So, you’ve been diagnosed with ADD/ADHD — or maybe, the diagnosis concerns someone else, like a loved one or family member. The question you’re probably asking is this: Now what?
While ADHD isn’t just a childhood illness, most diagnoses occur when the person affected is a child. According to a large-scale study on the condition, carried out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2016:
- 388,000 diagnoses happened between the ages of 2 and 5
- More than 2 million were diagnosed between 6 and 11 years of age
- Approximately one million more cases were diagnosed between 12 and 17
ADHD is very common, but treatments that have proven successful over the long term for this incurable condition are few and far between, so whether you’re looking for answers for you, your child or another close friend or relative, it’s normal to have questions.
What is the best treatment for ADHD? Is medication safe for you or your child? Are there therapeutic alternatives? On this page, your questions will be addressed.
Here’s a breakdown of the most common ADHD treatments you’ll find offered in clinical environments today.
After Diagnosis, What’s Next?
Most people know that there are medications developed specifically to treat the symptoms and side effects of ADHD, but the naturopathic and therapeutic options aren’t understood as widely.
In the wake of an ADHD diagnosis, it’s important to know your options. Many primary care doctors and physicians who don’t specialize in treating ADD/ADHD may decide to prescribe medication first without getting an accurate picture of the whole issue.
ADHD in Adults vs. ADHD in Children
The ways in which patients of different ages manage their ADHD depend partly on the stage of their life in which they were diagnosed initially. As we know, most diagnoses happen during some stage of childhood, and according to the CDC, about one-third of ADHD cases don’t resolve themselves to the point where the person affected no longer needs treatment by adulthood.
With this in mind, there are differences between people who are experienced in managing this condition from their childhood and those who — in the less common case — were diagnosed as adults. Those who experience ADHD as adults tend to experience a more severe case than the average child with the disorder.
As we’ll discuss, a person’s unique experience with their condition has an effect on the most effective ADHD treatment methods.
Therapy Options for Treating ADHD
When ADHD started being given more respect in clinical settings — rather than simply being chalked up to hyperactivity or a lack of discipline — the initial thought was to treat it with medication.
In recent years, evidence-based therapeutic solutions have come to the forefront. The most common is one used to treat a variety of mental health, behavioral health and substance abuse issues: cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT.
ADHD Treatment With CBT
The goal of CBT, no matter what it’s being used to treat, is to help the patient understand how their condition works, both broadly and in the context of their own case. CBT for people with ADHD seeks to address any confusion about the disease and shows the patient how to recognize the ways in which their disorder affects their daily lives.
Emergent Therapies for ADHD
CBT isn’t the only way that ADHD can be addressed without medication. For the 9% of children with ADHD, studies have found that parenting programs can be more effective than medical treatment. In one, called Triple P (Positive Parenting Program), parents are encouraged to be active and encouraging their child in the management of ADD or ADHD. In one study, children who received Triple P treatment performed significantly better in school than those who didn’t.
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When Should You Consider Medication for ADHD?
Many parents are hesitant to put their children on ADHD medications immediately after the diagnosis. It’s not uncommon to fear the long-term effects of a new drug on a child’s development.
With this in mind, there are times when medications may be the only treatment that works. Here are some of the options when it comes to using drugs to treat ADD or ADHD.
What Are the Medication Options for ADHD?
Like many other mental health conditions, it’s unlikely that someone trying a new medication will find the perfect drug — in the right dose — right off the bat. ADHD medications are a lot like antidepressants in that they often take a period of trial and error to find the one that helps.
There are three classes of medication commonly used to treat ADHD:
Stimulants are the most commonly prescribed treatment medications for ADHD because they are highly effective and extremely fast-acting. Short-term versions of these drugs include (brand names) Adderall, Ritalin and Vyvanse, with the longer-lasting alternatives Adderall XR and Vyvanse XR. While these aren’t the only options on the market, they are by far the most common.
Non-stimulants are not as common as ADHD treatments; they’ve only been used since their approval for that purpose in 2003. Some non-stimulant ADHD drugs include Strattera, Catapres and Tenex. One of the reasons why doctors hesitate to use them for newly diagnosed cases in children is simply because it takes too long for the user to feel the effects. Often, if parents are resorting to medication for their child, they want something fast acting and highly effective, even if it has a larger impact on their child’s personality.
Before we get into a discussion about antidepressants being used as treatments for ADHD, it should be mentioned that prescriptions of antidepressants for this purpose tend to be off-label — meaning that this use of antidepressants isn’t in line with the normally directed use of the drugs.
