What You Need To Know: The Pros And Cons Of ADHD Medication.
Our seven-year-old little boy is an amazing little person, with a fabulous personality, he’s charming, funny, loving, and very comical, he also has ADHD. My partner and I are blessed to be his parents, however, from a very young age, we always knew there was something unique about him but struggled with the stigma of ADHD. We decided to get him assessed for ADHD because we were worried we were letting him down by not getting him the help he so desperately needed. We wanted to get him the support he needed before it was too late. We didn’t want our son to be labelled as a naughty child when it was glaringly apparent to us that he couldn’t help his impulsive behaviour and he so desperately wanted to be good. In this post, I will talk about the reasons we decided to medicate our son and the pros and cons of ADHD medication for our child.
Deciding to treat ADHD and medicate my child was probably the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make in my life. The responsibility was quite honestly overwhelming, and it was a very emotional time for us.
Please note that each child will respond to both natural and prescription ADHD medication differently, and each child’s experience on medication will be different. What works for one child may not work for another, and each child may experience different side effects. This post is a record of my child’s journey and our ongoing experiences.
What is ADHD?
For more information on ADHD ( attention deficit hyperactivity disorder ) and how to get your child referred for ADHD read this post.
Up until we received the results of the QB test, were always anti-medication and were definite in our decision not to medicate our child. We had done our research, listened to other parents experiences of the pros and cons of ADHD medications. We went into the appointment with a completely closed mind and were hoping for some simple parenting strategies and help for our child’s behaviour.
So what changed?
I had done a lot of research on the pros and cons of ADHD medication, and there were many different opinions which left us very confused, so I decided to write down all my worries and concerns and get the answers straight from the horse’s mouth!
The consultant was very helpful and explained that our son’s brain wasn’t working correctly and that we could fix it if we chose to. She also told us that it wouldn’t be fair on our child’s mental health to let him go to school and struggle when he didn’t need to.
She answered all our questions honestly and with empathy.
We had a lot to consider about the pros and cons of ADHD medication treatment and we needed to look at the arguments for ADHD medication in an open-minded way.
Questions about the pros and cons of ADHD medication.
- Will it change our child’s personality?
Our little boy is bright, intelligent, funny and great fun to be around. We were worried all these aspects of his personality would change, and he would become a shell of the boy he once was.
Our child’s personality did not change, he was just a calmer version of himself within hours of starting his medication.
- Is somebody who is on ADHD medication more likely to become addicted to drugs or alcohol later on in life?
The consultant informed us that people who have ADHD and do not take ADHD medication are more likely to turn to drugs to self medicate in teenage years rather than someone who takes medication for ADHD.
- Is someone who is on ADHD medication more likely to suffer from depression as an adult?
The consultant advised us that children with ADHD who do not take medication for ADHD are more likely to suffer from depression due to the constant negative aspect of their life growing up.
- What are the side effects?
We were advised that our child may suffer from:
• Trouble sleeping
• Loss of appetite
- How quickly does it work?
Our consultant explained that the medication would start to work after 20 minutes of taking a capsule.
- Do we need to decide today?
We were advised that we could start the medication immediately if we wanted to or, we could weigh up the pros and cons of ADHD medication and come back in three months to chat with the consultant.
- What happens if the medication doesn’t suit him?
We were advised that if the medication didn’t suit our child for any reason or if we were worried about his behaviour, we could stop it whenever we wanted.
- How will his behaviour change?
Our child became a lot calmer but still had his mischievous sense of humour, he drew more, played more, continued to climb but became more aware of his safety. He was able to have a proper conversation with us and often instigated a chat. He also stopped lashing out and being aggressive and was able to sit still and concentrate.
He started to excel in school and sports.
- How does the medication work?
We were advised that the medication would start working about 20 minutes after taking it in the morning and that the medication started to wear off around about 3.30 ish. So, he would be back to normal after school.
- What about taking our child off medication during holidays and weekends?
We could decide not to medicate at weekends if we chose to, so he could have a break from his medication at the weekend and during school holidays.
