Most physicians will start with a low dose of medication.  They can adjust to a higher dose if your child does not seem to be receiving benefit.  Finding the right dose and the right medication is sometimes a matter of trial and error.  For this reason, keeping close track of behavioral patterns is important.

Talk to your child’s teacher and caregivers.  Let them know that you are beginning medication.  Ask them to note any changes, both good and bad.  Ask them for feedback at least once a week, especially for the first several months, to monitor the medication.

Talk to your pharmacist about reactions from food or over-the-counter medication.  Certain foods, such as citrus fruit, can interfere with the absorption of medication.  Your pharmacist will know exactly what foods should be avoided and for how long.  Before taking any over the counter medications, talk to your doctor and your pharmacist to make sure there will not be any adverse reactions.

If you have any concerns or questions, speak with your physician immediately.

Understand that medication alone is not a solution or cure for ADHD.  Research has shown that a combination of medication and behavior therapy provide the most effective treatment. 

 

Sources:

Rabiner, PhD, David (2000). ADHD Medication. from Attention Deficit Disorder Resources Web site: http://www.addresources.org/article_dosing_rabiner.php

ADHD Medicines. Retrieved June 2, 2007, from FamilyDoctor.org Web site: http://familydoctor.org/online/famdocen/home/children/parents/behavior/103.html

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