Antidepressants like Wellbutrin can be used to control the symptoms of ADHD and are often used by adults with the disorder who are also suffering from other mental health conditions.
Side Effects of ADHD Medication
Most parents fear that ADHD meds will change their child’s personality, and this is a valid concern. Any medication intended to change the way the brain functions has the potential to affect the way the person using it thinks and acts.
These drugs often have other side effects to look out for as well, including dizziness, headache, dry mouth, fatigue and high blood pressure.
Holistic Options for ADHD Treatment
Because of these side effects and the anxiety that comes with resigning children to what could be a lifetime of medication, many parents look for holistic options for ADHD, which can work.
It’s important to draw the distinction here. The types of holistic treatments that work to help control ADHD in children and adults are things like diet, exercise and an overall healthy lifestyle. Parents who try using things like herbal therapies and essential oils to “fix” their children may be putting their loved ones in danger.
Why It’s Importance To Adhere to Treatment for ADD & ADHD
Treatment for ADD and ADHD typically involves some type of medication or combination of medication and therapy. However, the medication for ADHD is only effective when taken daily in the correct dosage. It’s ironic that treatment for a disorder that causes hyperactivity and attention deficit requires you to remember to take your medication at the same time every single day.
Unfortunately, 40% of the time, children with ADD and ADHD are going without treatment due to missing a prescribed dose of medication. This is according to a study led by the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI). The study found that patients were taking their medication as prescribed during the first few months of treatment, but that slowly declined. While medication coverage among study participants was 81% during the first 90 days of treatment, it was only 54% after 90 days. These amounts only increased again after five to six years of taking the medications.
Factors affecting the likelihood of a patient taking medication included their socioeconomic status and gender. Boys are four times more likely to be prescribed medication for ADHD than girls, according to the same study from MCRI. Additionally, people in a socially disadvantaged position found it more difficult to take medication due to their financial situation and access to medical appointments.
However, stimulant medications for ADHD have a high rate of efficacy when taken as directed by a doctor. They’re 70%-80% effective among adults with ADD and ADHD. Therefore, taking your medication daily as prescribed is critical to successful treatment and management of ADHD symptoms.
Some people may stop taking their medication because they don’t believe it’s having the desired effect. However, there’s an adjustment period for the effects of the drug to begin working on the brain. This can be anywhere from four to six weeks, as is the case with many medications that have an effect on the brain.
What Are the Most Common ADHD Medications?
Some of the most common ADHD medications used in the United States are:
- Ritalin, Concerta (methylphenidate)
- Adderall (mixed amphetamine salts)
- Dexedrine (dextroamphetamine)
- Focalin (dexmethylphenidate)
Tips for Living With ADHD
Living with ADHD can be difficult, no matter when you develop it, or when it’s diagnosed. In the more common occurrence of children being diagnosed with ADHD, it can cause slowed development in school and impact the child’s self-confidence and social skills.
When the disorder develops in adulthood, people can suffer at work and at home, losing their income and ability to handle their day-to-day responsibilities. In fact, because of the lack of awareness of adult ADHD in society, many adults with the disorder find it very difficult to function.
According to an article in Psychology Today, mindfulness is key to staying healthy and engaged when living with ADHD as an adult, and that’s something that matches strategies of mental and behavioral health treatment in a clinical setting. Adults with ADHD have found success with CBT and similar because it forces us to be aware of our thoughts and feelings.
What People Taking the Right Medications Have To Say
Many people across America are part of ADHD treatment programs and are raising their voices to educate others about the available ADHD treatment options. Seventy-seven percent of those with an ADHD diagnosis are seeking medication, ADHD therapies or a combination of the two as treatment.
One Twitter user said of starting prescription medication for ADHD, “Day 2 on ADHD meds and I can’t believe I’ve been barebacking it through life for 25 years. It’s 3pm and I’ve almost done all my work for the day!!”
A patient of Dr. Stephen Ilyas says of their experience with taking ADHD medication, “Because of my diagnosis and medical prescription, I’m now in the position of being able to use ADHD when I want to. When I leave university my options will be as limited as they were when I left school. The difference now being my options are limited to my interests and ADHD now has less influence in the things where it is not needed.”
High-Quality Treatment for ADHD
At FHE Health, we acknowledge the complex ways mental health disorders, medications and abuse are intertwined.. Are you or a loved one struggling with finding a functional daily life with ADHD? Call us today, and learn about your options for treatment.