Inattentive ADHD – meds or no meds?

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    • #105969

      Hi! I am new here and my son (soon to be 8 yeays old) was just diagnosed with inattentive ADHD –no hyperactivity/impulsivity. He is a very intelligent child so he’s at or above grade level for all the subjects in school. However, when it comes to following simple instructions like “put your name on the paper” or finishing assignments etc we have problems. I’m trying to decide whether to try medication with him or not and I would love to hear about your experiences!

      We started Behavioral Therapy today (yay!) and I’m hopeful that I can get in IEP in place for him for school. I’ve started giving him a vitamin, Omega-3 supplement, and just order a magnesium supplement. I’m also trying to help him focus using essential oils in a roller and a diffuser bracelet (vetiver, cedarwood and lavender). I am wondering what other parents with kids with Inattentive ADHD have done?

      If you have a moment I would appreciate your insight and help! I don’t want my son to suffer but I am also nervous about the potential side-effects from the medications. He’s tiny and very thin as it is so I’m scared a stimulant medication could negatively impact his growth.

      Do you use medication? If so, why did you decide to use it and how is it working?
      Has your child had any side effects from the medication?
      If you don’t use medication, do you do anything in particular that you’ve found helpful?
      Anything you’ve tried that was a waste of time/money?
      Did any of the complementary therapies above help?

      This is all so new, I just want to go into it knowing everything I can! Thank you in advance for your help and insight!

    • #106016

      Following your post from 🇦🇺 Australia – sounds like we’re in almost the exact same situation with a newly diagnosed 8 year old boy. Also very keen to find out same sort of information re meds and have same hesitations about it. Hopefully there are some insights forthcoming via replies here. Good luck with your son!

      • #106150

        Sorry you are also going through this 🙁 So far this week I feel like the complementary vitamins and oils are helping:

        Omega 3 Fish Oil — Both my kids LOVE this kind and ask for it because it’s so tasty: Barlean’s Omega Swirl
        Magnesium supplement (100 mg.) given in the evening
        Oil diffuser bracelet (leather) that I put some “calming” and “focusing oils” on it. Lavendar, Frankinsense, Vetiver. I don’t know if this really helps but it’s a good way to get him to stop, take a deep breathe and think about what he has to do next.

        Oil “Focus” Roller: 10 drops each of: Lavender, Frankincense, Vetiver and Cedarwood oil topped with fracionated coconut oil. I put it along his spine and back of the neck. Just trying it out but don’t know how it’s working because we are off school right now.

        I am also much more focused on making sure he is getting enough protein — Especially at breakfast. We have also being more patient with him and giving him one task at a time. When I ask him to do something, I try and get down and make eye contact with him and have him repeat back to me what he’s going to do.

        I will say this, we are not in school right now because it’s winter break. However, his at home his behavior seems really improved. He went from getting multiple time outs per day to getting none. I hope that is helpful to you and your family!

    • #106066
      Ella C

      Hello! I am currently a college student and I have struggled with innatentive type ADD my whole life.

      I now use medication, but didn’t start using it until I was 16 years old. I started the medication because school was getting to the point where I couldn’t keep up like I used to (even using all the tricks I had used over the years to help accommodate) and I was getting very unhappy and frustraighted. I was at the point of ACT tests and the amount of anxiety looming of focusing for an entire 4 hour test as well as the pressures of college became not worth it. I don’t regret starting medicine but I also don’t regret waiting until I was older to start it.

      I take adderall. I started off on 15 milligrams of instant release only when I really needed it. Eventually once I got into senior year I had to start taking it daily.

      It is working excellently and I am satisfied with it. I plan to get off of it once I am out of school and settled in my full time job.

      My side effects were typical, but due to me being inattentive type, people didn’t notice it causing much of a change in my personality (this is most likely because I’m not particularly hyperactive). I had dry mouth and some sleep issues. I get somewhat cranky when it wears off, but not so bad as some! Probably the biggest thing for you to watch would be his not being hungry. I’ve personally noticed this to be more of a problem in boys than girls. Working his eating schedule around the medication could help with this. Big breakfasts before taking the medication are always a good idea as well as having a big dinner when it wears off in the evening.

