ADHD and medication
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has become one the most prevalent and challenging neurobehavioral disorders, especially among children. This disorder negatively affects not just the children diagnosed, but also their families and community at large. Given the impact of ADHD, treatment modality has been a major focal point and one that inspires controversy and debate. With the present treatment of choice being prescription of medications, particularly stimulants, either alone or in conjunction with psychosocial treatment, there has been widespread argument on whether medication use is feasible (Hawthorne, 2007). Although there seems to be consensus amongst researchers on the short-term efficacy of medications in ADHD treatment, concern arises on the translation of these benefits to long-term wellbeing, as discernible from an individual’s academic performance, as well as, social and emotional stability. This paper supports the argument that healthcare practitioners and caregivers for ADHD-afflicted children should use medication in managing the disorder, since benefits of medication use outweigh purported shortcomings.
First, understanding symptoms of ADHD is pertinent to rationalizing use of medication in its management. Key indicators of the disorder include impulsive tendencies, hyperactivity, and lack of attentiveness. As a result, ADHD is greatly burdensome, since it results in considerable functional impairments like poor family and social life, low academic performance, and poor emotional development. In addition, the disorder is linked to other psychiatric issues like anxiety, defiance, and learning disability (Costa Dias et al., 2013). This wide array of ADHD negative outcomes warrants intervention that would further pave way for behavior modification. Without medication, therefore, the affected individuals may not be receptive to social and behavioral treatments.
According to De Sousa & Kalra (2012), research into the short-range effects of medications, particularly stimulants, shows that this speedy management of ADHD signs makes it possible for children to function in a more effective manner within a class. A plausible explanation for this positive effect is that, medications make children more open to learning, while allowing them to embrace concepts and skills that facilitate better functioning in class not just at that moment, but also in future. This implies that kids, who receive ADHD medication, are more likely to experience long-range school-associated benefits compared to their counterparts who only receive psychosocial treatment.
In support of medication use in ADHD management, Shier et al. (2013) highlight the fact that both stimulants and non-stimulants have been prescribed for the disorder for more than four decades. These authors are emphatic that over this period, diverse scholarly investigations have demonstrated the high efficacy and safety of these drugs. For instance, some studies have drawn comparisons between medicated and non-medicated children getting psychosocial therapy. The scholars choose to focus on the largest of the latter, known as the Multi-Modal Treatment Study of ADHD (MTA). This study, which monitored close to 600 children over 14 months, showed that ADHD symptoms were considerably reduced in children treated with stimulants that in those treated solely using behavioral therapy. Nonetheless, the greatest improvement was observed in children whose treatment modality combined behavioral therapy and medication.
Another advantage of ADHD medications is that they are fast-acting. As a result, these medications do not stay in the body for long periods. Regardless of the dosage or frequency of intake, the medication clears from the system within a short time (Verma, Balhara & Mathur, 2011). At the same time, these medications cease working as soon as the affected child stops their intake. This implies that side-effects such as trouble sleeping and appetite loss stop almost immediately. The quick exit of medications from the body is a benefit in terms of diminishing side effects and reducing negative long-term consequences. In addition, it shows that there is minimal harm in using medications, in the effort to facilitate and bolster behavioral therapy (Verma, Balhara & Mathur, 2011).
Because of the potential for abuse and addiction to stimulants, it is understandable why a many guardians are reluctant to administer ADHD treatment to their children. However it is also important to note that majority of long-term follow-up studies of medication treatment of children with ADHD have not found increased risk for drug use, abuse or addiction by adulthood. Rather, some have found that stimulant treatment during childhood is linked to reduced risk of alcohol and substance abuse, as well as, cigarette smoking, in comparison to patients that are not treated with medications. This link between ADHD treatment with medication and reduced risk for substance use and abuse is reinforced by fMRI and PET findings showing neurobiological parallels in substance abuse and ADHD type cravings. These similarities suggest that ADHD treatment could possibly minimize yearnings for harmful substances, while at the same time reducing relapse risk (Shier et al., 2013).
In summation, the decision of administering medication for ADHD management requires responsible parties to weigh the benefits against the cost. As demonstrated in the discussion, side effects are minimal and stop almost immediately after cessation of intake. In addition, medication serves to facilitate execution of a behavioral or psychosocial treatment regimen, and also increases the chances of success of such treatment. Overall, research has proven that medication use, whether alone or in combination with other treatment strategies, is more beneficial than harmful.
- Costa Dias, T., Kieling, C. Graeff-Martins, A., Moriyama, T., Rohde, L., & Polanczyk, G. (2013). Developments and challenges in the diagnosis and treatment of ADHD. Revista Brasileira de Psiquiatria, 35(1), 1-16.
- De Sousa, A. & Kalra, G. (2012). Drug Therapy of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: Current Trends. Mens Sana Monographs, 10(1), 45-69.
- Hawthorne, S. (2007). ADHD drugs: Values that drive the debates and decisions. Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy, 10, 129–140.
- Shier, A., Reichenbacher, T., Ghuman, H., & Ghuman, J. (2013). Pharmacological Treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in Children and Adolescents: Clinical Strategies. Journal of Central Nervous System Disease, 5, 1-17.
- Verma, R., Balhara, Y., & Mathur, S. (2011). Management of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Journal of Pediatric Neurosciences, 6(1), 13-18.