A combination of a psychostimulant, most commonly methylphenidate (Ritalin), and cognitive-behavioral therapy is proving to be the best option for treatment of children with ADHD. Although medication can be helpful during the initial years of treatment, some research indicates that the benefits of medication eventually wear off. It appears that ADHD symptoms may improve naturally over time, regardless of the treatment approach.
Signs that ADHD may be easing include not having to adjust medication dosages during growth spurts, no deterioration when a drug dose is missed, or new abilities to concentrate during “drug holidays.” (School vacation times are a good period to test the effectiveness of temporarily stopping medication.) The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry suggests that parents evaluate whether medication can safely be withdrawn when children with ADHD have been free of symptoms for at least one year. If a child’s condition worsens after medication withdrawal, the drug should be resumed.
Developing a Treatment Approach. The following guidelines may be useful in determining a treatment approach:
- Behavioral techniques should be tried first.
- If the symptoms are severe or do not respond, a trial using medication (usually psychostimulants), in combination with behavior modification therapy, is recommended.
Review Date: 01/27/2011
Reviewed By: Harvey Simon, MD, Editor-in-Chief, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.