ADHD in Children (cont.)

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What are the treatments for ADHD in children? What are possible side effects of ADHD medications?

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While medications are often prominent in the treatment of ADHD, behavioral treatments that address the interactions that the child with ADHD has with his or her parents, peers, and in school are also important in improving the child's ability to function. Mental-health professionals therefore often work with parents and teachers of children with this condition to encourage and reinforce the child's strengths, decrease the child's counterproductive behaviors, and provide accommodations at school to maximize the child's academic success; they also may enlist the child in a social-skills group of their peers to improve the ADHD child's ability to make and keep friends.

Children with ADHD often benefit from being prescribed medication. The most common medications used to treat this disorder are the stimulant medications. Perhaps the oldest prescribed stimulant for the treatment of ADHD is Ritalin. However, given the longer days that older children and teens have compared to young children, stimulants that last longer are usually prescribed for those age groups. Examples of these prescribed drugs include long-acting preparations of methylphenidate, like Daytrana patches, Ritalin-LA, Concerta, and dexmethylphenidate (Focalin-XR), as well as the long-acting amphetamine salt Adderall-XR. Long-acting stimulants also include lisdexamfetamine (Vyvanse). However, shorter-acting stimulants like amphetamine salt (Adderall), dextroamphetamine sulfate (Zenzedi), and methylphenidate preparations, like Focalin and Metadate, may be more suitable for younger children so they are less likely to have trouble sleeping at night. Daytrana and a liquid form of methylphenidate called Quillivant XR can be useful in younger children because these two medications do not present trouble swallowing for children. Also, the effect of the Daytrana patch comes out of the child's system soon after the patch is removed, allowing parents to have more control over how long they would like the medication effect to last each day.

Some children and adolescents may need to take a nonstimulant medication for treatment of ADHD. For those whose symptoms early in the morning or late in the evening are an issue, stimulants may not be the optimal medication treatment. For others, side effects like low appetite, insomnia, tremors, depression, irritability, less frequently tics, and rarely hallucinations may make it unwise for the child to take a stimulant medication. While stimulant treatment of people with ADHD who have no history of drug abuse tends to contribute to a decreased likelihood of developing a substance-abuse problem later on, those who have a recent history of alcohol or other drug abuse may make the small but real addiction potential of stimulants a reason not to prescribe a medication from that group. For children who either experience suboptimal effects, side effects, or significant side effects of stimulants, nonstimulant medications like guanfacine (Tenex or Intuniv), clonidine (Catapress or Kapvay), or atomoxetine (Strattera) may be considered.

Children who suffer from ADHD are at higher risk for developing mood problems during adulthood. They may therefore benefit from medications that have been found to be helpful for people who have both ADHD and depression or anxiety, like bupropion (Wellbutrin) or venlafaxine (Effexor).

While further research is needed to determine the potential effectiveness of natural remedies for treatment of ADHD, a number of parents use such treatments without drugs in an attempt to help their children. Such alternative treatments include dietary restrictions and vitamin supplements. A significant limitation of these remedies includes the difficulty in implementing them. Lifestyle improvements have been found to help reduce some symptoms in some children. Such improvements include regular exercise and ensuring the person receives adequate sleep every night. In fact, there is research that indicates that regular physical activity can measurably decrease ADHD symptoms, particularly in young children.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/5/2015

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