So with all our questions answered and all the pros and cons of ADHD medication clear in our minds, we were prescribed medication and decided to give it a trial.
Why we decided to medicate our ADHD child
Safety. It was virtually impossible to keep our son safe. He was continually running out into the road, and he climbed everything with no regard for his safety. He often climbed to the top of street lights, and last year climbed halfway up the outside of Penmon Point lighthouse in Anglesey.
Aggression: Our child was very aggressive towards other children and us. When he didn’t get his way, he would push, kick, hit, and spit, and on one occasion tried to push me down the stairs. He would smash up the house and his room and would regularly throw things.
Self-care. It was impossible to get him to shower, brush his teeth, get dressed, nothing would work, he was completely non-compliant when it came to self-care and looking after himself. I’d brace myself when it was time to cut his nails!
Sport: Although he was very outdoorsy and loved to climb, he couldn’t pay attention to the rugby coaches, martial arts instructor or swimming coach, so he was completely behind where his peers were in all sporting activities even though we knew he had the ability.
Chaotic: He was very disorganised in his behaviour and with his belongings, often breaking stuff and losing things. He would leave a trail of belongings all over the house, at school, the park or anywhere else he had been. Our home life was chaotic all the time.
Extreme behaviour. All our son’s behaviour was extreme, and he did everything to the max. It was like watching a stunt man perform the most dangerous stunts without a mat or safety harness all of the time. He never got tired or had a rest; it was exhausting keeping him safe. He would jump from unsafe heights, throw himself off things, try to climb out of windows, run away, escape out of locked doors, it was terrifying! It was like an adrenaline rush to him, the more dangerous the better!
Our daughter’s safety. The aggression towards our daughter was getting worse; he would often strangle her, punch her and other aggressive behaviours when he was frustrated. This aggressive behaviour was much more than typical siblings scrapping, and he was totally out of control.
He couldn’t make or keep friends. Mainly because he was very immature compared to his peers, but also because when they said something to him which was a joke, he would get offended, decide he didn’t like them and would not to forgive them.
He was academically weak even though we knew he was very intelligent, his grades were poor, and I struggled to get him to sit down to do any homework at all. He would never draw or write or do anything that required him to sit still for long periods.
He was disruptive in class and was often in trouble, mainly for being aggressive towards the other children.
He was rude and had no respect for anyone, back-chatted all the time, and we were unable to discipline him at all, he didn’t care about consequences and hurt feelings, nothing worked, believe me, we tried everything!
I was broken, not coping and struggling to make it through each day. I was a mess and had no energy left at the end of the day to look after myself.
My spouse started work early, came home after 9 pm most nights and was working virtually every weekend, it was tough to keeping everything ticking along nicely.
People kept telling us he was ” just a normal little boy” not knowing how bad things were, it was exhausting and made me feel like a terrible parent who couldn’t bring out the best in my child.
Some of his behaviours may have seemed just like a typical toddler or young child behaviour, but it was extreme behaviour all of the time; 24/7!
We were both lost and in despair that we were letting him down and not helping him reach his full potential both at school and at home. The guilt we felt about our daughter’s home life was colossal, and something had to be done about it, we had to get him help.
I had tried all the natural remedies like vitamins, fish oil, Omega 3, Magnesium, Multivitamins, reducing his E numbers and sugar intake, but nothing made the slightest bit of difference to his extreme behaviour and reactions.
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My next step was to try medical CBD oil, I had done a lot of research and heard that it was helping kids all over the world manage their ADHD symptoms. However, it did absolutely nothing to help my child.
My son always plays outdoors, goes to rugby, swimming and martial arts, so he’s not short of exercise. He has a very active lifestyle, but nothing wears him out, this is great if he decides to play rugby for England, but not so great when he’s still up at midnight and not tired at all!
Pros and cons of ADHD medication at weekends.
The consultant explained to us that we could consider stopping ADHD medication at weekends, and during the holidays, this was a game changer for us as we felt that we would have more control over when our son took medication and liked the idea that it was only during school hours that he would be on his medication.