      I did a lot of things that were helpful to accommodate before Taking medication. Especially when I was your son’s age. My mom also used essential oils occasionally. We came up with all different strategies to accommodate my ADD from a young age and they really did help! Stuff like breaking tasks into small chunks helped me. I ate a balanced diet and for awhile and my mom withheld artificial food dyes and preservatives from my diet which was incredibly helpful! (My mom was asked what medication we were using not long after we made the switch because the behavioral changes were so dramatic)

      When I was younger my mom would sit in the room while I was doing my homework and would use simple reminders to catch me from spacing out or getting off track. Her doing that saved me a lot of time in the long run!

      That’s a little piece of my story if it helps at all. I’m happy to answer any questions you may have! You sound like an excellent mom and I’m sure you will make a well informed, good decision for your son. 🙂

      • This reply was modified 3 years ago by Ella C.
      • #106170

        Thank you so much for sharing your experience! This is really helpful and I appreciate you! My son sounds very similar — I will continue trying to help him as best as I can without meds for now. If/when life calls for them, then we will try them. For now I want to first try everything else I can. Mostly because of the food issue — he is already so thin and small it scares me to think of him eating less! Thank you again!

    • #106233

      So I am a child with inattentive ADHD, and I was diagnosed in the middle of first grade, so when I was just about to turn 7. I was a pretty smart kid, but I’ve always had trouble completing tasks. I started medication that next Summer and it didn’t go so well. I was put on Adderal, and according to my mom, it made me really depressed. I switched to Concerta 3 months later, and I’ve been taking it for over 8 years now! It has worked wonders for me, and the side effects of it for me have been a decreased appetite and trouble sleeping. The sleeping trouble only occurs if you take it later in the day, so I try not to take my full dosage any time after 11 am. As for the appetite portion, that lasts for me until about 2 pm if I take my meds at 7 in the morning. I don’t want to eat a lot at school so I typically will bring a granola bar, some fruit, or half a sandwich. Just something small to snack on works. Make sure that your child eats breakfast and then takes their pills so that they’re able to completely finish the meal. A small meal after school like a salad has also worked for me. In my case, I wasn’t able to bring lunch for a few months and I wouldn’t eat after school, so that led to binge eating which wasn’t good. Just try to eat smaller things in the afternoon, but something filling for breakfast and dinner. If the Concerta is taken inconsistently, for 2 or more days that can lead to mood swings and the child being more irritated (in my experience). So if you go down the medicated route, make sure to keep things consistent.

    • #106278

      My son has inattentive type as well, he’s nine and it was September of 2018 I started him on adderall 5mg Extended Release. The 10mg made him an emotional wreck- and he’s emotional as it is so that was no good. He needed super simple directions, such as #1 Write your name on the paper #2 Find the math problem…. etc. starting on medication was super helpful for him to develope the motions of doing things. Before meds he would just stare at his paper and couldn’t get started. It helped him build a routine and get back on track. He has been off this year but I plan to start him on on them again after the break, again, only so he can developers good working habits.

      I tried omegas and supplements. Nothing helped that greatly. I did switch my parenting style to all positive reinforcement and took out negative reinforcement and started a routine board which he would fill out and put magnets on every morning and afternoon. This helped him a lot. In the beginning it was simple stuff such as brush your hair, brush your teeth, eat breakfast… he was so Stacy in the mornings he couldn’t even do those tasks without reminders. Now he does his entire morning and afternoon routine on his own and his board has evolved to more complex tasks. He also would earn a night at Dave and Busters if he could complete the board for an entire week without missing steps. Lots and lots of positive reinforcement.

