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Pros and Cons of Medication for ADD and ADHD - More Fuel for the Fire

The pros and cons of medication for ADD or ADHD have been bantered around between doctors, parents and teachers for decades. One study shows the pros of medication for ADD or ADHD. The next study highlights the cons of medication for ADD or ADHD.

Here's yet another study that is sure to fuel the flames of the ADHD medication debate.

A Finnish study followed 450 Finnish children from birth through the teen years, originally to track the evolution of primary symptoms as a child ages. An interesting discovery emerged when American researchers compare the findings from Finland with studies of ADHD Americans.

UCLA researchers found that, by the time children are in their late teens, those who took drugs for Attention Deficit seemed to fare as well as those who did not use ADHD drugs.

In the United States about 60 percent of children diagnosed with ADHD are medicated at some point. In Finland, medication is rarely prescribed to treat ADHD. Yet, by the time they reach 16 to 18 years old, the medicated American population of ADHD children looks very similar to the non-medicated Finland population of ADHD children.

“We really need to look at how effective, really, is medication alone in long-term prevention,” said UCLA psychiatry professor Susan Smalley, who co-authored the study. “Here we have two different cultures and two different approaches to treatment, yet at the time of adolescence, there are few differences in the presentation and problems associated with ADHD.”

This study that was published in the “Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry” December 2007 issue.

“We know medication is very effective in the short-term,” said Smalley. “But the study raises important questions concerning the long-term efficacy of ADHD treatment.”

Perhaps if the ADHD medication debate moved from the pros and cons of medication for ADD or ADHD to a more refined debate on the short-term versus long-term benefits of ADHD medication, the discussion would end peaceably with both sides agreeing.

A recent National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) showed that ADHD medications do provide short-term benefits. This study also found the lack of long-term benefits, while also confirming that ADHD drugs can stunt growth.

This study of almost 600 children found that children medicated for ADHD symptoms functioned better at home and school at the end of 14 months than those who received behavioral therapy or no treatment. However, there was little difference between the medications ADHD group and the non-medicated groups after three years.

Smalley’s study, along with the National Institutes of Health study both show little long-term benefit to using drug therapy to treat ADHD. The results are these two studies are causing experts to question current treatment protocols. Some experts now say stimulant drugs should not be considered the mainstay of treatment for hyperactivity disorders while calling for a new approach to treating ADHD. Some suggest that ADHD is best treated by strengthening weaknesses in underlying cognitive skills instead of focusing on medicating the behavioral symptoms of ADHD.

So, let’s settle the Pros and Cons of Medication for ADD or ADHD debate once and for all;

  • Yes, medications for ADD or ADHD provide short-term benefits.

  • No, medications for ADD or ADHD do not provide long-term benefits.

These studies should put parents at ease when faced with the ADHD drug decision. Your child will not be slated for ruin in their adult years if you choose not to medicate. In fact, he will likely fare as well as his medicated peers by the time he reaches adolescence. And, he will likely do better at home and in school in the short-term if he is medicated.

With this information in hand, parents can decide if the risks and side effects of ADHD drugs outweigh short-term benefits.

For lasting improvement, many doctors advocate finding the underlying causes for Attention Deficit Disorder symptoms and dealing with those first before rushing into a course of ADHD medication. Behavioral therapy, emotional counseling, a healthy
diet and nutritional supplements like Attend can all effectively  diminish the symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder.


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