213: ADHD: To Medicate or Not Medicate

by | Oct 7, 2021 | Mama Thursday | 0 comments

Welcome, Mamma Crew, to another chaotic, exciting, but always beautiful day of an older mom like you!

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In the last episode, we talked about the lack of support after finding out that our child had ADHD.  And how to become an advocate for your child or at least my advocacy journey. In this episode, we will be talking about to medicate or not medicate when your child has ADHD.

There is a lot of criticism of parents when it comes to the idea of medicating or not medicating a child with ADHD. Everybody has an opinion. Often, an opinion you didn’t even invite and makes an agonizing decision even more difficult. Now, this is a case where a parent’s ADHD coach would really help. But for some of us, and it was certainly the case for us, a coach was prohibitively expensive when we first got our diagnosis.

So, should you medicate or not medicate? Well, here are some of the common concerns. If you medicate, you will turn your child into a zombie. There is no question that that’s a possibility because ADHD is different for every child. So, it’s not just a matter of finding the right medication. It’s also a matter of finding the right dose for that specific child, which is very challenging. 

It can be torture to put your child through this process where you try one medication, and it doesn’t work, or a dose is too much or too little. You’re seeing your child struggle through it. Nobody wants that for their children. Right? 

Additionally, teachers in a traditional school system can have very unreasonable expectations of children with ADHD. I don’t think I’m unfair because we experienced it several times when our children were in school. Teachers wanted my child not just to be medicated, but they kept asking for more and more, always increasing the dosage. The expectation was that my child, my ADHD child, was supposed to behave better than a “normal child.” 

If a normal child misbehaves, the teacher deals with it. But if an ADHD child misbehaves? Well, then the teacher feels you should medicate. And that becomes a tremendous challenge for a lot of us parents who have children with ADHD.

Additionally, a lot of parents are concerned about long-term drug dependency. Now, this one is a case of what came first: the chicken or the egg. Because kids that have ADHD are more inclined to use drugs or alcohol to cope with the symptoms of ADHD. On the other hand, kids prescribed stimulants to treat ADHD can become hooked on the stimulants. So, that can also lead to a cycle of addiction. Whether your child’s using a stimulant or a non-stimulant medication, they must have adequate professional help.

Keep in mind that the home environment also has a lot to do with your child’s long-term habits. We don’t drink in our house. Our idea of drinking is nonalcoholic wine, which, let’s face it, it’s just fancy grape juice. We don’t drink. We don’t smoke. We don’t encourage those kinds of behaviors in our home, primarily because of our backgrounds. That’s not to say that we believe that people that drink socially shouldn’t drink. It’s just behaviors that we don’t do in our home.  We don’t encourage drinking in our home, mainly because we know we have children who will be challenged in the future.

Now, there are other potential options to stimulants as medications such as non-stimulant medications. But those have their own side effects, and they’re not always welcome side effects. They don’t always lead to a productive situation. The other option is homeopathic remedies. Now, if you check out the magazine ADDitude, you will find a lot of discussions on homeopathic remedies. Overall, you find that despite the widespread popularity of homeopathic remedies, it’s really not considered more than pseudoscience. This is not just by the medical community in the United States but also by medical communities in Western Europe and Eastern Europe. 

There are some well-designed studies out there that conclude there are some limited positive effects from homeopathic remedies.  Primarily as a result of two things: the placebo effect or the regression fallacy. We’re going to learn something new today!  

So, most of us have heard of the placebo effect, which is when there’s an improvement to a symptom that we can observe, but it’s not really an active treatment. It’s more of a psychological factor. Perhaps we as parents want to believe that it’s working, or even the child may want to think that it’s working. Research has found they had the placebo effect can ease things like pain, fatigue, depression. But what are the long-term impacts? For the most part, the placebo effect has a temporary impact. 

In the case of the regression fallacy, which many of us have not heard of unless we study statistics, it assumes that something has returned to normal because of corrective actions taken while it’s abnormal. But this really fails to account for natural fluctuations. I have a child diagnosed with combined ADHD in the moderate to severe range, more on the severe range, and there are many fluctuations. She has days in which she’s not very hyper, somewhat hyper, incredibly hyper, pinging off the walls of hyper! She has days in which she’s able to attend, days in which she can attend somewhat, better, and others really well or not at all.

I’ve met many parents who wish to avoid or reduce the use of prescription medications in their children and swear by homeopathic remedies for distractibility, impulsivity, and other symptoms. I can honestly tell you that we tried it. We tried homeopathic remedies, and they had a very short-term positive impact on our child. 

If the situation wasn’t challenging enough, parents with ADHD kids also have to deal with the difficulty of finding ADHD doctors nearby. This was a real challenge when we lived in Alpena, Michigan—away from the main highway, several hours from the children’s hospital. But the situation didn’t improve when we moved to Florida, and it certainly didn’t improve when we moved to the Caribbean. It is tough to find a pediatric psychiatrist and a developmental pediatrician who has a spot for your child. You can find them, but it’s nearly impossible to get into their schedules, and some won’t even put you on a waiting list. 

