Medication Treatment (Psychopharmacology)
While all of the above educational & behavioral interventions are certainly important and desirable, for most children with true ADD, medications ultimately prove to be the single most effective treatment, at least in the short run. Often, medication is what allows structure, positive reinforcement, and other modifications to work. Medication is never a “cure”, but it virtually always reduces the symptoms of inattention. Conversely, when a child thought to have ADD fails to respond to appropriate medications, this should call the accuracy of the diagnosis seriously into question.
There is a tendency sometimes to cast the debate about medication for ADD in moral terms: Are we “a nation drugging it’s children”? Medications to treat ADD are nothing new – they have been around for more than 60 years. The first medical papers published on stimulant treatment of ADD were published in the 1930’s. However, in the past decade, there has been a five to ten-fold jump in the number of American children being prescribed such medications. Does this represent “improved recognition” of ADD, as some would contend? Is it over-diagnosis, as I suggest above? That may be a matter of opinion, but it is important to remember that the real issue is accurate diagnosis, not the “morality” of medication. If a child truly does have ADD, medication will help and that is good. What’s even better is today we have many more options for medication treatment, many with far few side effects, than we have in the past, and our understanding of how to use these medications and how they work has vastly improved.
Finally, there is absolutely NO evidence linking physician-prescribed treatment with ADD medications to later substance abuse . To the contrary, ample evidence now shows that medication treatment during childhood and early adolescence for ADD actually REDUCES the risk of substance abuse in later adolescence and early adulthood!