Alternative Treatments for Adults with AD/HD

A new report compares and considers choices in treatment for ADHD.

Most of the alternatives have been relatively neglected by most mainstream investigators -- especially for adults with ADHD.

Eugene Arnold, M.D., Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry at Ohio State University Department of Psychiatry, has written an extensive review of the research on alternative treatments for AD/HD. Previous research by Arnold on this topic was presented at the ADHD Consensus Conference held by the National Institute of Health in November, 1998.

Arnold describes 24 such treatments in a recent article titled "Alternative Treatments for Adults with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder," published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Science.

Among his findings:

  • Some alternative treatments of ADHD are effective or probably effective, but mainly for specific subgroups.
  • Essential fatty acid supplementation has promising systematic case-control data but needs more research.
  • Diets that eliminate certain foods and food additives may be effective for specific groups properly selected children, but such diets do not appear promising for adults. Sugar or candy restriction alone is not an effective treatment for ADHD in children or adults.

Despite hundreds of studies and decades of use, medication for ADHD remains a controversial topic. So, I wasn't too surprised when I read this email, sent by a concerned reader:

"It's extremely obvious that this magazine is 'pro-medication' when it comes to children diagnosed with ADD/ADHD... You are doing a disservice to people who have ADD/ADHD by saying medicine is the only way to control this behavior!"

I don't know that I would say that I am "pro-medication." No one likes the idea of using psychotropic medications on a child. In fact, I've been criticized because I tend to view medication as a last resort, for use after other options have been exhausted, and not as a first choice of treatment for every kid who ever fidgeted in his desk at school.

I would prefer to think that ADDitudeMag.com is "pro-science," meaning that we rely on scientific medical research about attention deficit disorder. Research shows that the best treatment for AD/HD, as we currently understand it, consists of behavior modification, therapy and medication. Medication is only part of the equation.

For more information about the recommended medical treatment of AD/HD, please see Frequently Asked Questions about AD/HD Medications.

Some alternative treatments look promising but lack sufficient research. Arnold includes such popular alternative treatments as essential fatty acid supplementation, EEG biofeedback, herbals, and homeopathic remedies in this group, along with other, less common treatments like mirror therapy and acupuncture in this group.

"A few of the alternatives proposed have been demonstrated to be probably ineffective or possibly dangerous," says Arnold, who believes that megavitamin multiple combinations have enough evidence to warn physicians and the public away from their indiscriminate use.

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