Can my child's ADHD be treated without medications?

Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine

The most common treatment for ADHD is a combination of medication and behavioral therapy. Behavioral therapy includes behavior modification, family or individual therapy, and social and educational support. While medication and behavioral therapy do work on their own, like Batman and Robin they work better as a team.

But we know that medications, especially for your children can be as scary as asking your crush to dance in middle school, so talk to your doctor. He can tell you about all of your options, the side effects your child might experience, and more.

Behavior modification is the only accepted treatment for ADHD with a significant number scientifically accepted studies supporting its effectiveness. As a treatment for ADHD, behavior modification focuses on rewarding desired behaviors and initiating consequences for unwanted behavior; its goal is to gradually re-shape the child’s thinking and behavior. However, while the efficacy of behavior modification is beneficial, combination therapy, consisting of behavioral modification and medications, has been found to be more effective in controlling the symptoms of ADHD.
Douglas E. Severance, MD
Family Medicine
The National Resource Center on ADHD reports that medication is superior to behavioral therapies in treating attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), although both treatments are effective, especially when combined. According to the center, multiple treatments usually work best to help people with ADHD. Multimodal therapy for ADHD includes skills training, behavior modification, support groups, special education interventions, and medication. Some people may respond particularly well to one of these interventions over another.

Still, some parents do refuse to medicate their children. For these parents, behavior modification, educational support, and psychosocial treatments are preferred treatment options. There is a large amount of evidence showing that behavior modification therapy is effective for ADHD. Some skills a child may learn in behavioral therapy include time management, goal setting, and practicing new skills. Parents may also participate in education and support groups, learning how to parent their child more effectively and reduce unwanted behaviors. Social skills groups are another alternative to ADHD medication that can help to reduce some ADHD symptoms in children.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.