ADHD Treatment — Without Medication? Alternative Treatment FAQ
Do “alternative” ADHD therapies actually work? Can we treat our child’s ADHD without medication? Physicians field these questions from the newly diagnosed every day. Still, confusion abounds regarding “alternative treatments” for ADHD.
What is alternative medicine, and does it work to treat ADHD?
Alternative medicine refers to treatment approaches not formally recommended or typically prescribed, including herbal medicine, homeopathy, and nutrition treatments. For the treatment of ADHD in children and adolescents aged 6 to 18, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends FDA-approved medications, plus parent training in behavior modification and behavioral classroom interventions. Various research studies have found that “stimulant medications are most effective, and combined medication and psychosocial treatment is the most beneficial treatment option for most adult patients with ADHD.” All ADHD treatment decisions should be made in consultation and coordination with a licensed medical provider.
ADHD patients addressing symptoms without medication ranges may use alternative approaches ranging from diet restrictions to herbal products; EEG to video games, none of which is backed by strong research. Results vary, depending on the individual and the approach being used.
Is there any scientific research on alternative treatments for ADHD?
There is a lack of independent research to validate many of the claims made regarding these alternative remedies for ADHD symptoms. Some limited research does exist.
Are alternative treatments such as herbal remedies regulated by any government agency?
Most alternative treatments are not regulated by the FDA. Some manufacturers of these products have been warned or even shut down by the Federal Trade Commission for making unsubstantiated claims about their products.
Are these treatments safer than medications?
Many of the alternative treatments are completely safe. Improved nutrition never hurt anyone. EEG Neurotherapy is non-invasive, although somewhat expensive. New technologies, like Interactive Metronome, may unlock more effective treatment options. At the same time, research shows that ADHD medications are safe and effective for the treatment of symptoms in adults and children age 6 and older.
Are any of these treatments dangerous?
Some alternative treatments may actually have a higher risk than the products that they claim to replace. Ephedra, for example, is a naturally occurring CNS stimulant that some people used to use instead of Ritalin. This herbal product was associated with at least 38 deaths and over 800 adverse reactions, leading the FDA to ban its use in 2004. People forget that “Natural” does not necessarily mean “Safe.”
Is a change in diet an effective treatment for ADHD?
Research on the results of “ADHD diets” is mixed. Most doctors seem to think that nutrition does not cause or control ADHD. Most nutritionists disagree.
The idea of removing sugars, food coloring, and other additives as part of an ADHD diet remains one of the most popular alternative treatments for the disorder. The best known of all alternative diets is The Feingold Diet. There are other various nutrition plans and diets that claim to help.
Can I combine ADHD medications with alternative approaches for a “best of both worlds” treatment?
It depends on what you are combining. If you are combining Ritalin with improved nutrition, there is no risk of injury and you may actually help yourself or your child. It’s hard to pay attention when you are malnourished. If you combined the natural stimulant Ephedra with Ritalin, you would probably cause elevated blood pressure, heart attack and possibly death. St. John’s Wort combined with an antidepressant can cause major problems. Always tell your doctor about any herbal products or nutritional supplements that you may be using.
Are alternative therapies covered by insurance plans?