    • #106283

      I personally have mixed type ADHD but was not diagnosed until age 28 as is common in women unfortunately. My oldest son now 7 reminds me of a little me in many ways. He is primarily inattentive. At school he is always shy and well behaved. He loves rules and follows them far better than I ever did. But I started to see things catching up to him in little ways, he is very easily distracted and can rarely follow through when given verbal instructions even on something as simple as asking him to go put on his shoes. At school the little girl who sat near him liked to hum quietly to herself which for him meant he couldn’t focus at all, when no one else even seemed to notice. During portions of the day that were most boring to him he would become lethargic and beg his teacher to let him nap even fell asleep at his desk. Before I connected what was happening with ADHD I tried everything a normal parent would upon being told this – putting him to bed even earlier and pushing more and more protein on him at breakfast but nothing helped.
      We were blessed to have a pediatrician who understands and has personal experience with ADHD or I fear my concerns would have been dismissed, but he is now on concerta slow release once a day and doing very well. The issues at school seem to have resolved themselves and I now have a child that has much more regulated energy and emotions and spends a great deal of time enjoying his passion for art at home.
      My advice is if other options dont help dont be afraid to try the meds. There is an awful stigma out there about parents medicating children that I fear keeps a lot of kids from the solution they truly need and deserve to achieve the best possible quality of life. Parents who care enough to try alternatives first research medications and monitor their children closely for benifits and side effects do not deserve to feel like they are doing something wrong. These medications can easily be stopped if they are not beneficial or the side effects are too severe.

    • #106285

      congratulations! It sounds like you have a wonderful son that will do amazing things in life. I am not going to make a suggestion, but give you my experience as an untreated, gifted child and as a medicated adult.

      I believe there is something to be said about not medicating a child that is performing adequately. This helps a child learn to adapt, develop their own set of tools and methods, and ultimately provide some of the reasons that I say your son will do amazing things.

      That said, once I began medication as an adult, it made me realize how physically exhausting it was for me to attempt to complete the basic daily tasks in life and how quickly I would explode on people in challenging situations. Some of my strengths, developed as an untreated child, make me a valuable asset as an adult. I multi task very efficiently. I think outside the box for solutions. I am willing to take risks after quickly assessing the possible outcomes and weighing the risk/benefit. I won’t accept “you CAN’T accomplish that.” That was the assessment given to me when I sought qualification for special testing accommodations. I received the necessary accommodations and would love to find that “clinician” and provide a poster of me (a woman) in my cap and gown with my BSME diploma.

      You will make the best decision you can. And just because you choose one path now, doesn’t mean you can’t choose a different path later. Good luck.

    • #106286

      Sounds like you are doing an awesome job so far. As far as stimulants, there is definitely a period of time when appetite is curbed. For me it lasted 9-12 months, but now I’ve been on Adderall for 2.5 years, and I no longer feel like my appetite is suppressed.

      I am inattentive type as well, and my ADHD was not diagnosed until my late 30’s. From my own experience, I wish I had been diagnosed earlier. I did OK in school, honors/AP classes and such, but I was primarily coasting on my intelligence and ability to test well. Medication would have been a game changer for me in Middle and High School, and I would have done so much better.

    • #106293

      As an adult diagnosed and on medication since 2017, I would say that given your child is still developing, to first try all other alternatives. Its no coincidence that many children get diagnosed around the ages of 7/8 as this is when the challenges arise at school. This speaks more to the structure of the school system rather than a problem with the child. I was once told that adhd is a problem when the individual had to fit into a system, so my first suggestion would be to see how much of the environment can be changed. If adjustments can be made at school that would be the first prize. There’s little research on the long term impact of stimulants on the developing brain, and the research out there points to an increase in depression. I would say when medication is desperately needed such as in senior school/university and the majority of the brain development has happened to then introduce medication. Also it seems that lower doses of medication is more effective than higher doses for inattentive type. In the meantime helping your child learn scheduling and task management to better manage tasks. Also I found using slow release medication like concerta to minimise the side effects such as mood swings and lack of appetite, and prepare nutrient rich meals so that small meals pack a punch. Well done for catching it early, this means your child has the best chance of a good outcome. Wishing you all the best 🙂

    • #106297

      Hi! I am an ADHD mom with two ADHD boys, 9&11. Personally I will do everything I can to avoid medication because I feel that they are too young to be on a medication for the rest of their lives. However, I would consider if I am unable to find other help. The first thing to learn is that there is no one size fits all.

