Medication Guide Useful for the Parents of ADHD Kids
> 10/3/2007 12:04:30 PM

In the face of fearful debate and long-standing rumors stoked by a February FDA report on the potential psychiatric and cardiovascular side-effects of ADHD stimulant medications, a newly published parent's guide to ADHD and its related meds looks to make the treatment process less stressful for all involved. The FDA decision to require patient notifications on all ADHD meds came about because of clinical confirmation of rare but significant side-effects beyond the more common insomnia and reduced appetite symptoms drawn from these medications: in a miniscule percentage of the medicated population, ADHD stimulant medications may cause psychiatric disturbances such as strange voices and manic behaviors and heighten the risk of heart attack or stroke in patients with pre-existing cardiovascular conditions. Also included in the statement is Strattera, the single non-stimulant drug approved for the treatment of ADHD.

These concerns are very real, and researchers acknowledge them while reinforcing the established fact that methylphenidate medications like Ritalin provide clear benefits to many, if not all, ADHD patients. The guide is organized and published by the American Psychiatric Association in collaboration with the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry; while not calling on parents to avoid prescription medicines, it makes clear that each child should be thoroughly examined and assessed before any decisions are made and that any pharmaceutical regimen should begin with the smallest possible dose. Authors of the guide did not receive funding from the dreaded pharmaceutical lobby, and they note that, despite fears of drugged "zombie children" filling our elementary schools, underdiagnosis is a much greater problem. Even if they eschew medication, the parents of millions of children who warrant steps taken to remedy their ADHD should be aware of all options and seek some sort of approach to balance the influence of their conditions. Approximately half of those who qualify for diagnosis receive no treatment at all, and expecting children to overcome such deficits on their own hardly constitutes responsible oversight.

The National Institute of Mental Health's 1999 Multimodal Treatment Study of Children with ADHD noted that, while stimulants like methylphenidate do effectively counter certain conditional symptoms, combination therapies involving both medicine and behavioral therapy usually prove most effective, often requiring smaller doses of said medicine. It also re-emphasized the importance of educating parents and teachers on the complexities engendered by the ADHD condition and the best ways to address it. The overall conclusions reached by this study and repeated in the parent's guide remain that ADHD medications, while they carry risks in the form of side effects and the potential for recreational or abusive consumption, often make up part of an effective treatment strategy. While drug free "alternative" therapies may be considered, their sources must be viewed with just as much suspicion as the villified professionals who offer approved medications.

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