ADHD: 4 Reasons Why Your Child Shouldn’t Take Stimulant Drugs

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    Photo by Miguel Á. Padriñán on

    1. Your child doesn’t have ADHD.

As a school counselor, for the past decade and a half, I have often heard teachers express concerns about students who cannot sit still and focus in class.  “They won’t listen to my lesson or follow directions.  They often get up out of their seat and cannot sit still.”  These are comments I hear frequently.  The concerns eventually get communicated with parents who then bring their child to the pediatrician’s for further assessments.  One thirty minute session later and the child is diagnosed with ADHD and being prescribed Adderall or another stimulant medication.  As a clinical counselor, I also hear this story quite often.  However, at this point, the child is already diagnosed with ADHD and taking medication.  How is it possible that so many kids have ADHD?  My response?  They don’t. Rather, they are being misdiagnosed.

2. Your child learns differently. 

If you are unfamiliar with the term, ADHD is Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder.  There are various types of ADHD, which are listed at the end of this blog.  The criteria is also included and was taken from the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistics Manual of Mental Disorders).  First of all, not to offend any teachers out there (I work in education as well!), but our education system is not exactly accommodating of all types of learners unless a student has a 504 Plan or an IEP.  I will discuss these terms in a later blog post.  If students are hands on learners, they may thrive more in science or electives such as woodworking or auto mechanics.  However, these students may have a difficult time staying focused in a class that includes primarily lecture or reading based learning such as social studies or language arts.  Rather than providing opportunities for these students to learn through alternative methods, they are forced to follow the same curriculum.  As a result, they begin to fidget, distract themselves and others, and may even end up getting a consequence for their behavior.  You can imagine what this will do to a child’s self-esteem over time!

3. Your child is sleep deprived.

In addition to some students needing alternative approaches to education, symptoms of ADHD may also look similar for kids who are sleep deprived.  From my perspective, a significant number of kids are not getting enough sleep due to after school activities, the amount of homework they need to complete per day, and the distractions of social media and electronic devices.  Since students also need to wake up extremely early for school, they are coming in exhausted.  Sleep deprivation impacts kids differently than it does adults.  When kids are sleep deprived, they are much more hyperactive.  However, this does not mean your child has ADHD.  To see the appropriate amount of sleep kids should be getting per night, you can visit my blog about sleep.

4. Stimulant medications can have negative side effects.

Although, I am not a medical doctor and therefore do not have experience prescribing medication, I would not suggest following a doctor’s recommendation for your child to take a stimulant medication like Adderall even if they legitimately have ADHD.  If you are considering following through with a doctor’s recommendation, I would at least get a second opinion by another medical doctor before giving your child stimulant medications.  Although, these drugs may help improve attention and focus in the short run, in the long run, they can do more damage.  First off, stimulant drugs do not sustain school achievement as humans develop a tolerance over time.  Additionally, they can impact motivation and even stunt one’s growth.  For more information on the impacts that stimulant medications can have on kids, I suggest reading Dr. Leonard Sax’s book, “Boys Adrift.”  You can purchase the book here if you are interested.  I hope this blog post was resourceful for you.  Please check back soon for our next post and enjoy the beginning of summer!

DSM-5 Criteria for ADHD

People with ADHD show a persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivityimpulsivitythat interferes with functioning or development:

  1. Inattention: Six or more symptoms of inattention for children up to age 16, or five or more for adolescents 17 and older and adults; symptoms of inattention have been present for at least 6 months, and they are inappropriate for developmental level:
    • Often fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, at work, or with other activities.
    • Often has trouble holding attention on tasks or play activities.
    • Often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly.
    • Often does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace (e.g., loses focus, side-tracked).
    • Often has trouble organizing tasks and activities.
    • Often avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to do tasks that require mental effort over a long period of time (such as schoolwork or homework).
    • Often loses things necessary for tasks and activities (e.g. school materials, pencils, books, tools, wallets, keys, paperwork, eyeglasses, mobile telephones).
    • Is often easily distracted
    • Is often forgetful in daily activities.
  2. Hyperactivity and Impulsivity: Six or more symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity for children up to age 16, or five or more for adolescents 17 and older and adults; symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity have been present for at least 6 months to an extent that is disruptive and inappropriate for the person’s developmental level:
    • Often fidgets with or taps hands or feet, or squirms in seat.
    • Often leaves seat in situations when remaining seated is expected.
    • Often runs about or climbs in situations where it is not appropriate (adolescents or adults may be limited to feeling restless).
    • Often unable to play or take part in leisure activities quietly.
    • Is often “on the go” acting as if “driven by a motor”.
    • Often talks excessively.
    • Often blurts out an answer before a question has been completed.
    • Often has trouble waiting his/her turn.
    • Often interrupts or intrudes on others (e.g., butts into conversations or games)
In addition, the following conditions must be met:
  • Several inattentive or hyperactive-impulsive symptoms were present before age 12 years.
  • Several symptoms are present in two or more setting, (such as at home, school or work; with friends or relatives; in other activities).
  • There is clear evidence that the symptoms interfere with, or reduce the quality of, social, school, or work functioning.
  • The symptoms are not better explained by another mental disorder (such as a mood disorder, anxiety disorder, dissociative disorder, or a personality disorder). The symptoms do not happen only during the course of schizophrenia or another psychotic disorder.
Based on the types of symptoms, three kinds (presentations) of ADHD can occur:
  • Combined Presentation: if enough symptoms of both criteria inattention and hyperactivity-impulsivity were present for the past 6 months
  • Predominantly Inattentive Presentation: if enough symptoms of inattention, but not hyperactivity-impulsivity, were present for the past six months
  • Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Presentation: if enough symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity, but not inattention, were present for the past six months.

Because symptoms can change over time, the presentation may change over time as well.

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