      I still don’t take anything but didn’t realize I was ADHD until (40+ years old!) working with my oldest son when he was showing signs of ADHD. My oldest takes an Omegas + D liquid every day and it is completely evident when he misses a day or two. For the most part he’s been doing this since 2nd grade and all Omegas are NOT created equal. Most don’t work like the one he’s on (Coromega big squeeze). My younger son took longer to show up in school because he’s very quiet (shy) but wouldn’t remember to take his jacket off, writing his name on papers. Decaf green tea helped him for awhile and he still likes it and how it makes him feel but we are just now reintroducing him to the Omegas too and hoping for the same results.

      If you medicate or try natural alternatives, it’s only a part of it. I will say this, it will take a lot from you to make things go smoothly.

      For me, it was important to boost their confidence, which isn’t always easy, but I sure understood a lot about my feelings after being diagnosed and hated school by 3rd grade. It made my life difficult. I start with talking very openly about it. It’s nothing to be ashamed of and there’s not one person who is perfect. Some imperfections are just easier to see than others. Both my boys play sports so each year I (we) come up with “Game Plans” with their teachers and we become a team. I always have to sit with them for homework. You also have a boy. Public schools methods of teaching cater to girls minds (if you research there’s several studies and they’ve known for quite some time). Boys do get restless.

      Unless you’re son needs a special ed teacher for learning (LD issues), I would do the 504 instead of the IEP. It’s easier for both sides and covers from medication, fidgets, gum chewing and breaks. Fidgets are great if they aren’t a distraction (like the fidget spinners which become toys!). Walking breaks can also be very beneficial.

      Lastly, unfortunately, there’s often a lot of anxiety that goes along with ADHD. It’s not easy and not always, but we try ending the day reading a story in bed which relaxes everyone. I also point out whenever possible successful people who have ADHD like Adam Levine and Howie Mandel.

      I hope this helps. ADHD people are very smart, they just don’t fit the mold. Aside from intelligence, they are usually compassionate and creative- which is another reason why I prefer to not use medication. I don’t want to dull or change that! I feel that it’s very important to have open,honest communication with my sons. If the teachers know you’ve accepted the diagnosis and you are open about it, they will be more open with you and more willing to try different approaches for your son as well.

      Sorry, last thing! Some days will be trying. Know that so you don’t overthink it. Now that my older son is 11 1/2 I’m seeing some changes in him. We increased the Omegas a little bit and he really can’t miss a day anymore. But because I’ve been open with him and trying new things he’s already finding strategies on his own. About 2 months ago he started getting up about a half hour earlier for school so he could watch a little TV before school which has helped calm any anxiety before school.

      Good luck for you and your son. Your attitude in your text is very positive and open and that is the best way help.

    • #106322

      Following from Arizona! Exactly like my son, also age 8.

      Ella C – Did you try coffee/caffeine at all when you were younger? If so, what was the outcome? During this journey with my son I’ve come to recognize that I too have inattentive ADHD. However, I also have generalized anxiety disorder (which undoubtedly is exacerbated by ADHD) so my doctor and I agree that a stimulant might do more damage than good. I recently quit drinking coffee and I hindsight I realized that removing caffeine had a significantly negative impact on my ability to focus. I have since resumed drinking coffee and notice that it might be just the right amount of stimulant for me. I’m hesitant to try it on my son though… I was just curious if you had any experience with it.

