attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, Mental Health

ADHD: Why medication is so important!!

“Decades of research have shown us that kids with untreated ADHD (not to speak of anxiety, depression and other very treatable conditions) struggle just to become productive citizens.” -Steven M. S. Kurtz, Ph.D, Child Mind Institute.

The decision to medicate your child for Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder can be a difficult one.  I have met many parents that do not want to medicate their child. These parents search in hopes of finding non-medication alternatives that may be able to help their child cope with ADHD. If you want to know more about those alternative methods, click here. For most ADHDers, treatment with non-medication options are not enough. Although non-medication alternatives are important, the best way to treat ADHD is with a combination of non-medication options, as well as medication and psychotherapy. 

Failure to treat ADHD can lead to:

  • Trouble communicating thoughts and feelings, hopelessness, poor self-esteem, and depression, increasing the risk for suicide.
  • Frustration from lack of self control
  • Increased risk for fatal accidents because of impulsive behavior and poor decision making
  • Difficult/strained relationships with family and friends
  • Increased risk for troubled relationships, leading to unemployment, job loss and divorce
  • Increased sexual promiscuity
  • Increased risk of being involved in auto accidents.
  • Increased use of smoking, drinking alcohol, and using drugs

Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is becoming more recognized and more children are put on medication every day. There has been talk in the national news about whether or not we are over diagnosing and/or over treating ADHD. Some providers will medicate children without trying other non-medication options, and some are quick to diagnose ADHD without a thorough evaluation. Some kids are medicated when they should not be, but many kids are medicated because they NEED to be.

ADHD children are medicated to help them control the symptoms of ADHD that interfere with everyday life in social, recreational and school settings. A child that has trouble paying attention, trouble sitting still and can’t stop talking is going to have difficulty in school. A child that is frequently invading other people’s personal space and frequently interrupts conversation is going to have trouble with friends and other relationships. A person that can’t focus enough to complete a task or assignment is going to have trouble learning, regardless of their intellect. With all of the challenges that ADHD bring, these children will have trouble reaching their ultimate potential without the help of medication.

Let me share what can happen when ADHD kids are not medicated…

School Issues: 

  • According to the CDC (1999), 15% of children with ADHD have a math or reading disability
  • Up to 50% of children living with ADHD are suspended
  • 80-90% of students with ADHD are significantly behind in school by 4th, 5th, or 6th grade
  • A study at UC Davis Health Systems (2010) cites that 1/3 of students living with ADHD drop out of high school, and those that do not are less likely to finish on time
  • As many as 50% of ADHD student fail at least 1 grade in school (Barkley, 2000)
  • ADHD kids are 3 times more likely to fail, be suspended or be expelled (Barkley, 2000)

Relationship Issues: 

  • ADHD makes it more difficult to maintain relationships
  • Decreased ability to put thoughts and feelings into words make it more difficulty to communicate feelings
  • Making impulsive decisions and speaking before thinking create barriers to harmonious friendships and job retention
  • Frustration from school and decrease self control causes self-esteem issues
  • Impulsive and reckless behavior leads to promiscuity

Safety Issues: 

  • ADHD children have more frequent and severe injuries, hospitalizations, and ER visits than those without ADHD
  • Increased incidence of motor vehicle accidents and traffic citations
  • ADHD teens have 3 times more speeding violations
  • ADHD teen have 4 times more accidents within their first 2-5 years of driving

Substance Abuse/Use Issues: 

  • Earlier onset of substance use
  • More frequent use/abuse of drugs and alcohol
  • 75% use drugs and alcohol when non-medicated vs. 25% use when medicated (use among non-ADHD diagnosed youth is ~ 18%)

Juvenile Delinquency Issues: 

  • ADHD youth are at increased risk for engaging in delinquent and antisocial behavior, especially boys
  • 47% of youth in juvenile detention have ADHD

All facts and statistics obtained from the National Alliance on Mental Illness/NAMI.

kids silhoettes playing outside

Check out this great article, “When ADHD Goes Untreated” from a leading expert on ADHD and disruptive behaivor disorders at the Child Mind Institute.

Another encouraging article that supports medication is “Free to Enjoy the Life He Deserves”  found on a great website for ADHD, ADDitude.

So, as you can see, not treating ADHD can have devastating results. For all of you parents out there that don’t want to medicate your child with ADHD, I feel your pain. As a Mom that has been through the struggles of diagnosis and multiple treatment options, I understand your hesitation. I too resisted the diagnosis of ADHD for my son. How could this sweet little boy, that could sit for hours and read, and was so incredibly smart have ADHD. But, how could this child that ran or spun everywhere he went, was unable to sit still through a meal, and looked at everything along the road on a bike ride besides the road NOT have ADHD. After lots of educational, psychological, and other tests, my husband and I realized that our child did indeed have ADHD. The decision to medicate him was not an easy one. Just as the mom that wrote the above article “Free to Enjoy the Life He Deserves” expressed, I didn’t want Joshua’s static to interfere with the rest of the world recognizing that he is such an interesting, cool kid. When I first medicated Joshua, I didn’t know about all of the information and statistics that I have listed above. I just knew that this highly intelligent child would never meet his full potential if we didn’t help him filter out the distractions. This was going to take medication.

So, what medication works best, you may ask? Stimulants work best for ADHD.  There are some non-stimulant medications also, but they do not have a reputation for helping the symptoms as well as stimulants. There are more than half a dozen different stimulants to chose from, and each one works differently for different people. It took 4 different medications and almost 2 years before we found the right medication for Josh. Managing his ADHD is an ongoing battle, just giving him a pill every morning isn’t a quick fix. When he is off his regular schedule, his sleep schedule is altered, or we let him eat things he shouldn’t (like artificial food dyes) things are more challenging. Focusing on the alternative non-medication treatment options are just as important as the medication. And, then there is the occasional trip to the psychologist just to keep us all in check.

Parenting an ADHD child takes a lot of patience, persistence, and dedication. It is not easy, but then again, parenting isn’t easy. I’m convinced that the effort and hard work that my husband and I have put into raising our ADHD child will pay off in the long run. I keep telling myself, and Joshua, frequently, that he is destined for greatness! It’s my job as his mom to help him reach for the highest stars! Sure, we will hit a few speed bumps along the way, even a few mountains that we might have to move, but all in all, we got this!!

Parenting is a difficult job. Making the right decisions is rarely easy. Just remember, one of the most important things is to Enjoy the Journey! 😉

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