The Angst around Medications for ADHD

Parents often worry about the need to start medications if their child is diagnosed with ADHD. It can be a stressful time, weighing the pros and cons. Caregivers can experience a host of emotions and thoughts. When is the right time to start medications?  Is there a “right time”? Does this mean my child will be on medications forever? Was there something I could have done to prevent this? What did I do wrong?

RELATED: Parental Angst Making and Revisiting Decisions about Treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Part of what we do in the #ADHDGroupVisitProject is to demystify some of these thoughts to show parents that these feelings and thoughts are common…that they come and go…that they resurface at different times depending on the child’s age, functioning and development.

Then we spend time educating parents about the various treatments available. We invite parents to chime in and share their thoughts about medicines…what they liked and not liked (if  they had started their child on medicines) and what they are worried about and other questions (if they have not yet started medicines).

In fact, treatment of ADHD is something that should always be re-evaluated and subject to change as your child’s needs change.  Your child’s doctor should be able to outline the different types of treatments–not all are medications (See related blog post: Battling the myths of ADHD and Taking One Day At a Time). Remember, in addition to medicines, “treatment” can also include educational supports, parenting support and behavioral modification.Parents should be reminded that some treatment options may be needed at specific time points and others may have more priority at different phases of treatment.

IF you and your child’s doctor determine starting a medication for ADHD is right for your child, make sure to ask the following questions:

  1. What types of medications are there?
  2. How do you go about choosing the one to start?
  3. What side effects will I need to know about and monitor?
  4. How will we know that the medicine is working?
  5. Should I tell my child’s teachers about this?
  6. What should we do if a side effect occurs?
  7. How long do you think my child will need to be on the medicine?
  8. What other types of treatments are we going to need to start/continue or stop?
  9. How often will we talk about the medicine?
  10. How should I talk with my child about the medicine?

Whenever we start medicines with any child, we include the child in discussions in child-friendly terms he/she will understand. It can be as simple as talking about how sometimes [child] has a hard time [insert behavior, for example: listening, sitting still] and that both the parent and doctor want to talk with him/her about ways to help them.

We have developed a way to support the counseling that occurs at the time medicines are being considered.  Feel free to download the handout and share: Medicines Used for Treatment of ADHD

RELATED: See our other handout we developed to share at the time the diagnosis of ADHD is being considered: A new handout for ADHD

We welcome comments about the handout below. Please don’t be shy. I promise to respond to each comment!