      • This reply was modified 3 years ago by bretsinas. Reason: Adding a question for Ella C
    • #106338

      Hi! Long story but my husband was diagnosed (ADD) as an adult shortly after our first child was born in 2005. He tried meds and didn’t really follow through. I just became the wife that did everything for him and ultimately I became his enabler. Honestly, I didn’t know enough about ADHD to even know what that would look like in a marriage, only that I was frustrated that I didn’t have an active partner. Fast forward many years and our middle child, 7, was just diagnosed with ADHD – Inattentive type. We had tried epsom baths, magnesium, essential oils, visual cues, positive parenting, omegas, diet changes…you name it. He is off the charts smart but can’t write a sentence even after he’s told me what he plans to write. He was completely non functional at school and falling behind. We tried accommodations with minimal improvement. We started medicine and after a trial with Concerta it was not a good fit (mood swings, aggression, incessant fidgeting) we switched to Vyvanse and the change was astonishing. He is a different kid. I can’t even tell you. He does have issues with eating and he is also little. We do a lot of protein shakes and I make his dinner later when he’s more hungry and we also do a bedtime snack. When he says he’s hungry, I let him eat. When he pushes dinner away, I do not force him to eat. We monitor his weight weekly and we’ve been able to recover those first 1-2 lbs we saw drop after a month on medicine. He takes melatonin to help him sleep. After all the research I’ve done, my husband agreed to also begin medication and he is also taking Vyvanse and it’s helping quite a bit. My 13 yo daughter was also just diagnosed (cannot believe we missed it, it looks SO different in girls) and she is also taking Vyvanse. She said she finally feels awake and that her whole life she felt exhausted. Life can be so hard with ADHD and it sounds like you are doing all you can on your end. If you try meds and don’t like them, you can try another until you find a good fit or stop altogether. I felt SERIOUS mom guilt for medicating my child until I saw my little boy, present and happy and confident. We were not able to achieve that without medicine.

    • #106345

      I’m a therapist with ADHD-inattentive type (ADD.) If you fear medication for some reason, see what coffee does for him. If you add cream and sugar, he’ll like it. Otherwise, tea or Mountain Dew soda pop also contain caffeine. One mother recently told me she even uses coffee to get him to go to bed.
      Most ADHD medications are amphetamines, in a small dose. Some are time-release. Because nearly all have been around forever, they are not patented and are usually cheap, other than a brand name, which also has a generic like it.

      If for some reason you avoid amphetamines, there is a brand called Strattera. It is not an abusable drug, meaning one can’t get “high” by taking an overdose. It is also expensive, because though it recently became out of patent, and there should be a generic (atomoxetine) the insurance companies persuaded Medicaid and Medicare to put it on tier 4 (meaning you don’t need it and there’s something cheaper.) I do need it, because amphetamines increase my blood pressure.
      Hope this helps.
      E. E. Douglas, M.Ed. LPC LMFT

    • #106366
      Mazz 72

      Hi There,

      I also have a son who is almost 8 years old. Diagnosed with Inattentive Type ADHD (ADD) 9 months ago in March 2018. We stressed at the beginning trying to figure out what was the best strategy to help him. He struggles in school and could not keep up with his peers. He’s now in grade 2 and is well below grade level for reading and writing. Although he is super smart and has the best sense of humour. He even makes his teacher laugh. He has always been a picky eater. We tried Concerta 28 mg starting in June and we noticed some improvements right away – although subtle.

      Then the pharmacy switched the next prescription to generic. We were alarmed at first but the paediatrician said to try it and see if it works (he was on it for about 3 weeks). It was a disaster. His energy level plummeted mid day. It was as though he might pass out. So we switched him back to the regular Concerta and things got back to normal. (our new normal which is having a son who doesn’t eat during the day, and has to be pressured to eat in the morning and at night or he wouldn’t eat at all). By October we realized that the meds were not really improving his ability to stay focused at school so we increased the dosage to Concerta 36 mg in the morning + Intuniv 1 mg at night. Things improved with his focus at school but just a little bit and he ate even less.

      In the past 7 months he lost 10 lbs and he hasn’t grown since August. Maybe that’s not a concern. It might be normal for kids his age not to grow for 4 months but it was the first time ever so I panicked. He was ghost white and was cranky and lacked energy and overall happiness. We took him off the meds immediately. The next day he ate! He ate every meal. Then the day after that he had rosy cheeks. By day three he was a happy kid. It had been so long that we forgot that he had a better outlook on life before the meds. It was such a gradual decline for him that we started to just focus on the little improvements and lost site of the negative side affects.

