children with adhd playing

Should I Medicate My Child for ADHD?

May 8, 2024
by Dr. Francisco Navarro

As a parent, deciding whether to start your child on medication for attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can feel like a weighty decision. You may have many questions and concerns about potential side effects, long-term impacts, and whether it’s truly necessary. This guide aims to provide clarity around some common questions to help you feel more informed and supported as you explore this treatment option.

 

Does ADHD medication change a child’s personality?

One common worry is that stimulant medications like Adderall or Ritalin could alter a child’s inherent personality or disposition. However, when properly dosed, these medications actually help children with ADHD better regulate their emotions, focus, and impulsive behaviors — not fundamentally change who they are. The medication allows their true self to shine through by mitigating ADHD symptoms that might otherwise hold them back.

Are there long-term & short-term effects of ADHD medication?

Most ADHD medications are considered safe for long-term use when monitored closely by a doctor. Some potential long-term effects in children can include slight delays in achieving their full adult height and/or weight but these are generally mild. Common side effects can include:

  • Decrease in appetite
  • Difficulties falling asleep
  • Can worsen underlying anxiety disorders

More serious side effects like cardiac issues tend to be very rare when screening and dosing are properly managed. 

Headaches and stomach aches may occur within the first week of taking medication, often improving within 5 days.

 

Does medication become less effective over time?

For some children, symptom relief may start to diminish over many years on the same ADHD medication dose. This is often due to physical changes like increases in height/weight as they grow older, as well as the development of tolerance. Their doctor can adjust dosages periodically to ensure they continue receiving optimal benefits. Rotating between different ADHD medication formulas can also help revive their effectiveness.

 

Does ADHD medication cause addiction?

When taken as prescribed for ADHD, stimulant medications like Adderall have a low risk of addiction or dependency. However, they do have a higher potential for abuse or misuse, which is why they require a doctor’s close supervision, especially in adolescents and teens. Proper education on their medical purpose and risks is essential. 

Medication for people with ADHD can actually help reduce risk of addiction, as it can help manage impulsivity and reduce risk-taking behavior in teens and adults with ADHD.

integrative treatments for adhd

How Integrative Treatments Can Help Manage ADHD

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, behavior therapy and medication are recommended ADHD treatments for children aged 6 or older. However, while medication can be incredibly helpful for managing symptoms, it doesn’t have to be an “all or nothing” decision. Many families find combining medication and therapy with integrative treatments like neurofeedback, neuromodulation, nutrition plans, mindfulness, and exercise to be a comprehensive solution. In some cases, some of these approaches can effectively treat ADHD without the need for medication.

This whole-person approach allows each child to receive personalized care that goes beyond just treating symptoms. Medication works to stabilize the core condition, while supportive treatments strengthen focus, self-regulation, and overall well-being.

 

Find Integrative Care for ADHD From Mental Health Experts

At ResWell, our collaborative team guides you through all of these available options, providing education and supportive services tailored to your child’s needs. We partner with your family to help make informed choices aligned with your unique values, needs, and circumstances.

If you have concerns about medicating your child for ADHD, we’re here to listen without judgment and collaborate on a treatment plan you feel confident about moving forward. Contact us today to help your child manage ADHD effectively and overcome the obstacles they face.