ADHD medications can be divided into two general categories: 1) big pharmaceutical company offerings such as Ritalin, etc. and 2) holistic supplements made from plants and herbs.
The subject of ADHD medications is contentious for a number of reasons.
Most major pharmaceutical offerings such as Ritalin are made from stimulants, which can result in adverse side effects, and risks of addiction and withdrawal. This fact alone is enough to give pause to parents considering giving any stimulant-based ADHD medicine to their children.
In addition, some parents believe that ADHD is a "made-up" condition. They feel that because children are naturally active, medications are unnecessary.
As a doctor who treats ADHD and as a mother of a son with ADHD, I do not share this opinion but I understand the sentiment in a society that tends to over-medicate.
Helpful Tip: For my patients and fellow parents, I always suggest the following: perform some trial and error with the medications listed below and see which work best for you. For those folks that cannot tolerate stimulants, you may find that the natural alternatives are far more mild and equally effective.
These mainstream pharmaceutical ADHD meds typically consist of stimulants that affect the chemicals in the brain (neurotransmitters) that contribute to hyperactivity and impulse control, which are two of the hallmark symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
While it may sound odd to give stimulants to already "hyper" folks, stimulants actually have a calming effect on those with ADHD. Some disadvantages of stimulants include potential adverse side effects such as nausea and headaches, addiction, and withdrawal.
These natural supplements are made from plants and herbs that have been used in traditional and Chinese medicine for thousands of years. They tend to have far fewer adverse side effects, no addictive properties, and do not result in withdrawal symptoms that are typical of amphetamine-based stimulants.
These medications are best used as part of a comprehensive treatment program that includes therapy (usually behavioral), educational supports and home supports.
Studies show that combined, comprehensive treatments result in better outcomes. Treatment teams can include doctors and psychiatrists (who prescribe medications), social workers or other trained therapists/counselors who provide therapy and parent training, teachers and child-study teams.
Remember, some trial and error may be required in terms of finding the best dosage levels and medication times. Also, medications tend to affect everyone differently, so what works for your neighbor may not work for you.
It is essential to have open, two-way communication with your prescribing doctor. Tell them what works and what does not.
Report any noticeable side effects. Ask questions. This empowers all of the parties involved and results in optimum treatment for you or your child.
Do not alter doses, skip does, or stop giving medications cold turkey without consulting your prescribing doctor first. If you feel your voice is not heard then seek a doctor who will listen. Also, it is preferable to find a psychiatrist who specializes in treating ADHD rather than rely on a primary care physician.