Many parents are concerned and rightfully so about placing their child on neuro-stimulants for ADHD.

They worry about what these ADHD drugs will do to their child’s brain-personality-emotional well-being in both the short and the long run.

They’re also concerned that their son or daughter may suffer some or all of the side effects common to the ADHD stimulant medications such as methylphenidate and mixed salts amphetamines.

I can’t say I blame them. I consider the side effects of these ADHD medicines to be so important that I always ask kids, teens and adults on follow-up visits if they are having problems with their medications.

You know the problems I’m talking about… headaches, nausea, vomiting, weight loss, stomachache, rapid heartbeat, skipped heartbeat, irritability, sleeping too much, not being able to go to sleep, and dozens of others-all considered “common side effects” of many drugs used to treat ADHD.

So, it’s no wonder that parents ask about alternatives to ADHD drugs-what they can do to help their behavior problem child or teen without using medications.

Fortunately, many new research studies show or at least imply support for certain non-drug options that you can use to improve your child’s ADHD behavior.

However, let me offer a word of caution: these studies do not advocate treating ADHD without medications and/or behavioral therapy-both still considered the most effective combined treatment for ADHD.

Instead, they often make reference to the fact that a child’s ADHD behavior and in some cases, non-ADHD behavior may improve using certain non-drug options.

With that firmly in mind, let me share “Seven things that help ADHD behavior without drugs”.

  1. Balance your child’s nutrients-add multiple vitamins that include vitamin D, vitamin B12, zinc, copper, magnesium, iron, calcium, and fish oils. These are the things that help grow normal nerves and keep them working well.
  2. Eliminate or drastically reduce “fast foods” in his or her diet. Fast foods have been shown to increase the risk of ADHD behavior-related problems in both children and teens. You should add a minimum of two fresh fruits and three veggies per day. In addition, you should increase their intake of protein-meats, cheeses, and milk-and decrease foods that contain any type of sugar. While eating and drinking excess sugar doesn’t cause ADHD, it is one of those more than 54 things that can mimic ADHD, causing misdiagnosis!
  3. Avoid what we consider “toxic foods”. Those are the ones that usually contain lots of red and yellow dyes, complex preservatives, as well as large amounts of caffeine and other stimulants. Energy drinks and what I call “small bottle hits” or caffeine loaded “high energy” power drinks and supplements fall into this group. Many over the counter (OTC) drugs are also stimulants and can cause a child to “become hyper”. So, you’ll need to study the ingredients of every OTC drug your child takes regularly.
  4. Make sure your child gets at least 7 hours of restful sleep each night. Multiple studies over the past two years have confirmed that anything that interferes with normal sleep can cause behavior problems. If you suspect your child has a sleep disorder, please see your doctor as soon as possible for evaluation. Some sleep disturbances can be very serious and may cause multiple medical problems.
  5. Push your child to exercise at least one hour for five out of every seven days. Enroll him or her in some type of organized high-energy requiring sports activity, such as soccer, basketball, tennis, or football. Many behavior experts advise physical activity to decrease ADHD impulsivity and hyperactivity.
  6. Limit telephone time-television time-video game time to a total of 75 minutes per 24 hours. Studies have shown that playing video games and texting messages actually increases a child’s impulsivity and fosters a need for constant and increasing stimulation. Playing video games has likewise been implicated in ADHD hyperactivity and the need for instant gratification and what my teen patients call “the need for speed”.
  7. Arrange for a lifestyle coach-academic tutor who will meet with your child for at least an hour three times a week. Many ADHD coaching programs exist, but the best are those in which the coaching and tutoring happen face to face, not by Internet or by phantom teaching (on DVD).

As you can see, there are things that a parent or teacher can do to help decrease and in some cases, completely eliminate bad or undesirable behaviors-often whether a child is ADHD –or not.

If you can’t seem to get a grip on your son’s or daughter’s behavior problem, you should consider that he or she might not be ADHD-Maybe they suffer from a medical-social-psychological problem that looks just like or acts just like ADHD-They may have been “Mistaken for ADHD”!



Mistaken For ADHD



Frank Barnhill, M.D. is the author of  Mistaken for ADHD, a parent’s guide to preventing ADHD misdiagnosis and labeling as a failure in life! and publishes several medical websites that deal with ADHD and behavior disorders in children, teens, and adults.  His ADHD websites are and

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