How is Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) Treated?

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Dr. Mom explores how Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) is Treated

Attention Deficit Hyperactive disorder (ADHD) is a disorder of attention, impulsivity, and hyperreactivity that is treated with a combination of medications and behavioural treatments. One of the hypotheses about the cause of ADHD is that there is a lack of dopamine in certain parts of the brain. ADHD medications increase the amount of dopamine within those parts of the brain that are responsible for sustaining attention and reducing impulsivity.

Medication treatments include two basic types – stimulants and non-stimulants. Stimulant medications (Ex: Adderall, Dexedrine, Ritalin, Vyvanse, Concerta) work to reduce all the symptoms of ADHD by increasing dopamine in certain parts of the brain and are used as first-line medication treatments for ADHD. Non-stimulant treatments (for example: Strattera, Clonidine, Guanfacine) are used as second-line treatments if parents do not want to treat their children with stimulants, if children are having adverse side effects to stimulants, or if there is a family history of addiction or abusing stimulants.

The second part of treatment of ADHD is Behavioural Management. Behavioural Management is not as effective in immediately reducing ADHD symptoms, however it is a central part of ADHD treatment as it can lead to a significant improvement in a child’s functioning. Part of this behavioural management is called “Behavioural Parent Training.” For more information on what you can do as a parent to help your child with ADHD – please read my other post What can I do as a parent to help my kid with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD)?

Some parents choose to use what physicians call “complementary therapies,” which include things like dietary supplements, fatty acids supplements, high dose vitamins, and diet changes. Others might chose more intensive treatments such as therapy with agents that remove heavy metals and toxins (chelation therapy). Current medical evidence suggests that there is no observable benefit to these treatment modalities, and that treatments such as “Chelation therapy” and treatments with very high doses of vitamins may sometimes have worsened health outcomes.

Feldman, H.; Reiff, M. Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder in Children and Adolescents. The new England journal of medicine, 370;9. Febrary 27, 2014.

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