Treatment Options for Children with ADHD

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Summary & Participants

Learn about the treatment options available if your child has been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Medically Reviewed On: July 21, 2012

Webcast Transcript

ANNOUNCER: When treating the symptoms of childhood ADHD, doctors will generally prescribe medications called stimulants.

MELVIN OATIS, MD: The benefit of stimulant medication is really targeting the three primary areas of ADHD, which are hyperactivity, impulsivity and inattention.

ANN ABRAMOWITZ, MD: There's been a huge amount of research looking at the effectiveness of stimulant medication with ADHD. And there's really no question that stimulants can be very helpful as part of the treatment for 70 to 80 percent, at least, of people who have ADHD.

ANNOUNCER: Although the name implies otherwise, stimulant medications actually have a calming affect on children with ADHD.

JAMES McGOUGH, MD: We now know, actually, that in truth, everyone gets calm and more focused on a stimulant and it has nothing to do with having ADHD or not. What's difficult for some people to understand is that while what we see overtly is that patients are overactive, they're fidgety, they're restless, or they have difficulty staying on a particular task or stimulus in terms of their attention, what they're really lacking is control of those areas. So it does seem paradoxical somewhat that they're giving kids stimulants and they're calming down. What we're actually doing is stimulating their control centers or their executive function centers and thereby gaining better overall control.

ANNOUNCER: There are two groups of stimulant medications prescribed for ADHD: the amphetamines, which include Adderall preparations, and the methylphenidate group which includes Ritalin, Concerta, Focalin and the Daytrana patch. As with all medications, there can be side effects associated with stimulants.

MELVIN OATIS, MD: The primary side effects associated with stimulant medication are common ones, are headache and stomachache, which are usually transient side effects that go away within a few weeks of treatment, but you need to be aware of them. Another common side effect is a decreased appetite. Also when children first start medication, it can have an impact upon their sleep, so you really have to monitor what time of day that you're giving it so that the medication is out of their system in order for them to have a successful, restful night of sleep.

ANNOUNCER: One side effect stimulants do not carry is the risk for addiction.

MELVIN OATIS, MD: In terms of addiction, the stimulant medications are not addictive. In fact, they have been shown from the research perspective that treating the child's ADHD symptoms will later in life decrease the chances of them becoming addicted to other types of medication. So it's actually something that is beneficial.

ANNOUNCER: The first available stimulants were short-acting medications that are taken several times a day.

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