Treatment Approaches for Attention Deficit Disorders

Stimulants and Other Medications – The goal of all medications used to treat ADHD children is to help the child better manage his or her behavior (behavior management and emotional growth) by increasing the underlying level of neurotransmitters and, therefore, help the child’s neurology to filter stimulation efficiently and effectively. Medication used with ADHD children does “tranquilize.” It regulates the child’s body chemistry so that he or she  can learn effectively. Current evidence indicates that stimulant medication alters neurochemical balances and blood flow to the particular regions in the brain, resulting in improved functioning in the frontal and central brain structures important in alertness and attention. Medication impacts on the “biological antecedents” necessary to learning.

Basic medications used to treat Attention Deficit Disorder children are Ritalin (Methylphenidate), which is available in both short acting, (approximately 3-5 hour tablets), and long acting time-released tablets (approximately 6 hours). Dexadrine (Dextro-amphetamine) is not typically used with children, however, adolescents and adults frequently respond better to this medication than Ritalin. It is also available in 5mg short-acting tablets, and 5, 10, and 15mg long-acting spantials.

Second tier medications are Tricyclic antidepressants, which are not used for their antidepressant techniques, but like the stimulants, for their effect on increasing neurotransmitters. They increase neurotransmitter levels by diminishing the breakdown of selected brain chemicals, leaving more to stimulate those parts of the brain that control attention, inhibition, vigilance and alertness. The two most commonly used Tricyclic antidepressants are Tofrinal, which is Imipromine, and Norpromine, which is Dizipromine. Norpromine is a derivative of Tofrinal and produces fewer side effects.

Other Medications Frequently Used With Children, and Which Have Specific Benefits

  1. Clonidine has been found to be useful with over focused children. It typically diminishes explosive behavior. It has also been tried with individuals with “tics” or Tourette’s syndrome.
  2. Tegretol, an anti-convulsant is used with ADHD children who have seizure disorder, especially complex, partial seizures, which are manifested primarily in outbursts of aggressive behavior.
  3. Major tranquilizers, such as Mellaril and Thorazine, which are Phenothiaziness and Haldol (Halo Peridol), are used primarily to treat severe psychiatric disorders or students with anxiety so severe it appears to be attention deficit.

The teachers’ role in the care of students who are on medication, is to provide the student with the opportunity to take his or her medication at natural breaks in the school day, which occur close to the time demands of the medication and to observe variations in child behavior.

– by Frank Doberman, PhD

Dr. Frank Doberman is Co-Founder of Karner Psychological Associates (KPA) and is a leader in the fields of clinical psychology, is a Licensed Psychologist, Certified in School Psychology, Educational Administration and is a regular contributor to News 10 WTEN.

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