ADHD: Why Medication Shouldn’t Be The First Choice

Recently close friends of mine had their son diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. While they were sort of expecting the diagnosis it was still very upsetting and shocking to hear.  They really wanted the doctor to say everything was fine.

It all started when his nursery school told them that he had been having difficulty in several areas involving attention, and then a few days later he failed his kindergarten screening.

Mom Was Shocked
His mom was in shock since this was dropped on her at the last minute and she thought he was doing well in his final year of preschool.  She knew her son was a very busy little boy, but she had no idea that he was any different than the other little boys in class.

She immediately started looking for solutions. It was recommended that she have him evaluated for ADHD, and she did. Not surprisingly the doctor who made the ADHD diagnosis quickly offered medication.

She refused the medication as she saw it as a last resort not as a first step.

Who could blame her? The medications given to children with ADHD often have many unwanted side effects causing even more problems.

Unwanted Side Effects of ADHD Medications
At the very least ADHD medication side effects include loss of sleep, loss of appetite, weight loss, headaches, jitteriness, stomachaches and social withdrawal.   Considering children with ADHD often need social skills therapy does it really make sense to give them something that could make them have more problems socially without exploring all the other options?

While the ever powerful pharmaceutical lobby has done a fine job of convincing everyone that ADHD medications are completely safe, they cannot possibly be as safe as improving nutrition and using non-drug therapies.

The Natural Alternatives
It’s no wonder that many parents want to try natural alternatives first. What could be safer than improving diet? Even though my daughter is a great eater and rarely eats anything with additives, her diet would be the first place I would look if she was diagnosed with ADHD or a learning disorder.

The food we eat has a profound effect on our behavior and our ability to learn. Sometimes it’s because of the additives in food. Other times it’s because of a nutritional deficiency or even an allergy. All can be tested for and changed.

Unfortunately that course of action is rarely recommended by most doctors.

My friend’s doctor even tried to talk her out of getting the tests recommended by a nutritionist.

I don’t know what the tests are going to find in my friend’s son, but what I do know is that a change in diet combined with some treatments including sensory and social skills therapy has done wonders for his behavior without the use of any drugs.

Parents need to know that there are alternatives for helping their children.

While they don’t work for everyone, neither do medications. And it is important to know that you don’t always have to start with medications even if they are recommended by a physician. As is so often the case it is up to us as parents to find the best solutions for our own children.

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Isa Marrs is the Founder and Executive Director of the Where I Can Be Me® social skills program. She is a board-certified speech-language pathologist who specializes in pragmatic language (social skills) disorders in children. Read More