Advantages & Disadvantages of ADHD Medication for Children

Are you considering medication for your child who has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)? Are you unsure if ADHD medication is right for your child? To help understand the advantages and disadvantages of ADHD medication for children, I have interviewed psychologist Dr. Nona Owens.

Tell me a little bit about yourself.
“I earned a Ph.D. in psychology from Mississippi State University with a minor in special education. While my original doctorate program was focused in the educational/school area of study, my continuing education post-doctorate has mainly focused on clinical psychology. I have been licensed to practice psychology in Mississippi since 1973. I started my professional career teaching elementary school aged children with learning disabilities and developmental delays. I then moved to a mental health setting where I worked with children with learning, behavioral, or emotional problems, as well as provided individual therapy for adults with emotional problems. I developed and ran a school in an inpatient setting for youth with behavior and emotional difficulties. I have done teaching at the university level in both the areas of psychology and special education. I have over 30 years experience doing mental exams and formal testing on children and adults. I am currently in private practice in Clinton, Ms. where I do child, adult, and family therapy.”

What are some symptoms of ADHD in children?
“Perhaps the one symptom that is of concern to parents is a child’s lack of attention to what is being taught in school. This is followed by their not completing assignments. And, even when assignments are completed, the quality of work may be lacking. Parents often complain that chores are started, but not finished, or that the child ‘tunes them out’ when they try to give instructions. Poor organization skills, as well as a problem with keeping up with belongings are often seen in children with ADHD. These are often the children who have the messiest desk at school, or never have a pencil or paper when needed. ADHD children are prone to be easily distracted. They do not work well where noise or excessive movement may occur. ‘Hyper’ is another complaint. A child with ADHD may be akin to the ‘Energizer Bunny’. They bounce from one thing to another, while making those around them upset by their behavior. An often-overlooked symptom of ADHD, and one, which causes children many consequences, is poor impulse control. Children with ADHD are more prone to act without thinking through the consequences than a child without ADHD. These children also seek out immediate gratification. They want what they want when they want it.”

What are some advantages of ADHD medication for children?
“I often tell parents who seek an evaluation for children with ADHD that medication helps them much like fine-tuning a radio would take the static out if it was off channel. Stimulants are the most common group of drugs used to treat ADHD. These are known to increase the dopamine level in the brain. Dopamine is associated with motivation, pleasure, attention, and movement; therefore increasing the level in a child with ADHD often aids in concentration, following through with tasks, becoming less hyperactive, and being better able to follow through and complete tasks correctly.

Children who receive medication to treat ADHD often go from making poor grades in school to being able to keep up with assignments, if they haven’t gotten so far behind before diagnosis and treatment. Their mood, as well as self-image may improve. They get along better in social situations and have less trouble with their peers and teachers.”

What are some disadvantages of ADHD medication for children?
“The Internet, as well as leaflets that come with medication prescribed to treat ADHD lists a number of physical side effects of medication. One of the most common complaints parents report is lack of appetite. Many physicians have children take the medication only during school days because of this problem. Some children experience poor sleep, while others may become more irritable, develop tics, or have headaches or upset stomach. Some medications that are commonly used to treat hypertension have also been shown to help reduce the symptoms associated with ADHD. However, these also come with side effects in some such as feeling extremely tired or exhausted, as well as bouts of dizziness.

Aside from the physical side effects of medication to treat ADHD is the mindset that a pill will fix the problem. It is rare to find a child who has the symptoms of ADHD who does not have other associated problems such as oppositional defiant disorder, anxiety, or depression. Poor self-image, poor peer relations, as well as parent-child relationship problems are common in children who have ADHD. Academic problems and school failure are often seen in these children. Parents and school officials look to medication to handle the ADHD, but often do not seek out help to deal with the other issues the child is experiencing as a result of the ADHD”

Thank you Dr. Owens for doing the interview on the advantages and disadvantages of ADHD medication for children. For more information on Dr. Owens and her work you can check out her website on www.drnonaowens.com.

Recommended Readings:
How to Cope with Your Teens Attention Deficit Disorder
How to Help Your Child Get Control of Their Attention Deficit Disorder
Attention Deficit Disorder Relationship Challenges