      I don’t know what we will do next. Some of the people who responded on this thread have very interesting natural solutions which I think we will try before starting a new drug. I have tried giving him Omega 3’s – I was told for ADHD 2000mg is best per day. And he won’t swallow the big tablets. And doesn’t like the taste when I break them in to a smoothie. We try to eat fish once a week to help with that.

      Really I’m at a loss of what to do now. But I know sometimes you have to try several kinds of meds before finding the right one. I feel like we made a mistake not recognizing Concerta was not the right fit sooner. He was on it for 7 months! Hopefully if we try a new one it won’t take us that long to know whether it’s right or not.

    • #106370

      As an individual with ADHD who has been on stimulant medication for 27 years (since I was 13), I still get asked how I feel about medication. This is such a strange thing to ask to me. I’m sure that epileptics, diabetics and other people with life long medical conditions (which is what ADHD is – a neurological disorder) do not get asked this question first.
      Don’t get me wrong, it is right to get educated and to understand and be comfortable with what and how the medications you take address your health condition. It is also everyone’s choice (& often a positive approach) to seek alternative medicine as part of a wider treatment plan under the guidance of a qualified health practitioner.
      What concerns me is that there is a FEAR of stimulant medication that fails to identify that it is what medical experts understand to be the best treatment for ADHD. It is the reluctance to try at all the medication which is so well recognised as appropriate treatment, before questioning its effectiveness. This would not happen with any other condition, and is due to guilt brought on by stigmas associated with condition and its treatment.
      Break free of this stigma and treat it as you would any other condition. (Some may seek alternatives for every condition, but most would take what was prescribed with belief that the medical professional they are consulting is appropriately knowledgeable.) If you get side-effects, discuss them with your son’s pschiatrist and work from there. But I would urge you to really think about the real reason for denying your son the opportunity to commence on a medication that could very well unlock his potential and remove the obstacles created by the executive functioning disorders associated with the condition.
      I have been able to lead a very successful life despite very strong ADHD, through acceptance of my condition, my parents choice to treat it as a medical condition, consistent stimulant medication and continuous care relationships with psychiatrists. I have a degree, a professional designation, a beautiful family and successful long term relationships. But only due to the support of my medication, which allows me to communicate my true self and abilities out to the world.
      It may not be your son’s solution, but it would seem amiss if you didn’t try the most tested and effective treatment, before turning to other alternatives.
      Note: I have not had any serious negative side-effects in all that time. And those few and pretty immaterial issues were resolved when I got the levels right. I take Vyvanse (and took dexaphetamine prior). The initial onset and the drop off are very much reduced with Vyvanse and it results stay very consistent all day. If you are advised to take dexamphetamine, discuss Vyvanse as an option – as it is a similar but smoother solution.
      Good luck. I hope you son can start to shine through and that you are able to help him avoid the effects to self-esteem that take root during the pre-teen and teen years of ADHD. Also, there are many positive aspects of ADHD (which are not eliminated by stimulate medication) and I hope that he will be able to embrace them and use them in this world.

    • #106493
      Penny Williams

      The easiest way to make a decision about ADHD medication is to learn fact from fiction. An educated decision is always the best decision.

      A Patient’s Primer on the Stimulant Medications Used to Treat ADHD

      The Most Common Myths About ADHD — Busted!

      For us, our son was sad and crying the majority of the time, and he felt like he couldn’t do anything right at just 5 years old. We opened our kinds to try the medication to see if it would help, and it was an amazing help for almost 10 years. After puberty, his body chemistry changed and the meds ended up exacerbating autism symptoms — but I can’t imagine the younger years without it. He would have been severely depressed.

      ADDitude Community Moderator, Parenting ADHD Trainer & Author, Mom to teen w/ ADHD, LDs, and autism

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