Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in Teens

  • Medical Author:
    John Mersch, MD, FAAP

    Dr. Mersch received his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of California, San Diego, and prior to entering the University Of Southern California School Of Medicine, was a graduate student (attaining PhD candidate status) in Experimental Pathology at USC. He attended internship and residency at Children's Hospital Los Angeles.

  • Medical Editor: Roxanne Dryden-Edwards, MD
    Roxanne Dryden-Edwards, MD

    Roxanne Dryden-Edwards, MD

    Dr. Roxanne Dryden-Edwards is an adult, child, and adolescent psychiatrist. She is a former Chair of the Committee on Developmental Disabilities for the American Psychiatric Association, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, and Medical Director of the National Center for Children and Families in Bethesda, Maryland.

What alternative treatments are available for ADHD in teens?

Parents and patients often question the value of "alternative" (nondrug or non-psychotherapy) treatments to manage ADHD symptoms. A recent review has drawn the following conclusions:

  1. There is currently no proof that a diet high in sugar contributes to ADHD behaviors. The Feingold diet attempts to eliminate artificial colorings, flavorings, and preservatives in an attempt to affect hyperactivity. No documented benefit has been demonstrated in quality studies and inflicting restrictive food choices on children and adolescents can prove to be problematic and cause unnecessary conflicts.
  2. Interactive metronome training trains the patient to mimic foot and hand tapping synchronized with a metronome. The theory is that ADHD symptoms are deficits in motor planning and that interactive metronome therapy promotes the ability to focus for extended periods of time, filter out distractions, and develop self-management of ADHD symptoms. A few studies have shown a positive benefit for this program in boys between 6-12 years of age in terms of visual motor control and less so with sustained attention or hyperactivity. Further research in this field is ongoing.
  3. Some chiropractors propose that muscle tone imbalances are causative for ADHD behaviors and that spinal adjustments are beneficial. To date, no scientifically rigorous study has confirmed this belief.
  4. Studies have shown that some patients with ADHD have a unique pattern of brain waves when studied by EEG. Neurofeedback techniques propose that a patient may be trained to eliminate these abnormal EEG patterns and thus modify their behaviors. While there are some promising results, concern regarding the high cost and duration of therapy exist.
  5. Several recent studies have explored the possible beneficial effects of omega-3 fatty acid supplementation. Some results indicate that there may be a small subset of patients with ADHD that may experience an improvement in symptoms of inattention. Studies are now ongoing to confirm this observation and attempt to predictably determine those individuals who may benefit from such supplements.


Bélanger, S.A., et al. "Omega-3 Fatty Acid Treatment of Children With Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: A Randomized, Double Blind, Placebo Controlled Study." Paediatric Child Health 14.2 Feb. 2009: 89-98.

Cosper, S. M., et al. "Interactive Metronome Training in Children With Attention Deficit and Developmental Coordination Disorders." International Journal of Rehabilitation Research 32.4 (2009): 331-336.

Floet, A.M., et al. "Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder." Pediatrics in Review 31.2 (2010): 56-69.

Pliszka, S. and AACAP Work Group on Quality Issues. "Practice Parameter for the Assessment and Treatment of Children and Adolescents With Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder." Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 46.7 (2007): 894-921.

Searight, H.R., et al. "Adult Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder." Feb. 2013.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/22/2015
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