Getting Kids Off Meds

November 9, 2009 11:21:21 AM PST
ADD is a neurological disorder causing problems with attention span, hyperactivity and impulsive behaviors. ADD affects between 8 and 12 percent of children and 4 percent of adults globally, according to a 2009 article published on Web MD. Often times, it is first diagnosed in children and stays with them through their adult years. There is no cure for ADD, but medications, therapy and counseling may significantly improve a patient's symptoms. Although initial diagnosis is often scary, parents should not stress out. Most children with ADD are very capable of growing into successful, social and active adults. There is no one known cause for ADD. Brain scans reveal a different brain structure in these patients. According to the Mayo Clinic, patients typically have less activity in the area of the brain which controls attention and activity. Heredity does play a partial role; 25 percent of children with ADD also have a relative with the disorder. Mothers-to-be who smoke or use drugs increase their baby's odds of developing ADD. Young children exposed to toxins are also at a higher risk.

Signs and symptoms may vary upon severity. Two key characteristics of the disorder are inability to pay attention and hyperactive behavior. Patients tend to lean towards one trait more than the other, but often possess both. Signals of inattentive behavior include not paying attention to details, having trouble staying focused, having a hard time listening in a conversation, difficulty following instructions, limited organization and a forgetful memory. Characteristics signaling hyperactive behavior include fidgeting, an inability to stay seated, playing loudly, talking a lot, interrupting others and being very anxious, according to the Mayo Clinic.

ADD MEDICATIONS: The most common drugs used to treat ADD are methylphenidate (Ritalin, Concerta, Daytrana), dextroamphetamine-amphetamine (Adderall), and dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine), according to the Mayo Clinic. In an article published by Web MD, a study suggests that adolescents treated with Ritalin have increased their odds for sudden cardiac death. According to the article, the FDA does not want to change the way the drugs are used, claiming the study had major limitations. Some medicines are short-term, lasting around four hours, while others last between six and 12. Stimulant medications have side effects including decreased appetite, weight loss, sleeping problems, and irritability as the medicine wears off.

ALTERNATIVE MEDICINES: Behavioral therapy can improve a child's schoolwork and social skills. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offer parenting tips for kids with the disorder. They say make a schedule with set wake-up and bedtimes. Be organized and create specific spots for key things such as backpacks. During homework time, get rid of distractions like the television or radio. Limit choices to two options. This prevents overwhelming decisions between foods, clothes, restaurants, stores, etc. The Mayo Clinic also recommends showing children plenty of affection, being patient and keeping others' feelings in perspective.

For More Information, Contact:

Leslie Capo
Director of Information Services
LSU Health Sciences Center
New Orleans, LA
Lcapo@lsuhsc.edu


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