Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a brain disorder that is characterized by an ongoing pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity, which interferes with the child’s functioning or development. Some children with ADHD only have problems with one of the behaviors, while others may have both inattention and hyperactivity-impulsivity. However, most children have the combined type of ADHD.1
While ADHD cannot be cured, some forms of treatments can help reduce symptoms and improve functioning. Treatments include medication, psychotherapy, education or training, or a combination of treatments. Children who are on ADHD medications must be monitored closely and carefully by their prescribing doctor.
But there are many factors you must consider before you decide to go with ADHD medication for your child. Here are some questions to ask yourself before your child takes ADHD medications.
1. Can Your Child Take The Medication Regularly?
Your child not only requires the right medication and dosage but also has to understand when to take it and how to deal with the effects of the medication. Parents must analyze if their child is responsible enough to take medication regularly. If not, the onus is on the parents to supervise the medication schedule.
2. Is Your Child Interested In taking These Medications?
It is understandable that as parents you want to ensure that your child performs well and so, you have decided that your child needs ADHD medications. But, it is also equally important to ascertain if your child is interested. Does your child understand the purpose of the medication? Do they have any concerns? Can they handle the side-effects? Ensure that your child does not feel as though the medications are being forced upon them. Make them understand the benefits and risks of the medication regimen.
3. How Familiar Are You With The Different Types Of ADHD Treatment?
Although medication is considered as the most effective form of treatment for ADHD in children, other options, such as behavior therapy or individual counseling are also available and quite effective. As parents, you must consider these alternatives too.
4. How Confident Are You With The ADHD Diagnosis?
Simply because your child is hyperactive or finds difficulty in paying attention, it doesn’t mean your child is suffering from ADHD. Ensure that your child receives a comprehensive ADHD evaluation before considering ADHD medication. Often, other conditions such as autism, sleep disorders, and hearing problems, are mistaken for ADHD.
5. Is Your Child On Other Medications That May Interfere With ADHD Medications?
As parents, before you put your child on ADHD medications, it is important that you consult your doctor about how other medications may interfere. For instance, the child may have to consume medicines for flu or cold, which may interact with the ADHD medications.
6. Is There A Significant Benefit From Medication?
Medications for ADHD are prescribed to improve the child’s condition. So, ask yourself which aspects of your child’s challenges can improve by taking ADHD medication. Some challenges may not be completely resolved through medication alone. So, discuss with your doctor whether the medication will address all the concerns.
7. Are You Aware Of The Possible Side-Effects Of The Medication?
All medications that have an effect on the body also have side-effects. Parents must be aware of such potential adverse effects so that they can take necessary measure to counter them. Consult your doctor about what side-effects to expect. In the case of ADHD medication, the side-effects may differ depending on whether your child is prescribed a stimulant or non-stimulant medication.
In some cases, children taking a stimulant experience visual or tactile hallucinations, or may develop blinking uncontrollably.2 Although these side-effects may wear off on their own after a few days, talk to your doctor to adjust the medication or the dosage as required.
8. What Will Be The Frequency Of The Medications?
ADHD in children differs from one child to another. The dosage and the medications themselves differ from case to case.3 So, ask the doctor if your child will have to take ADHD medications every day of the year. Sometimes, doctors may prescribe the frequency as a five-days-a-week.
So, the child will not have to take them over the weekend, or during the summer or when you go on a family vacation. It’s purely dependent on the intensity of the condition and doctors may sometimes suggest a “drug holiday”, where they don’t have to take the medication. So, it is good to have a contingency plan in place to handle medication vacations.
9. Is Your Child Aware Of The Risks Of ADHD Medication Misuse?
Kids will always be kids. Often, they don’t realize the seriousness of some issues. Some children may unintentionally misuse ADHD medication. Other might deliberately take a higher dosage than what is prescribed or “share” the medication in school or at a party. This can have dangerous consequences and misuse can lead to abuse or even addiction in rare cases. Parents must ensure that their child understands the responsibility and the seriousness that accompanies the consumption of ADHD medication.
10. Do You Have The Time And Effort Required To Zero-In On The Medication?
Finding the right combination of the medication that works for your child will require your time and energy. The ADHD medication and dosage may have to be changed or revised if they fail to bring about positive changes or if they don’t address all the problems. As parents, be prepared to dedicate time for these trial-and-error experiments before you zero-in on the right medication for your child.
|↑1||Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. National Institute of Mental Health. 2016.|
|↑2, ↑3||Shier, Anna C., Thomas Reichenbacher, Harinder S. Ghuman, and Jaswinder K. Ghuman. “Pharmacological treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children and adolescents: clinical strategies.” Journal of central nervous system disease 5 (2013): 1.|