Medicating Children Impacted by ADHD
Dear Developmental Doc:
My son has just been diagnosed with attention deficit disorder -- hyperactive type. His psychologist wants me to have him be seen by a psychiatrist so that in addition to play therapy he will be given medication to treat his impulsive/erratic behavior. While I believe that he needs help, he is only 7 years old and I am really hesitant to give him medication that may alter his development or his personality. Your thoughts? Sylvia P. West Los Angeles, CA.
I am glad to hear that you have already begun play therapy treatment to address some of the core self-concept issues that often arise with children impacted by attentional concerns. I also can appreciate your thoughts in having to medicate your child, particularly at such a young age. Last month I addressed the medication issues regarding children with developmental delays like autism.
While not considered a developmental delay, Attention Deficit Disorder (ADHD) is thought to be a regulatory disorder where a child is misconstruing environmental stimulus and becoming over or under reactive in response to this misinterpretation. There is considerable scientific evidence that suggests that when the executive functions of the brain is impaired in those with ADHD characteristic impulsive/erratic behaviors are not occurring because of a child’s poor attitude. Rather, it is recognized that ADHD is a biochemical impairment where two particular neurotransmitter chemicals, dopamine and norepinephrine, are primarily responsible. The medications used to treat ADHD symptoms work by increasing dopamine and norepinephrine levels between nerve cells in the brain. Stimulant medication is the most effective intervention in addressing core ADHD symptoms and works for 70-80% of patients who are impacted by this disorder. If you have concerns regarding the impact of traditional western psychotropic medication on your son’s development, then you may want to consult a physician who is versed in homeopathic alternative care.
Whichever direction you choose to go, please be aware that it is important that a child with ADHD be evaluated for the appropriateness of medication as part of his/her treatment plan. Given the often dramatic alleviation of ADHD symptoms, it is actually unfair not to medicate, so that beyond the improvement in your child’s behavior, he can begin to have a better sense of self.
Wishing you the best with this understandably difficult decision,
Esther B. Hess, Ph.D. a.k.a The Developmental Doc