Non-Medication and Alternative Treatments for ADHD

by Eileen Bailey Health Writer

While medication is the most common treatment for ADHD, it is a hard decision for parents to make. Giving medication every day is scary and, in many cases, a last resort, after behavioral strategies and possibly other alternative treatments haven't worked. Even after parents decide to try medication, they keep their eyes open to other possible treatments. Some of these are supplemental therapies and strategies, those that are used along with medication. Some are unproven and in some cases unsafe.

Over the years, the experts here at have written extensively on many of the alternative treatments for ADHD. This week I have combed through our site to give you as much information as possible on different types of treatments and strategies besides medication so you can make the best decision for your child and your family.

Behavior Modification

Because behavioral strategies are such an integral part of any treatment plan for ADHD, we'll list the information we have on this first:

Behavior Modification for ADHD
What Does Behavior Modification Consist of for Adults with ADD/ADHD
Behavior Management: Five Useful Phrases
Frequently Asked Questions About Behavior Modification
Using Token Economies to Help Manage Behavior

Lifestyle Changes

If ADHD is a neurological disorder, can lifestyle changes like diet and exercise work?

The idea of reducing hyperactivity in children through diet was first introduced by Dr. Feingold. It is based on an elimination diet that removes artificial colorings, flavorings and additives. There is much debate as to whether this diet really improves symptoms of ADHD, some parents indicate they have had much success with it while others have said they noticed no changes in their child. There have been some small studies showing success and other studies have shown no benefit. Another diet, the gluten-free diet, has been popular recently and again, there are mixed reactions as to whether this diet helps. The following posts should help you understand more about how diet may or may not impact ADHD:

Diet and ADHD
Should you or Your Child try the GFCF (Gluten-free Casein-free) Diet?
Have you heard about the ADHD diet?
Do Particular Foods Affect ADHD?
Artificial Food Colorings and Hyperactivity
Update: Food Colorings and ADHD
Myth: Sugar and Food Additives Cause ADHD

Another positive lifestyle change is to add a daily exercise program to your routine. Many medical professionals, including Dr. John Ratey, believe there is a positive impact on ADHD symptoms with exercise. Not only does exercise help to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, it helps to increase focus and memory.

A Walk in the Park Helps ADHD Symptoms
Dr. John Ratey Discusses Exercise and ADHD in New Book
Yoga and ADHD
Can Martial Arts Help Children with ADHD Focus?


Dietary supplements have a certain appeal to parents of children with ADHD. They are natural and today most pharmacies and food stores carry a large variety of supplements. Before trying any supplement, keep in mind:

  • Supplements are not regulated by the FDA

  • Supplements can contain unnatural fillers or dangerous ingredients

  • The strength of the supplement can vary greatly by manufacturer or by lot

  • Many supplements do cause side effects and drug interactions

  • No patient information is provided with supplements

Because of the potential for side effects and drug interactions, it is always best to consult with your doctor before giving your child any supplements. The following is some information we have provided on different types of supplements:

The Latest on Alternative Treatments
The Myth of the ADHD Cure
St. John's Wort and ADHD
How effective Is Omega 3 in Treating ADHD?
Supplements to Treat Your Child's ADHD: GABA


As we search for different ways to help our child, we come to understand there are many different types of therapies and whether or not they give some benefit to your child will depend on, well, your child. Each person is different, and we all react differently to our environment. Although the following are not typically considered "first-line" treatments, they work in conjunction with your current treatment plan and your child may respond well.

Aromatherapy and ADHD
Understanding Neurofeedback
Meditation and Yoga for ADHD
Light Therapy for Adults with ADD
Should Your Child Have Psychotherapy as Part of ADHD Treatment?
ADHD and Hippotherapy
Music Therapy for ADHD
A Sensory Integration Approach to Helping Hyperactive Kids
Five Non-Prescription Ways to Treat the Symptoms of ADHD

Eileen Bailey
Meet Our Writer
Eileen Bailey

Eileen Bailey is an award-winning author of six books on health and parenting topics and freelance writer specializing in health topics including ADHD, Anxiety, Sexual Health, Skin Care, Psoriasis and Skin Cancer. Her wish is to provide readers with relevant and practical information on health conditions to help them make informed decisions regarding their health care.