Although there is controversy surrounding them, stimulants are still the most commonly prescribed type of medication for children with ADD and ADHD. The Drug Enforcement Agency says that stimulant drug production has increased 500 percent since 1991, and over half of the prescriptions for them are written by pediatricians. Stimulants are often effective in treating many of the symptoms of ADD -- but are they the best ADD treatment for your child? Many parents are concerned about the side effects stimulants can produce and choose to investigate other options like behavioral therapy and herbal supplements as well. When it comes to making a decision that affects your child's health, having the facts is essential.
ADD stimulant medications work by increasing the levels of the chemicals epinephrine and norepinephrine in the brain, which helps the brain to transmit signals between nerves. This improves a child's (or adult's) ability to pay attention for extended periods of time. But these medications also come with a risk of mild and serious side effects. Some of the most common side effects include headaches, upset stomach and increased blood pressure, all of which may diminish as the body adjusts after the first few weeks of treatment. Other common side effects include decreased appetite (80% of stimulant users report this), nervousness and sleeplessness. Research has also shown that stimulants can stunt growth during treatment, but have not been proven to affect final height. Less common but more serious side effects include hallucinations and feelings of suspicion or paranoia, Tourette's Syndrome, and suicidal thoughts.
Children on stimulants (Ritalin, Adderall and Concerta are the best-known brands) should be watched closely and their dosages should be evaluated regularly. These medications are most effective when they are administered in the correct dosage for each individual and when they are combined with additional ADD treatments like behavioral therapy and practical and emotional support. Non-stimulant drugs, such as Strattera, can also be effective, but carry a risk of similar side effects.
In light of the risks that prescription medications carry, many parents are interested in exploring an herbal remedy for ADD. There is more than one herb that has been shown to be an effective ADD or ADHD child treatment, and there are a variety of natural remedies on the market that combine many of them. Ginko Biloba, Green Oats, Brahmi, Gotu Kola and Panax Ginseng are some of the best ingredients, and the positive effects of some of them (like Ginko) can become permanent even after discontinuing use.
While stimulant medication is often successful in treating ADD, it can sometimes cause its own set of problems. Weigh the risks and the benefits carefully, and make the decision that is right for your own child. Just as each child exhibits symptoms of ADD differently, each child will react differently to medication and treatment. Patience and thorough research should lead you to a healthy solution for your child.
by Tess Thompson