ADHD News & Research

Study: Up to Two-Thirds of Children with ADHD Have Used Alternative Therapies

The most-used alternative therapies included nutrition modifications, natural products, and mind-body practices. Higher education among parents, and other factors including gender, predicted complementary and alternative medicine usage in youth with ADHD.

August 4, 2022

Up to two-thirds of children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have used complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) to address their symptoms, according to a new study published in the Journal of Attention Disorders.

Nutrition modifications; natural products, such as herbs, vitamins, and minerals; and mind-body practices like mindful meditation were the most-reported CAMs. The use of alternative therapies was higher in families where the caregiver preferred natural therapies for ADHD and believed CAMs could synergistically boost conventional medicine.1

In addition, researchers found two predictive factors for alternative therapy use: parents’ education level (the more educated the parents, the more likely alternative therapies were used) and female gender.

“It seems that parents with higher education are open-minded,” the researchers wrote. “Additionally, they usually try Internet sources, books, and even magazines and other information sources to treat their children.”

The study found that more females opted for complementary and alternative medicine than males. “One of the most important reasons for the higher CAM use in patients of the female gender is the fact that they usually employ more health services than males,” researchers said.2

For the study, researchers reviewed The Web of Science Core Collection, PubMed, and Scopus databases from inception to February 10, 2022, for reports of complementary and alternative medicine usage by patients with ADHD. Data came from 12 original papers, which included a total of 4,447 patients, all younger than 18 years old.

To the researchers’ knowledge, this is the first systematic review to examine the prevalence, possible determinants, and type of alternative therapies used by patients with ADHD.

They recommended training healthcare providers on the most common CAM therapies and possible adverse effects or interactions with conventional medications. “They [healthcare providers] should have a deeper and more informed dialog about this matter with ADHD patients, which encourages them to disclose their CAM use,” researchers said.

This study had several limitations, such as only including articles published in English, and that most studies were from the U.S. and Australia.

View Article Sources

1Wu, J., Li, P., Luo, H., & Lu, Y. (2022). Complementary and Alternative Medicine Use by ADHD Patients: A Systematic Review. Journal of Attention Disorders.

2Lorber, J., Moore, L. J. (2002). Gender and the Social Construction of Illness. Rowman Altamira.