In response to yesterday’s post on the Pontifical Council for Healthcare Workers’ conference on the effectiveness and ethics of stimulant treatment for ADHD a number of readers asked, “if not meds, then what?”
I want to say up front that I don’t personally believe that medication treatment for ADHD is completely useless or should be avoided altogether. I do think that people are being oversold on the effectiveness of ADHD meds for the reasons listed in the article I posted yesterday. Ritalin, and its cousins are not a cure for ADHD. They only control the symptoms for a limited period of time. Likewise, in children, ADHD meds can stunt growth. Most interestingly, research by SUNY Buffalo shows that even if they do initially bring on some improvement, ADHD meds stop working altogether within 3 years of beginning them.
So what’s a parent to do?
Fortunately, there are a ton of effective behavioral treatments for ADHD. Think of behavior therapy–and similar psychosocial interventions–as physical therapy for the brain. Psychotherapeutic exercises literally increase the connectivity, development, and healthy functioning of the brain, especially brain processes that control attention, awareness, focus, and impulse control–all skills lacking in persons with ADHD. In fact, cognitive-behavioral and psychosocial interventions for ADHD have consistently been shown to be more effective than medication for ADHD. Ultimately, cognitive-behavioral and psychosocial approaches to treating ADHD actually heal the brain imbalances that make it difficult for ADHD sufferers to focus, follow-through, and control impulses.
In addition to the above, mindfulness training (where the client learns how to calm and focus the brain through various exercises that improve concentration and focus) has been shown to be very effective for treating both adults and children with ADHD.
Likewise, neurofeedback, (a therapy that uses computer assisted exercises to teach the client to have conscious control of various brain skills like attention and focus) has a great deal of research showing it to be an effective treatment for ADHD.
Take a look at the above links. You might be surprised to find resources that are more effective than meds and could actually cure the ADHD instead of merely controlling it for a time.
If you or someone you love has ADHD contact the Pastoral Solutions Institute. Through our tele-counseling practice, you can work with a faithful Catholic counselor to get the training and support you need to overcome ADHD…for good. 740-266-6461