Updated: Oct 21, 2020
There are many opinions about medications and alternative treatments for ADHD, especially among Christians. I have encountered judgment and unsolicited advice time and again about my choice to medicate my children. Most of the people who express these opinions have a limited medical understanding of ADHD. In fact, when my son was first diagnosed, I agonized over the same concerns, but the more I researched the disease, the more confident I felt in my decision. I have come to look at it this way - if my children had diabetes, I would change their diets, get the best doctors and medicines, research supplements and coping strategies - basically do everything in my power to keep them healthy. Why wouldn’t I do the same for ADHD?
Now, you may be asking a couple of questions, just like I have.
What does the Bible say? The word “medicine” is actually only used three times in the entire Bible because in Bible times, medication as we know it wasn’t available. Herbs, spices, and wine were used for treating symptoms, and the Bible does not condemn these (of course it does condemn drinking to the point of getting drunk). We have come so far in our understanding of the human body and how it interacts with external substances, both natural and man-made. I view this as a gift from God which we should take full advantage of - responsibly, of course.
Aren’t most ADHD medications addictive? Well, technically yes. There are two main groups of prescription ADHD medications: stimulants and non-stimulants. The most effective and therefore most commonly used medications are stimulants, which can become addictive if abused. But these drugs have become more highly regulated in recent years. You and your treatment team are going to be monitoring your child’s symptoms and side effects. Additionally, your child is not going to be prescribed addictive dosages. If addiction runs in your family or there is concern about drug abuse, these are factors to prayerfully consider. Non-stimulant medications can also be effective and are not addictive. They work differently in the brain, have different side-effects, and take longer (up to a couple of months) for the medication to take full effect.
Will the medication change my child’s personality? Mood swings, irritability and not feeling like oneself are relatively common side effects of stimulants and should be monitored when taking them. For many children, these side effects are non-existent, or may occur with one stimulant and not another. If you want the immediate symptom relief benefits of a stimulant medication, it’s important to try each of the three main groups, as they all work differently and have different possible side effects. Every child is different, as is every medication. The best course of action is to patiently try out several options with the help of a medical professional.
What are the risks of not medicating my child? Before I answer this question, I want to differentiate between not medicating, and not treating. I strongly believe that not treating ADHD at all is wrong, just like it would be wrong to choose to ignore a diabetes diagnosis. You may think that’s extreme, but the research shows that children who are not treated for ADHD are at increased risk of depression, suicide, eating disorders, substance abuse, early pregnancy, relationship and financial problems, dropping out of school, and job loss. Researchers have dedicated vast amounts of time and money studying ADHD over the last several years and there is an expansive repertoire of ADHD treatment from counseling and coaching, to diets and supplements, to neurofeedback. If medication isn’t where you want to start your treatment plan, that’s okay, and if you don’t plan to ever use medication, that’s okay too, but it’s important to know the facts. For us, medication has been like the bridge to access all of the other treatment options. My children’s brains were too chaotic for anything else to make sense, but with the medication, they could begin to employ organization and coping strategies, pay attention to their counselors, and begin to regulate their emotions.
I’m going to talk about other strategies for managing ADHD in future posts, but medication is the topic I am asked about most frequently, so I wanted to start here. I hope this is helpful for you as you begin to navigate the confusing waters of treating ADHD. If you’d like to automatically receive future posts, subscribe by scrolling to the bottom of the page and you’ll also get my free printable “5 Questions to Ask About Medication”. And if you need more help, feel free to book a Discovery Session to find out more about how coaching can help. I’m currently offering a limited number of free Discovery Sessions. Simply enter the code ADHD in the checkout.
The content found on Flourishing Family Coaching’s website and blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding ADHD, anxiety, depression or any other medical conditions. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website or blog.