The Right Drug at the Right Dose
Drug treatment for childhood ADHD requires that you maintain an open line of communication with your medical experts to ensure your child is taking the right drug at the right dose, and to take corrective measures in the event your child suffers adverse side effects or a drug stops working for her.
It's important to keep in mind that medications are not magic bullets or cures, but part of an overall treatment approach. Because the first medication your child takes may not be the drug that offers her the most benefits, it's important to pay attention to how medications affect your child's symptoms, and what side effects occur.
Remember that you and your doctor may need to experiment with various medications before you find the medication, amount, and dosing schedule that works best for your child, so be patient.
Research funded by National Institute of Mental Health also indicates that medication is most effective when treatment is routinely monitored by your physician. Children may also benefit from a change in dose or scheduling. Long-acting medications that are taken once a day, rather than in multiple doses, seem to work best for most children.
If your child's ADHD symptoms are relatively mild, she may only need to take medication during the school year. If she has a severe form of ADHD, she may need to stay on medication yearround. Consult with your physician to determine the best course of action for your child.
How Long Should Your Child Take Medication?
Physicians advise that most children take medication only as long as it is deemed helpful and necessary. Some children “grow out of” ADHD to the point that they no longer need medication. Others suffer from ADHD symptoms as adolescents and adults. Your physician will probably re-evaluate your child's ADHD and medication plan every year to determine if she still needs to take medication, or if the dose needs to be adjusted as your child grows.
According to recent controlled studies, people who took higher doses of stimulant drugs had better results in 70 percent of cases than those who took lower amounts of the same drugs. As blood levels of the stimulant fell, symptoms of ADHD rebounded, and resulted in more intense symptoms as well as increased irritability, according to the studies.
Short- versus Long-Duration Drugs
Short duration stimulants may wear off quickly, and since many children have problems with forgetfulness, taking multiple doses during the day can leave them unprotected if they forget to take the second and third doses.
Taking ADHD stimulants at night to help calm down may leave children feeling so relaxed they can't focus on homework.
In general, medications with gradual onset of effect and long durations of effect in the body before they are excreted are likely to work most smoothly, avoiding emotional ups and downs. These are also the best formulations for children and teens with a history of substance abuse as they avoid the “hit” and “buzz” of recreational stimulants.