Understanding Stimulants and ADHD
Adults and children who suffer from ADHD are often prescribed stimulants, but when it comes to your child, it may not always be the best choice. Dr. Scott Zentner, a psychologist at Family Solutions Counseling Center, talks about children taking stimulants and other possible options available for attention issues.
On stimulants being used on children with ADHD
Stimulants are a class of psychotropic drugs that have been around for decades. Probably the first to be used in the 1950s was Methylphenidate known by the trade name Ritalin, and there’s been a series of stimulants that have come out since then. Most of them are available generically now and they’re relatively inexpensive. One of the newer drugs, which is used quit often, is a drug called Vyvanse, and it’s still under trade status, but it’s been more recently developed. Again, all these drugs have indications for a diagnosis of ADHD.
On what you should be looking for as parents
There's the other issue of physical and psychological dependency with these drugs.
In the case of identifying whether you have a child who may have ADHD, which by the way, I think of it as an umbrella term for any form of disruptive, hyperactive, impulsive behavior. Not all cases have ADHD. Usually it presents itself pretty early. These are kids who are in a hurry. They’re ready to go. They want crawl before they’re physically able to and walk and run. They tend to have a lot of tumbles and accidents. They don’t use a lot of caution.
By the time they start school, this is when you know there’s an issue, the teacher will call up saying, “I’m not sure your son or daughter is ready for school yet, and they’re just too immature. We need to wait another year.” There’s pressure at that point for a parent to take a child to a doctor to be evaluated, and at that point a decision is made about the diagnosis.
On whether stimulants are the best option for your child
I prescribe stimulants myself, but I do educate parents to do their own research on them. There are side effects that typically happen including headaches. Sometimes there can be cardiac effects, usually very minor, and then there’s the other issue of physical and phycological dependency with these drugs. Other things that can really help are parental management to help a parent keep that child on a regular structure and routine. They need that in order to stay focused.