Myths and truths about ADHD medication

August 05, 2016 18:11
According to various studies, around 70 to 80 percent of ADHD children show significant response to stimulant medication. Photo: HKEJ

Attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common neurobehavioral developmental disorder, and medication is the first and most important factor for its treatment.

Regrettably, many parents of those suffering from the affliction are reluctant to have their children take the necessary medication or sometimes even prevent them from taking it, largely due to myths and misinformation.

Many parents have dubbed ADHD drugs as “dumb pills”, thinking they can cause fatigue and retardation.

Mothers and fathers are also worried of the side effects of ADHD drugs, especially when they are told that the medication is required on a long-term basis.

Currently, stimulant medication in Hong Kong involves the use of Methylphenidate which comes in the forms of short-acting Ritalin and long-acting Ritalin or Conerta.

The duration of short-acting Ritalin is around three or four hours and usually needs two to three doses per day, while the long-acting Ritalin is around eight hours. Concerta’s effect could last 12 hours and usually needs only a single daily dose.

Clinically speaking, most children would only be required to take Methylphenidate until they reached senior secondary as their hyperactive and impulsive behaviors would be reduced as they learned and gained more social exposure while growing up.

Inevitably, medication has side effects and those carried by Methylphenidate include loss of appetite, gastrointestinal upset, difficulty in getting to sleep, weight loss, etc.

The doctor would monitor their growth closely by taking measurement of the children’s height during each consultation and adjust the dosage of the medication where appropriate.

Some parents believe that less medication is better and they might choose to withhold medication during school holidays, a.k.a. drug holiday. Careful consideration and discussion with the doctor is necessary.

Various research results found that around 70 to 80 percent of ADHD children show significant response to stimulant medication.

Combined with other trainings and treatments, it could yield even better results.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Aug. 1.

Translation by Darlie Yiu

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Registered social worker for the child and adolescent psychiatric services