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Why Medication is Not Enough for Your ADHD Child

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According to a new study, only 1/3 of children with ADHD receive the recommended treatment method. Read more about why this could be a problem and natural treatment options below.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has specific guidelines for children with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) between the ages of 6 and 18. The AAP recommends that children receive both medical treatment and behavioral therapy.

However, a study from March 2015 published in the Journal of Pediatrics found that few children receive the recommended treatment, while some received medical treatment, behavior treatment, supplement treatment or no treatment. Just one-third of children received the recommended treatment of APP, which includes both medical and behavioral therapy recommendations. Most children studied received medication alone.

The study authors hoped to determine why children are not receiving the recommended ADHD treatment, which includes behavioral therapy in addition to medication or supplement treatments. According to an article published in Healthline in April 2015, there are several reasons why children with ADHD do not receive the recommended treatment.

So, why are children (and adults) with ADHD not receiving treatment? Read on to learn more about the complications with ADHD treatment and what you can do about it.

Why Children Don’t Get ADHD Treatment

A clinical psychologist at the ADHD and Disruptive Behavior Disorders Center from the Child Mind Institute told Healthline, “While I have definitely seen the merits of combined ADHD treatment, it is also important to remember that an individualized approach is key. This means that parents may opt to try one or the other first, due to whatever their specific preferences for treatment may be.”

Some parents are uncomfortable jumping into multiple treatments at once, preferring to try one treatment over another, such as by trying supplements or medication alone before progressing to additional treatment methods.

Another reason cited by Healthline was time, resources, and money. Families may not have time to attend therapy sessions (which sometimes include the entire family). Many cities simply do not have therapists who specialize in ADHD and related disorders. It may be difficult for these families to find the recommended treatment options.

Some insurance plans may only cover the medical side of ADHD treatments. These insurance plans may not cover behavioral therapy or alternative ADHD treatments, making it difficult for families to afford treatment for ADHD. However, the Affordable Care Act now requires all insurance plans to cover mental health, which will help families be able to afford therapy for ADHD going forward.

A third reason may be that a particular doctor may believe in one treatment method over another. Some doctors prefer medication, while some may prefer supplements or behavior therapy. The families themselves may also believe a particular method is more effective than others. Many doctors, particularly general physicians, may not understand the recommended treatment options for ADHD. Most doctors are familiar with the common medication treatments for the condition, but fewer doctors are familiar with therapy or supplement options.

According to the Healthline article, a family’s location also plays a role in the kind of treatment recommended for ADHD. In Michigan, the state with the highest medication rate, 88 percent of children with ADHD are on medication. In California, a state with a more natural focus, only 57 percent of children with ADHD are on medication. In Tennessee, only 33 percent of children get behavioral therapy, while 61 percent of children with ADHD get behavioral therapy in Hawaii.

In general, ADHD experts believe that the availability of doctors providing alternative treatments, such as behavioral therapy and supplement recommendations, is the biggest factor in how a child with ADHD is treated.

Are Supplements as Effective as Medication?

The AAP recommends a combination of behavior therapy and medication. The AAP does not currently recommend any supplement or dietary treatments for ADHD. However, studies have shown that some natural treatments can be quite effective in reducing ADHD symptoms.

In fact, a study from 2003 published in Alternative Medicine Review found that when children given Ritalin were compared with children taking supplements of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, amino acids, essential fatty acids, phospholipids, and probiotics; both groups improved equally.

One reason why the AAP does not currently recommend supplements as a treatment options is because some findings from supplement studies are inconsistent. In some studies, the elimination of artificial colors and flavors reduced ADHD symptoms in some children, but not in others. Some children benefit from a mix of vitamin supplements, while others show the biggest benefit from probiotics or omega-3 supplements.

This suggests that ADHD is influenced by a variety of factors. Some children may have ADHD symptoms as a result of the interference of artificial flavors, while others may have a vitamin deficiency that causes ADHD symptoms. Still, other children may simply have a different chemical balance in the brain, which is difficult to control with diet changes or supplements.

