Many parents of children with ADHD under age 7 or 8 years of age are worried about treating their son or daughter with ADHD medications.

They often worry that ADHD drugs will “turn their child into a zombie”, “take too much of their edge off”, “permanently affect their personality”, or just plain “cause brain damage”.

It’s easy to understand these concerns, even though ADHD drugs are some of the most studied and probably safest drugs used in America today. Most ADHD medications have been shown safe for treating children with ADHD for up to two years or even longer in some studies.

I think most of parent’s worries have evolved from stories heard about what this ADHD drug or that ADHD drug did to someone’s child.

These gossip type tales usually detail all of the bad side effects a certain child experienced while using ADHD drugs, but rarely tell of the good things that come about as a result of using ADHD medication to treat this common behavior problem.

You know the good things…decreased impulsivity and improved concentration-less inattentiveness.

Interestingly, the US Department of Health and Human Services Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) advocates the use of parental training in treating ADHD in young children, not ADHD drugs.

The AHRQ found that parent behavior training to be as effective as ADHD medication in treating ADHD in preschool kids.

Likewise, the report emphasized that treating children with ADHD by using behavioral therapy instead of drugs protected those children from the sometimes significant side-effects of ADHD stimulant and non-stimulant medications-always one of the major concerns in parents of preschoolers with ADHD. They don’t want their child to be a zombie or suffer any of those other fates we discussed above.

How should a parent decide about parental behavior training or drug therapy or even a combination of the two when it comes to treating their child with ADHD?

  • First, make sure your son or daughter is properly evaluated for ADHD and isn’t suffering from a disorder that could be mistaken for ADHD, causing ADHD misdiagnosis.
  • Secondly, thoroughly discuss your ADHD doctor’s rationale for treating young children for ADHD-drugs or behavior training.
  • Thirdly, insist that you want to try parent behavioral training first. You should be a strong advocate in trying to keep your child off of ADHD medications which will lessen the likelihood of future bias and discrimination based on his or her ADHD treatment.

Frank Barnhill M.D.Dr. Frank Barnhill is a family physician with 29 years experience. He is the author of Mistaken for ADHD which lists the 52 conditions that can mimic ADHD. His website is 

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