If you or a loved one is struggling with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), then you must know how challenging it is to navigate through life’s hurdles. While ADHD has no cure, there are accepted treatments that help to control the symptoms.
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There are several considerations to make before selecting the best treatment for an ADHD patient. Typically, the are three main ‘parties’ involved in making the decision, namely the patient, clinician, and caregiver. Your clinician will use three main factors to guide their decision:
- Patient’s age
- Severity and
- Comorbidities (suffering from multiple health conditions)
Most health guidelines advise against giving medication to children below the age of six. This is because the side effects outweigh the benefits. Also, social and academic pressures are not as much compared to high school and college.
Generally, ADHD treatments fall under two main categories, namely:
- Pharmacological(medication)– stimulants and non-stimulants
- Non-pharmacological– cognitive therapy, behavioral interventions, and eTNS
Amphetamines (AMP) and methylphenidate (MPH) are the most widely used psychostimulants in the treatment of patients with ADHD. These two are also the most researched and overall, most effective medication.
Benefits are noticeable within the first hour of taking the medication and later after it has been fully metabolized. Typically, the benefits will last a year. However, dose modifications might be required to experience full benefits. Below are some of the commonly used stimulants:
- Methylphenidate (Concerta, Ritalin)
- AMP-based stimulants (Adderall)
- Dexmethylphenidate (Focalin)
- Dextroamphetamine (Desoxyn)
2. Non-stimulant Medicine
Non-stimulant medications are drugs that amplify the norepinephrine and catecholamine levels in an ADHD patient. These are chemicals in your brain that are responsible for memory retention as well as concentration. Typically, non-stimulants are a second-line option due to their reduced efficacy. Unlike stimulants that produce almost immediate benefits, these medications may take up to seven days for you to experience their full effect. This characteristic makes it challenging to decide on the optimum dosage.
Several factors explain why some ADHD patients receive non-stimulant medication. These include:
- Failure to respond to stimulants
- Experiencing adverse side effects from stimulants
- Stimulants are considered to be controlled substances, which are not only expensive but difficult to access
- While there’s little evidence, there are fears of substance abuse disorders associated with long term stimulant use
There are five categories of non-stimulants, namely:
- Antidepressants (Wellbutrin and Effexor XR)
- FDA-approved ADHD medicine (Strattera and Intuniv)
- Wakefulness-promoting medicine (Provigil)
- Blood pressure drugs (Tenex and Clonidine)
- Anti-viral medicine (Symmetrel)
Possible Side effects of stimulants and non-stimulants
It’s common for ADHD patients to report the side effects of both medications. However, these effects tend to be more severe for stimulants. Some of these issues include:
- Loss of appetite
- Stomach upsets
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Therapy is a non-pharmacological treatment that is recommended as an alternative to medication. However, for those with moderate-to-severe ADHD, these treatments are recommended as an add-on.
This form of therapy aims to help the ADHD patient cope with the issues affecting their relationship with their loved ones, peers as well as authorities. Psychotherapy also helps to address the negative thought patterns to make better decisions in the future. Experts recommend involving both the patient and family members to help improve bonds.
Behavior therapy/modification is meant to address negative behavior patterns and feelings, such as lack of self-control and esteem issues. According to the CDC website, this treatment works best when provided by parents. Parents should receive training by attending close to ten therapy sessions. The thinking behind this approach is that parents have the most significant impact on their children’s behavior.
Social skills training
This form of treatment is given to adolescents and children with the hope of improving their interpersonal relationships. This program pays particular attention to communication and problem-solving skills. Some of the techniques used to deliver these training include role-plays, coaching, and conflict resolution scenarios.
4. Behavioral Interventions to Practice Both at Home and in School
If your child has ADHD, then you may have noticed that they struggle with keeping things organized both at home and at school. Here are some of the useful interventions that parents can learn to practice.
- Create simple house rules, such as no cursing or running.
- Try to differentiate between healthy child inappropriate behavior and unhealthy ones. This will reduce the number of scuffles between you and your child.
- Use clear directives. For instance, telling them to clean before dinner instead of saying, “you should clean up today.”
- Create a routine. It would be best to post charts of the daily schedule one for when at home and the other for school days.
- Utilize positive reinforcement. It’s essential to reward your child with ADHD whenever they follow the rules or accomplish something. This helps to build their self-esteem as well as promote good behavior.
5. Monarch™ External Trigeminal Nerve Stimulation (eTNS) System
Monarch™ eTNS is a novel treatment that received FDA approval in 2019. This approach is designed for use in children between the ages of seven and twelve. It is an electronic gadget that stimulates the brain’s fifth cranial nerve. Treatment is administered for eight hours while the child is asleep.
Studies show that it not only helps to reduce symptoms of ADHD but also other mental health conditions such as depression and PTSD in adults. Its benefits are similar to those offered by non-stimulants. Also, it offers a great option to patients that want to avoid medication. Despite the side effects such as appetite loss and headaches, eTNS is useful and also relatively safe.
ADHD is a mental health condition that affects both children and adults. Several treatments are available for managing their symptoms. Each treatment option has its advantages and shortcomings. For this reason, experts may recommend a combination of treatments such as stimulants and behavioral therapy. Only a board-certified clinician can recommend the most effective treatment for you or your loved one who has ADHD. Our team at EZCare Clinic offers diagnostic services as well as FDA-approved treatment options.