After trying two days without our son having any medication, we decided it was best for him to continue taking his medication over the weekend.
Why we decided to keep medicating at weekends.
- Our son’s quality of life. We tried two days without medication, and it was horrendous as he seemed to spiral out of control. He seemed much happier and settled when he had taken his medicine, family life was so much better for everyone including him, and he was much more content when he was not fighting with us all!
- Sports. My son plays rugby, has swimming lessons and does martial arts, which all fall at the weekend. It made no sense to stop medicating him at weekends and see him struggle to concentrate during his sports coaching. He has come on leaps and bounds at Rugby, and now he can focus on what the coaches are saying to him he can understand what he’s supposed to be doing, instead of running off up the field, twirling or doing cartwheels when everyone else is still and focused. He is also now a green belt in karate and can concentrate on learning all his patterns, forms and self-defence.
Pros of ADHD medication for our son.
- School work. Suddenly from being way behind in all his subjects, he is excelling in spellings, English and Maths and is in the top set for most subjects. He can sit still long enough to be able to have a tutor who has unlocked an incredible thirst for knowledge in him, his mental maths work is now fantastic.
- Friendships. My son had his first ever playdate, appears to have a better attachment to his friends at school and home, and seems to find it easier to keep his friends which is such a relief to us.
- School behaviour. Thankfully I’m no longer summoned for a chat with the teacher about his disruptive and inappropriate behaviour. Since starting his medication, he has been kind, respectful and helpful at school thank goodness!
- Home life. His behaviour at home and in social surroundings has improved so much, and his interactions with other people are so much easier to handle. He can play competently and join in with games rather than disrupt everything. He has learnt to be kinder and calmer.
- Homework. Our son can whizz through his homework without any help and actively enjoys doing it rather than struggling for hours to write one sentence. He wants to learn and now has a thirst for knowledge.
- Safety. We found that because part of the day our child was no longer showing extreme behaviours, and was no longer a danger to himself and others, it gave us time to recharge our batteries. We were better able to cope with his extreme behaviour when the medication wore off. We were tackling it with a full tank, rather than trying to deal with an out of control child when running on empty. Therefore we were able to deal with the meltdowns calmly.
Cons of ADHD medication for our child.
- Loss of appetite. This was a worrying side effect, which lasted nearly a month. Sometimes the only meal he would eat would be breakfast. The first few weeks on medication were horrendous for our son, and we struggled to get him to eat anything, including sweet treats. He had always been an excellent eater, so this side effect of ADHD medication took us by surprise. I tried to fill him up with a huge breakfast, but he would refuse to eat anything else until about 7 pm. In between times, I would try to give him smoothie drinks and full-fat milk, but he wasn’t interested in anything other than juice. During the first few weeks, we would let him eat anything he wanted, whenever he wanted, just to get something down him. After a few weeks, his appetite slowly returned, and he was able to eat some small amounts of food during the day. He still scurries to the fridge and flings open the door at 7 pm desperate for food and grabs anything he can get his hands on, usually a punnet of strawberries, grapes or cherry tomatoes to wolf down.
The hospital will review your child after three months and will check for any significant weight loss.
- Trouble getting to sleep. This side effect of ADHD medication is probably the most frustrating for me, as anyone with a child who has ADHD will understand how much we need to have some time in the evening to wind down. The medication has our child up until at least 11 each night as he struggles to drop off. However, he was up quite late before he started on the medication, but it is slightly worse now with no signs of it returning to normal.
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Frequently Asked Questions
No, if anything, it enabled my child to sit still for more extended periods and to concentrate more. He wrote stories, poems and songs, he started colouring more and enjoyed playing board games more as his attention span was longer.
You may find that you can concentrate more on the task at hand and process your thoughts in a more organised way. For further information, you should discuss this with your GP or consultant.
Many individuals manage their ADHD by using natural supplements and diet. Each person is different, and your GP will discuss the best options for you.
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For more information on ADHD click here.
To learn how to reduce visual clutter in the home of your ADHD child read this post.