Apprehensive about medicating your ADHD child? Here's what you need to know.
Deciding whether you should medicate your child isn't an easy task, so we’re here to give you perspectives you may not have considered before.
Let’s dive in.
Because there's a lot of stigma surrounding ADHD medication and mental health, it's natural to have concerns, so remember you’re not alone in feeling anxious and hesitant. For the first few months after my ADHD diagnosis, I myself was hesitant about medication.
But now, as an ADHD adult who's taken medication since 1999, I can tell you it’s done nothing but increase my quality of life, and that I have zero regrets about starting a medication regimen. My previous apprehension makes me empathetic with nervous parents facing this decision: I've been in your child's shoes. I can tell you firsthand that growing up in a home with parents who refused to treat my ADHD wasn't a fun experience.
In fact, according to the National Library of Medicine, those negative experiences can snowball and lead to "adverse childhood experiences" (ACEs). For example, I grew up in an environment where my family thought ADHD was more of a flaw than a medical condition, so I never received treatment.
Suppose someone isn't on the proper medication or doesn't receive interventions such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to deal with ADHD — what do you think will happen?
According to Healthline, untreated ADHD can lead to:
Before you decide not to medicate your child, please consider the following things that ADHDers often wish their parents knew about ADHD drugs.
Instead, it can give them a chance to be successful in a neurotypical world. I can appreciate that my testimony may not be enough for nervous parents, so I've included a few studies supporting the idea that medications aren't as bad as some may think.
For example, a 2017 research study shows that medication significantly reduced the likelihood of someone with ADHD developing substance abuse disorders. The study concluded that ADHD medication decreased the likelihood of addiction by 31-35%. When ADHD is left untreated, the need for stimulation lingers, which often leads to self-medication, and some of these methods can be dangerous. However, the main message of the study is that there is hope. Appropriate treatment can drastically improve every aspect of our lives.
A 2021 study claims that untreated ADHD makes someone five times more likely to attempt suicide. The sad truth is that these statistics are generally ignored because people don't realize how overwhelming ADHD can be.
Don't get me wrong — medication won't make an ADHDer’s life perfect. It's by no means a cure-all for every challenge we face, nor does it have to be the only form of treatment you choose for your child. That's why it's important to learn about other coping strategies that can be combined with medications for a more balanced approach, like healthy routines, boundaries, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and self-care habits.
I do want to emphasize that medication can have some negatives — I personally experienced adverse reactions to medication a few years ago. It's also important to understand that there are a variety of medications with different mechanisms of action and different active compounds. What works for one ADHDer may not work for the next, so be sure to have a discussion with a medical professional to determine what's best for your child.
You can set good examples for your child by normalizing discussions about mental health and medication. It's critical for parents to take the time to ask the right questions and instill the idea that talking about mental health and treatment takes courage and strength, and taking medication doesn't make you weak. It makes you better.
When parents positively reinforce open discussions like this, they provide their child with an active voice to advocate for themselves and their diagnosis. They'll be given the tools to better understand the complexities of ADHD, and learn to take a realistic approach to how they define their diagnosis and challenges in life.
The stigma and misinformation on ADHD circulating the globe can be overwhelming — it’s hard to know what to believe and who to trust. This is why it's important for parents to search for reliable resources that they resonate with, such as Additude, CHADD, and Inflow.
Otherwise, parents risk buying into misinformation and stigma, which can cause more harm than good. In fact, a 2013 study found that stigmatized beliefs about ADHD are a big component behind why parents decide not to medicate their children.
There's a simple way for parents to overcome this challenge: write down your questions and concerns regarding your child's diagnosis. At your child's next pediatrician visit, sit down with the doctor and address each question or concern. Most doctors are more than happy to answer a parent's questions about their child's health. Plus, this conversation doubles as a way to show your ADHD child that you care for them, and that you take their diagnosis seriously.
If you don't believe me, watch this compelling video by How to ADHD’s Jessica McCabe called "what I want to say to my mom who drugged me."
ADHD is a real medical condition that can make life extremely challenging. When we're not given the proper tools for our mental health, it can negatively impact every aspect of our lives.
Medication doesn't make us less creative or "zombie-like", and they also don't make all of our problems disappear. Instead, they simply make us better. Medication helps us implement self-care habits and tackle challenges head-on; they can even aid in building healthy relationships and connections with ourselves and the world around us. Making important decisions about treating your child's ADHD won't just help them reach their potential; it will empower them to surpass that potential — and there will come a day when they thank you for being brave enough to see past your fears and hesitations.
Looking for support?
Inflow can help you thrive with ADHD and reach your full potential. Start your journey now by taking our quiz.