ADHD Drugs; The Good The Bad and the Ugly

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Do you have a child who struggles with ADHD (attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder)? If so, you probably have considered giving your child ADHD drugs but have hesitated because of side effects linked with these medications. Many parents would rather not give their kids ADHD stimulant drugs but do so because they want their children to be successful in school as well as learn how to manage negative behaviors. Often parents feel that it is the only option to help their child. I feel there is a place for pharmaceuticals but ONLY after other underlying health concerns are evaluated and addresses. Here are some things to consider when making this very important decision for your child.

Basic Benefits of ADHD Medications

Drugs for treating ADHD affect the brain chemicals known as dopamine and norepinephrine. These medications reduce hyperactivity, inattentiveness and impulsiveness. This benefits kids as they're able to focus better, which leads to improved academic performance.

What's more, their social interactions with their peers and adults improve because they have better self-control over their emotions and actions. Another perk is that ADHD drugs can help children improve their physical coordination, so they can do better at sports and gain confidence with other kids.

Drawbacks of Taking ADHD Drugs

On the other hand, there are several disadvantages from taking ADHD medications. One drawback is these drugs can stunt growth and cause suppression in appetite. According to more than one study, done in the last decade, kids taking ADHD drugs for only three years fell behind their peers as they were an inch shorter in height.

Personality changes are another concern. Some children who take these drugs become moody, irritable or withdrawn. In other cases, kids on ADHD medications are less energetic and spontaneous. Others showed obsessive-compulsive symptoms.

Some children can get confused about who they are and how they feel because their thoughts and reactions can change dramatically depending on if they are taking their medication or not. This can be a problem later in life because they might not learn how to self-soothe their own individual personality type, often looking for a pill to "fix" them.

Sometimes, children taking ADHD drugs develop headaches or mild stomachaches. Some kids have difficulty sleeping. Although it's rare, there are others who develop "tics", which involve sudden movements or uncontrollable sounds.

ADHD medications don't address the real problem. Although they can control symptoms of ADHD, they still don't fix other issues. Consider how often kids with ADHD have other challenges, besides ADHD, such as anxiety and mood disorders, learning disabilities and anger control problems.

In other words, drugs designed to control symptoms for ADHD do not treat the symptoms that are linked to other disorders. Furthermore, there isn't enough long-term research on these drugs.


  • Unfortunately, parents and/or teachers sometimes falsely label children as having ADHD when they actually have neurological imbalances that are only masked by medication.

  • Some kids who are inattentive often have nutritional deficiencies and high levels of inflammation.

  • After children begin taking ADHD drugs, it's important they be reevaluated as soon as possible.

  • These medications should not be continued if there is not enough evidence that children are benefiting from them. If there are more side effects than benefits, the medications should be discontinued.

  • Whether or not ADHD drugs can lead to addiction is debatable.

  • Some people believe that children who grow up taking these drugs can become desensitized to the hazards of daily drug use. But others contend that these medications help in focusing, so kids do better in their schoolwork and gain self-esteem, meaning they're less likely to turn to drugs.

  • If you have already given your ADHD child stimulant medications, this is article was not written to make you feel like you ‘made the wrong call,’ simply to encourage you to look at the whole picture and make sure underlying metabolic concerns are not being missed. The decision to take these medications is a personal choice, and each situation is different.

As a naturopathic doctor specializing in pediatric care, I work with moms of children with autism, learning disabilities, ADHD and other conditions. . My non-pharmaceutical approach to pediatric conditions looks at digestive, immune and neurological systems to get a full picture of your child's needs. This provides a more sustainable and successful approach to helping them manage life in the long term, not just in the classroom this week. Please book an appointment with us and learn more about how we can help you and your child.