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Adhd in Children - Medication and the Natural Approach

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ADHD in Children: Medication and the Natural Approach

Making ADHD medication decisions for your child can be difficult, but doing your homework can help. The first thing to understand is exactly what the medications for ADD and ADHD can and can't do and to know that it isn't a magic pill that will fix all of your or your Childs' problems. Medication can help reduce the symptoms of hyperactivity, inattentiveness, and impulsivity but they also come with many risks. The negative effects of stimulant medication in children with ADHD are staggering; however, there is a natural approach that can be just as effective.

Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD is a neurological disorder characterized by developmentally inappropriate impulsivity, inattention, and in some cases, hyperactivity. It is estimated by the American Psychiatric Association in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR) that 3%-7% of school-aged children have ADHD1.

ADHD is characterized by many symptoms including the following:

* Poor concentration, distractibility, impulsive behavior, careless mistakes, difficulty in controlling anger.

* Inability to complete tasks, difficulty sustaining attention toward tasks.

* Hyperactive behavior, excessive activity, fidgeting, squirming, running, climbing excessively.

* Poor listening skills.

* Talking excessively, blurting out answers before hearing the whole question.

However, many of the common symptoms of ADHD are also considered normal childlike behavior, but in lower doses. It is not unusual for most young children to have some difficulties with impulsive behavior, fidgeting, or concentration. This is why one of the main problems in diagnosing ADHD is distinguishing between normal childlike behaviors and those that are asymptomatic of the disorder. However, true ADHD symptoms will be consistent and more severe than other children presenting normal behaviors. Children with these warning signs should be seen by a specialist and professionally analyzed to avoid a possible misdiagnosis. It would be a terrible thing to medicate a child who is merely being himself.

It is argued that ADHD may not be a true mental illness; however, there are documented brain differences, and it is clearly a brain-based disorder. A study by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH, 2002, Introduction Section, para. 1) found that the brains of children and adolescence with ADHD were three to four percent smaller than those without ADHD. There has also been the discovery that there is a deficit in the executive functions in children with ADHD. The executive functions are a variety of functions within the brain that activate, organize, integrate, and manage other functions. These functions permit individuals to appreciate the long term consequences of their actions and guide their behavior across time more affectively. The serious concerns with this include deficits in working memory and the ability to plan for the future as well as maintaining and shifting strategies in the service of long term goals.

What then can be done to help these children function better in everyday life? The options are very limited and include only the use of stimulant or non-stimulant medication, counseling and therapy, or there is a more natural approach as well. Currently the most commonly used method for managing ADHD is through medication. Medications for ADHD consist of stimulant medications which include Methylphenidate, non-stimulant medications such as Atomoxetine, anti-depressants, and anti -hypertensives; however, the Methylphenidate is currently the most widely used and well established treatments for ADHD.

Methylphenidate (MPH) is a central nervous system stimulant. It affects chemicals in the brain and nerves that contribute to hyperactivity and impulse control. Its benefits are vast and include improved concentration and focus, improved reading comprehension, and improved driving comprehension. Also children with ADHD tend to have more persistent aggressive behavior than children without ADHD. Children without ADHD react aggressively when it helps them to achieve a goal, whereas children with ADHD are aggressive whether it helps them achieve a goal or not. MPH is known to increase inhibition and decrease many of the behavioral symptoms of ADHD, thus, making it possible for children to inhibit their impulses to react aggressively to provocation. MPH has been shown to allow children with ADHD to use aggression more selectively rather than indiscriminately.



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