How Can Parents Determine the Best Treatment for ADHD?

The AAP recommends a combination of medication and behavior therapy. However, if a parent does not want to medicate a child for life, the supplement route may be just as effective as medication, according to the 2003 study.

The key to effective ADHD treatment whether a parent goes through medication or supplements and diet changes is behavior therapy. Children with ADHD benefit from learning how to control their different brain patterns to fit in with the rest of the world.

If at all possible, parents of children with ADHD should investigate the possibility of behavior therapy for their child. Just like all medications do not work for all children with ADHD, not all supplements will work as effectively either. Parents can go through a trial of various methods to determine which natural or medical treatment option is the most effective for their children.

A symptom log combined with a food log and supplement log can help parents determine the treatment method that is most effective for their child.

Effective Natural Treatments for ADHD

Not all children will benefit from the same treatment methods, which means that finding the best natural ADHD treatment can be a challenge. However, studies show that the following natural treatments for ADHD are some of the most effective across the board:


The field of bacterial study is a new one in the medical community, but scientists are finding that the presence of certain bacteria in the intestines could influence ADHD behavior in children. One study cited by Psychology Today found that in one study of 75 children with ADHD; most of the children had low levels of beneficial bacteria in their gut and also had an overgrowth of harmful bacteria and yeast. The study authors concluded that probiotic supplements could be the key to reversing some symptoms of ADHD.

Omega 3 Fats

One study from England found that when 117 children with ADHD were given supplements of both omega-3 and omega-6 fats, the students were better able to focus during school and had improved behavior in the classroom.

Vitamins and Minerals

Numerous studies have shown that vitamins and minerals can help alleviate some symptoms of ADHD. These vitamins and minerals are responsible for regulating activity in the brain and normalizing attention and hyperactivity. Some of the most effective vitamins and minerals for ADHD include:

Studies have found that children with ADHD are likely to have low levels of one or more of these vitamins or minerals. When given the right supplement, symptoms fade usually within three to six months.

Diet Changes

Health experts believe that an improved diet can help any person live a happier, healthier life. Providing a child with ADHD with better nutrition can help reduce any symptoms caused by vitamin deficiencies. Some children may have ADHD symptoms due to a nutrition deficiency, which can make symptoms much worse. Provide children with ADHD with a healthy diet, and symptoms are likely to improve. Offer your child with ADHD the following foods:

  • Frequent foods with Omega-3 fats (fish, walnuts, shellfish)
  • Vegetables or fruit with every meal
  • Few processed foods
  • Whole grains
  • Sugar as a rare treat
  • No sweetened beverages
  • Avoid vegetable fats and hydrogenated fats of any kind
  • Scheduled meals
  • Avoid artificial flavors and dyes
  • Protein from a variety of sources (beans, nuts, beef, chicken, lamb, pork)

Other Herbs

Healthline found that two other herbs were effective in reducing ADHD symptoms. These herbs include French maritime bark and Ningdong. These two herbs could be effective in relieving symptoms of ADHD and were found to be some of the most effective alternative herbs in a few supplement studies.

ADHD Treatment: A Multi-Pronged Approach

The AAP and the modern medical community now realize that simply treating ADHD with a symptom-relieving medication is not enough. A combination of medicine or supplements with behavioral therapy is most effective in reversing the symptoms of ADHD. It may not be possible to completely reverse the condition, but with the right alternative treatments for ADHD combined with behavior therapy and medical treatments, symptoms will be improved and a child with ADHD can function normally in the classroom and at home.

A child with ADHD will always have some attention and learning differences from their peers, but behavioral therapy combined with supplement or medical treatment will help a child grow into an adult that finds an easier place in the world. Left untreated, a child with ADHD is more likely to have substance abuse problems, a lower education, relationship problems, and employment problems. However, when the problem is addressed during childhood with a multi-pronged treatment approach, those disadvantages are greatly reduced.





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