The decision to treat my kids' ADHD with medication was anguishing. But ultimately we decided the risks of remaining unmedicated were far greater than any potential side effects.
by Amanda Driscoll
Once again, a great big spotlight is shining on the treatment of ADHD children. In light of the recent New York Times editorial and subsequent rebuttals about Ritalin, the talk has been hot: "Medicate or not?"
Because I’m an open-book parent, most of my friends know that we're using medication as part of our treatment plan and now I'm hearing, "How do you feel about the long-term effect of ADHD medications? Aren’t you worried about the side effects?"
Let me address these questions. Of course I wasn’t thrilled with the idea of putting either of my children on a controlled substance. I don’t think that any parent wakes up one morning thinking that today would be a great day to give their child a stimulant, just because.
None of us make the decision to medicate without a great deal of thought and heartache. When Holden was first diagnosed, I rebelled against the idea of medication. We began with dietary changes, then moved to neurofeedback, behavior counseling, sticker charts, and vitamins. If there was a treatment that we could get without a prescription form, we tried it.
But the bottom line is that, for my kid, those things didn’t work. After much time, money, and effort, I still had a child who couldn’t learn his ABCs, and whose behaviors were unsafe.
The fact that there are side effects to the medications isn’t news to me. Of course I am worried when I hear the latest news stories suggesting that stimulants may affect growth. When news came out suggesting ADHD medications may be linked to depression, suicide, or heart problems, I cringed as I opened my son's pill bottle. But, in my family, not taking your ADHD medication is far riskier than taking it.
In other words, for us, the benefits far outweigh the risks. There’s no doubt about it. Not taking his medication raises the risk for running into the middle of the road, on an impulsive whim, and being hit by a car. Yes, it's a graphic image, but it's also my reality. I worry about a lot of things. That is what having a child with ADHD does to us. I worry that they’ll have to take medication forever. I worry about them passing their classes. I worry about comorbid conditions. But the medications that my children take actually help to alleviate some of my worries. I no longer stay up nights troubled by basic safety issues; now I can switch to some more typical parent worries... like dating.