More Childhood ADHD Diagnosed And Treated With Drugs – Are There Other Options?

It is increasingly common for children to be diagnosed with childhood ADHD, and stimulant medicines such as Ritalin and Adderall are the go-to treatment. But could ADHD be a catch-all diagnosis that masks other underlying problems? And are there other alternatives to treating those symptoms besides medications which carry unwanted side-effects?

The answer to both of those questions appears to be “yes.”

As many as 11% of all schoolchildren in the US have been diagnosed with ADHD. Dr. David Saul is a behavioral neurologist who recently told Time that childhood ADHD is an overused diagnosis that may keep physicians from searching deeper for root causes of symptoms. “I’ve come to believe based on decades of treating patients that ADHD — as currently defined by the DSM [Diagnostic Manual] and as it exists in the public imagination — does not exist.”

Childhood ADHD Diagnosis Could Mask Other Conditions

Dr. Saul says that there are a number of other conditions that can be present, and classic childhood ADHD treatment do not fix those. Things such as “sleep disorders, undiagnosed vision and hearing problems, substance abuse (marijuana and alcohol in particular), iron deficiency, allergies (especially airborne and gluten intolerance), bipolar and major depressive disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, and even learning disabilities like dyslexia” all may look like ADHD, but they are not ADHD. And they each require a different approach. Stimulant drugs are not the answer in many of those cases.

For many parents, a diagnosis of ADHD can help to put a name on many troubling behaviors of childhood and give them hope for something that will make the frustration go away.

But some experts are warning that that the ADHD medications do not continue to work for long-term use, and that the side effects may not be worth the risk. Common complaints are loss of appetite and sleeplessness. They can be addictive and cause heart problems. Paranoia, hostile behavior, and suicidal thoughts have also been associated with the most commonly prescribed childhood ADHD drugs.