Is medication always necessary?
Not always, said Earl Oremus, headmaster at Marburn Academy in Columbus. He said the more severe the symptoms and the greater the problems they are causing the child in school, socially, or in the family, the more likely it is that medication will be needed. Medication is used to diminish the symptoms enough for the behavior modification and coaching to take hold and produce improvements.
Shivani Edwards, Director of Clinical Development at Buckeye Ranch in Columbus, said that medication is not their primary focus, but is often utilized as part of the treatment. "Medication is not always necessary," she said.
Kathryn Leugers, Psy.D., M.B.A., counselor with Meers, Inc. Consulting Psychologists in Columbus agreed. She said that although research supports the use of medication as an effective treatment for ADHD, sometimes it's not appropriate due to other medical issues or it's not effective with a specific individual. "Most professionals strongly recommend that therapy and support are important components of treatment in addition to medication," she said.
Are we overmedicating our kids?
Oremus said that in his experience the vast majority of decisions about utilizing medication for ADHD are very pragmatic: if it isn't needed it isn't tried. And if it is tried and it doesn't work, it is not continued. "Almost every one of the hundreds of parents of ADHD kids I have discussed medication with have been very reluctant to consider medication," he said. "They only seem to get to the point of trying medication when all of the other ideas fail to work and the child seems to be getting into ever greater difficulty. And if they try medication and it doesn't seem to work, almost all of them are very quick to discontinue it. They don't just keep doing it for the sake of medicating the child."
Are the medications harmful?
Medication used to treat virtually any condition produces both desired and undesired effects side effects. The medications used to treat ADHD are no different. "The question then becomes, 'Are the side effects serious?'" continued Oremus. "Countless studies have reported that the side effects of the common ADHD meds are among the most benign of all widely-administered drugs."
Stimulants and non-stimulants are used to treat the inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity symptoms of ADHD. "With stimulants, an increased heart rate and lowered appetite are more commonly reported," Leugers said.