Treatment of ADHD in Children

February 4, 2020
Nowadays, the treatment of ADHD in children is a controversial issue. Nevertheless, it's important to know what it consists of. In this article, we’ll delve deeper into this topic.

Nowadays, many people doubt the actual existence of this disorder. However, in many cases, the treatment of ADHD in children is necessary and effective. That’s why it’s important to know what it consists of and when it should, or shouldn’t, be applied.

What is ADHD?

ADHD refers to attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. This is a disorder that often occurs in childhood but can also affect adults. Some of its characteristics are:

  • A pattern of attention deficit, hyperactivity, or impulsivity.
  • A child who suffers from it manifests a higher intensity and frequency than a normal child.
  • It isn’t a consequence of other diseases.
  • Usually, it occurs at an early age, during childhood.
  • This condition significantly interferes with the child’s school, family, or social performance.

Today, experts debate its existence as a disease. It’s true that it’s currently over-diagnosed. In other words, many children who don’t suffer from ADHD are diagnosed with it. But this doesn’t mean it isn’t real in other cases.

Before considering any treatment, it’s important to get a proper diagnosis. Medical professionals should do it by using the criteria of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) and clinical practice guidelines.

ADHD is a complex disorder that has an important genetic factor. In fact, experts associate it with markers on some chromosomes. However, environmental factors also play a role.

Treatment of ADHD in Children

Some studies show how the brain of children with ADHD is affected. This condition mostly affects two neurotransmitters, dopamine and norepinephrine, diminishing their brain concentrations.

Therefore, the drugs that medical professionals indicate to treat this condition act on these processes. However, the treatment plan for ADHD is much more complex. Let’s see what it consists of.

Treatment of ADHD in children

ADHD treatment should always be multimodal and individualized. What does this mean? Multimodal means that it should be combined and that the medical professional should consider different strategies to get good results.

You have to bear in mind that ADHD is usually a long process. Therefore, it’s important to carefully develop the treatment plan, which must be as complete as possible.

Treatment of ADHD in children has to cover three different areas:

  • Psychological therapy. Therapy helps manage the symptoms and their consequences in everyday life.
  • Psychopedagogical therapy. It helps adequately respond to each child’s educational needs.
  • Drug treatment. It helps reduce the child’s symptoms and improve their quality of life. Nowadays, there are different treatments available:
    • Stimulant drugs, such as methylphenidate or lisdexamfetamine. Generally, these are the first-line drugs. In addition, they’re the best known and studied drugs.
    • Non-stimulant drugs, such as atomoxetine.

The medical professional should assess the symptoms and family and social context of each case, as well as other related aspects. Therefore, there are no standard treatments. In other words, the medical professional should always tailor the treatment to each child.

Although it’s true that it isn’t necessary in some cases, drug treatment is usually a fundamental part of the treatment of ADHD in children. Its goal is to control symptoms and improve quality of life.

The drugs that are currently available are safe and effective. Most patients tolerate stimulant and non-stimulants, which have proven effective in reducing symptoms.

When establishing a treatment, it’s essential to take into account the family and the child’s opinion. Thus, they should provide complete information and answer all the medical professional’s questions.

Treatment of ADHD in Children

Side effects of the treatment of ADHD in children

One of the biggest parental concerns regarding the pharmacological treatment of ADHD in children is the possible occurrence of side effects. But they shouldn’t get scared ahead of time. This is because the treatments are safe and well-studied.

Most drug therapies have been associated with side effects such as anorexia, weight loss, and insomnia. However, experts haven’t observed an increased risk of serious side effects.

In general, patients experience discomfort in the first few days. This discomfort disappears once the treatment establishes. To avoid a rebound effect, you should start with low doses and then gradually increase them.

The drugs used in the treatment of ADHD in children have no dependency or withdrawal effects. These treatments are safe and effective. In addition, patients tolerate them well.

  • Angel Alda, J., Eduardo Serrano, S., Ortiz, J. J., & San, L. (2013). El TDAH y su tratamiento. Servicio de Psiquiatría y Psicología infanto-juvenil.
  • García Campayo, J., Ángel Santed Germán, M., Cerdán Lanero, C., & Alda Díez, M. (2008). Tratamiento del trastorno por déficit de atención. Atención Primaria. http://doi.org/10.1157/13113962
  • Soutullo Esperón, C., & Álvarez Gómez, M. J. (2014). Tratamiento farmacológico del TDAH basado en la evidencia. Pediatria Integral.