You can opt for behavioral therapy, which we have done, but it’s typically not paid by insurance. It’s difficult to find, and you will find yourself traveling a while. So, you’re typically looking at an hour back and forth to find one of these specialists.

Many parents, like me, have spent a lot of time researching medications, going to appointments, and going to therapy. Of course, we pay out of pocket because insurance doesn’t pay for any mental health issues. Insurance acknowledges ADHD is real but refuses to pay for it. Isn’t that wonderful? Trick or treat! This is definitely a trick!

I’ve heard a lot of parents say that treatment is too much work. Never mind that it’s difficult to get prescriptions refilled, especially if your child is on a stimulant. I mean, the refilling is very tightly controlled. Prescriptions for stimulants are a nightmare because you have to see your prescribing doctor every thirty days to get a new prescription. Of course, it’s tough dealing with a child with ADHD, who has to be stuck in the car for a couple of hours to get back and forth to an appointment, wait at the doctor’s office, and endure several trials through medications or dosages.

This is a lot… You know, you already have a child that’s challenged, and they’re even more challenged by the situation that’s supposed to be helping them. And, of course, you’re going to be stressing out, and that’s going to have an impact on your child as well.

I also have a lot of parents who asked me, “Am I a lazy parent? I’m medicating my child. Life is easier when my child is medicated. Am I doing this for me, or am I doing this for my child?” 

When a parent asks me that question, I often ask them, “If your child is in pain, would you give them pain medication?” Yes. “If your child is sick, would you take him to the doctor?” The answer is yes. Then you’re not a lazy parent. You’re doing the best you can, given the situation. Look, whatever your choice, what’s important is that you educate yourself and act however you believe is in your child’s best interest. And it is in that effort that you are a great parent. 

Understanding my Daughter isn’t just Important for me as her Mom but also for her as a Growing Young Woman.

 

The bottom line is if you choose to medicate, it is not an indication of parental failure. You would never make that judgment about a diabetic child who was getting diabetes medication. You would never tell a parent not to allow a child to use a wheelchair because it’s unnatural. And it’s normal… It is completely normal to feel guilty, or to feel selfish, or to feel helpless when our child is struggling with a specific challenge.

There is no question that ADHD medication will absolutely make a difference in your parenting style. If your child is feeling confident, successful, able to make friends, managing themselves, they have a greater sense of accomplishment, a sense of excitement, and acceptance. In turn, you will feel better, and you are going to react differently to the situation.

What did we choose to do as a family? Well, our child was struggling to learn. She was constantly hitting her twin, and she had no friends. So, we did a combination of minimal medication and behavioral therapy. What was the outcome? She was on a certain medication for a long time. It was a quick release, so she was on it for four hours out of the day. She was not on it on the weekends and was not on it during vacations. And yes, during those times, she was pinging up the walls. I focused on giving her more attention to ensure that she wasn’t handsy with her twin, and I didn’t always catch everything, but I tried to see most of it. 

The therapy has been very successful and has definitely positively impacted our child’s life. It’s helped her develop some wonderful coping skills. We have also learned that understanding girls with ADHD isn’t just important for us as parents, but this is important for our daughter as a growing young woman who will live an independent life one day.

Now, this doesn’t mean that we haven’t had challenges. The first medication we tried did not work. My child looked like a zombie. We got rid of it right away. The second medication, short release, worked very well for a very long time until she entered puberty. Then, of course, things became more challenging because of hormonal fluctuations. Just recently, we tried a long-lasting medication. It was a disaster. And I think that what we have come to realize as a family is that long-lasting medication doesn’t work for us. We like the short-acting that helps her concentrate on her schoolwork, and then the rest of the time, we deal with ADHD through behavioral therapy.

So, where are we now? We just got off on the medication that didn’t work for our child. We will go back to the original medication and work with the new challenge that is ADHD and Tourette’s together. And remind ourselves that the important thing is that as she gets older, we include her more and more in the decision-making process, help her learn better-coping skills, and love her. Love her, accept her and make sure that she knows these things, even though she’s a sassy teenager.

If you enjoyed the show, please don’t forget to subscribe so we can continue to stay in touch! You can also check out some of the older episodes. There are some interesting subjects that we have covered in the past. Don’t forget to check out our older moms support group on Facebook! You can go to our website for that link!

If you share an imperfect journey to motherhood, welcome to our crew! Till next time! Toodles!

 

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Dr B.

I began my journey into motherhood at the age of 40 when I became a mother of twins! Today I am a mother of 4! Being an older mom might be a growing trend, but we are still a minority with our own unique blessings and challenges. Join me in this journey! To contact me directly, email me at oldermoms@entrepreneurialdreamers.com