Can ADHD Be Treated Without Medication?

by Angel

Sure it can. But it might not be the best thing for every child. Our story may shed some light to help you decide what is best for your child.

Yes, I truly believe that ADHD can be treated and controlled with things like diet, routine, etc. However, I do not believe that it is a cure all for all children. I have two children with ADHD and have gone through so many different things with medication that I felt the need to share what we have learned in hopes to help other parents out there.

The Pros and Cons of Stimulant Medication

It is not an easy decision to put your child on stimulant medication. After all, it is considered a controlled substance. You can not even get a prescription phoned in or sent to the pharmacy. It requires a doctors visit every 30 days to get. Then you get to the pharmacy and you have to show your ID and swear you are the parent before they will give it to you. That is kind of scary since I am going to be giving it to my child. I then give it to my child once a day and hear him complain of stomach aches, headaches, and his appetite is just not there.

Every day around 7PM the medication wears off and he starts to come down from it like a drug addict would be coming off of something. He starts to whine and cry about how he doesn't know what to do with the rest of his day or just sits around and is so grumpy that no one wants to have anything to do with him. However, on the good side, he is not impulsive or obnoxious during the day. He can focus at school and get things done in a timely manner. Without the medication he is in trouble all day long for the things that comes out of his mouth. His actions are impulsive and usually get him in trouble for not keeping his hands to himself around others. The medication helps all of that. So what do you do?    

Our Recent Try Without ADHD Medication

We recently allowed my son to go off of his Vyvanse medication for ADHD. He wanted to try to go without it so he would not suffer the side effects of it. He is twelve now and we thought this would be worth a try. We are over a month into this and have determined that it is not such a good idea. He stays in trouble at home. He falls asleep in class everyday now. He is loud, obnoxious, impulsively hits his brothers and sisters who are a lot younger than him. It is constant drama in our home right now. I have talked to him and explained that we don't want him to stay in trouble like this. We have to go back to the doctor and get back on his stimulant medication. He was on Concerta before Vyvanse and I think we will go back to Concerta. The side effects did not seem to be as bad. In our case, we have to go back. I feel like we have no choice. As he gets older and starts to learn better habits through behavioral counseling then we may give it another try. Besides, it won't be long before he will be 18 and I can't make him take it if he does not want to. I feel like I have to get him through school and help him to be successful as possible during that journey. His medication is the only thing I know that will help him do that.   

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My Second ADHD Child's Situation

Her diagnosis is not as complex as her brother's. She takes Vyvanse during the week days only when in school. Her main problem is focusing at school. She does not need to take it on the weekends like her brother needs to. He takes it all week. She is a much different case than him. Just like your child is a much different case.   

The Choice is Yours

Our Neurologist and Psychiatrist both have explained to me over and over that it will be a trade off. You either have to deal with the evening moodiness and sometimes depression like symptoms or you have to deal with the all day impulsiveness, hyperness, and the things that tend to get them in trouble. They won't focus well in school and in my case, when my son is off the medication he falls asleep in school every day. I have yet to find a magic diet to help my son's symptoms with his ADHD. It just isn't enough. Your child may be different and by all means I suggest trying it first before jumping to stimulants. You are the parent and the choice is yours. Don't let anyone tell you any different. You do have to listen to your doctors and make a decision based on information given but know you have a right to try alternate methods too. A lot of this will be trial and error. Hey, if they don't work you can always go back and get the medication. We did. We have done this twice now.   

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Negative Comments About Stimulant Medication for Children

I have received so many nasty comments from people out there disagreeing with giving children stimulant medication when it is a controlled substance and people abuse it every day. The only thing I know to tell these people is to come live with us for a week. You tell me what I should do after you live with ADHD children for a week. Especially mine. I think you may change your mind. I feel like it was designed to help these children and just like any other medication it has side effects. My children take it for their condition just as a diabetic would take insulin for their condition. They don't abuse it and it is beneficial to them. It helps my children to succeed.     

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Updated: 04/22/2012, Angel
Thank you! Would you like to post a comment now?


Angel on 05/10/2012

Hi Kelley - these are difficult choices to make. I am like you... I see reasons for it and reasons against it. We have tried it both ways and I have come to the conclusion that right now it is best that both of my children are on their meds. We will evaluate it more as they get older . Thanks for reading and commenting!

kelleyward on 05/10/2012

Hi! This is a great hub about the difficult choices we sometimes have to make as parents. As an RN I see reasons for ADHD medication and reasons for trying alternative therapy. I think you and your children's physician are the best people to make that decision. Thanks for sharing! Take care, Kelley

Angel on 05/08/2012

Hi Wendy! If your child is borderline then you may be ok without the meds. My son and daughter are now both back on theirs. They both can not function successfully without them. We are also working with a behavioral counselor to help teach them to make better decisions and coach them so that maybe one day when they are older they will learn to live without being on the medication. It is a tough decision to make but you have to go with your gut on it as well as listen to your childs doctor. Good luck to you! Thanks for stopping in and commenting.

Angel on 05/08/2012

Brenda - I have to feel good about the things I have done for him or I would go crazy! We have given him a chance to be without meds but it just is not working out. He is back on them now. The deputy sheriff showed up at our door the other week because of some things he did in the neighborhood. Impulsive stupid things without thinking. I feel that if he would have been on his meds he would not have done it. He was also falling asleep in class every day without them. So now we are back to taking them every day and things seem to be falling back in place again. Thanks for reading and commenting. I always respect your comments on this subject.

Guest on 05/08/2012

I can empathize with you here to a certain extent although it sure does sound like you have your hands full! My daughter is borderline ADHD and this goes hand in hand with DCD which she definitely has. No focus at school and occasional out bursts. We are trying the diet route to begin with. Sounds like you are a great mom and those drugs side effects must be awful for you to witness. All the best.

BrendaReeves on 05/08/2012

Angel, You have made the right decision. I taught learning disabled children for many years and that's what my MA is in. I heard so many times from parents "I'm not giving my child drugs. I'm trying to teach him not to take drugs." The harsh reality is that their child will be self medicating as soon as they reach adolescence if they don't give them the treatment they need. Parents need to open their minds and listen to their child's doctor and educate themselves as much as possible on the subject. I hate it when I hear on the news that doctors are over prescribing medication. That does so much damage. Uneducated, unsophisticated parents take that as gospel. Journalists need to stick to journalism and stay out of medicine unless they educate themselves on the subject. When your children become adults, they will have the cognition to make good decisions about their disorder, because you're teaching them that education is the way.

katiem2 on 04/29/2012

How challenging and exhausting to be a Mom and always considering what can be done to best help a child develop and grow to their full potential and address the issues of adhd. Your a great Mom for taking all things open minded into consideration. Thanks for this insightful and helpful piece.

sheilamarie on 04/27/2012

Sounds like a challenge. I can appreciate how difficult this choice can be. I would like to know more about the other things you have tried, as it sounds as if you've had a long journey trying things that haven't really worked well for your family, but it might be good for other families to hear that part of the story.
It seems as if this condition is more and more common in kids these days.
I wish you all the best.

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