ADHD: To medicate or not to medicate?

To me, the idea of medicating children for ADHD seems completely unnatural, and wrong.

Two years ago after giving the holistic dietary approach to ADHD a good run, I made the anxiety provoking decision to  medicate my little boy.

I was extremely worried about the effects medication could have on my son’s body. I was worried that his brain may become too reliant on the medication. I was concerned about damage to internal organs, and his growth, in terms of his height.

Stunted growth is a side effect of medications used to contain ADHD symptoms (my child is now the second shortest child in his class).

”Morally, I felt the crunch from my conscience.”

No parent should feel that they absolutely have no other choice but to medicate their child in the hope of warding off out of control behaviour, to improve learning capability, and to increase overall productivity.

However, as parents of children with ADHD, we often do feel as though we must medicate our children. Our children’s behaviours are not socially acceptable.

Poor behaviour, and an incapacity to learn can have a devastating affect on a child’s mental health.

I believe there is a holistic approach to ADHD. I just didn’t find it. There are too many holistic approaches to supposedly help contain the symptoms of ADHD. Each child’s body reacts differently to each individual diet.

There is not a one size fits all approach when it comes to eliminating particular foods. And, there isn’t enough time to trial every single ADHD diet.

Children should be able to eat fun foods regardless of what of type of brain they have been designated.

So, on the flip side, my son can now concentrate for the first time in his life. He can actually enjoy learning, eat lollies without becoming out of control, and engage in interpersonal relationships without scaring his friends away.

My child has the upper hand. He is in control of his behaviour, not the other way around.

”My child likes himself.”

ADHD put my son in a position of vulnerability to feelings of intense shame and self-hatred. As a mother, I couldn’t watch my little boy go through that.

Shame is mentally incapacitating. It hinders people from achieving great things, and can lead to drug addiction.

However, with that being said, am I interfering in my son’s journey to learn how to manage his ADHD symptoms?

The pediatrician told me that by medicating my son, his brain will slow down. This will give my son the chance to think his choices through, instead of acting on his impulses.

Holistic approaches to ADHD will not give my son the same opportunities that medication does.

Elimination diets do not guarantee that your child will suddenly become a focused student with an excellent concentration span.

Elimination diets require months of product trials, vitamin trials, and fruit and vegetable trials to get the correct combination of nutrients required to improve behaviours.

You can completely eliminate colours, only to find that the tomato on your child’s sandwich created a major meltdown.

You can eliminate a wide combination of vegetables, food additives and soy products, only to find that your child reacts to something the diet says your child should be able to consume.

It is almost impossible to get the combinations correct. I know this, because I have tried it.

These diets do help a child’s behaviour. I have seen the progress made first hand. However, the progress is inconsistent, and the results are poor in comparison to the benefits of medication.

When you know your child’s self- esteem is in harms way, and you know that it could take at least a year to get your child’s ingredients right, medication is the easiest most fulfilling option.

When making the decision to ‘medicate, or not to medicate’ my son, I thought deeply about our single parent family as an entire unit. I had to do what was best for the four of us.

Having a child with special needs is a high – stress position to be in. This is not good for the family as a system. I cannot give 75% of what I have to give, to my son. It isn’t possible, its not o.k, and it simply isn’t fair to my girls.

Pros to medicating:

  • Moods are more easily managed
  • self soothing is now possible
  • Focus and concentration is amazing
  • Positive self-esteem and thoughts about self
  • More positive interpersonal interactions
  • Less troublesome behaviours
  • Happier with self

Cons to medicating:

  • My son has lost two kilograms
  • He has a poor appetite while on medication and often doesn’t feel hungry.
  • In the morning my son is starving
  • According to ‘Child Mind Institute’ there have been reports of stunted growth
  • Children can have problems falling asleep



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