There has been controversy about the use of medications to treat both children and adults with Attention Deficit Disorder There have been articles debating whether Ritalin is over or under prescribed. When people ask me about this, I tell them that I can only answer for the children and adults that I have evaluated or treated. Yes, there probably are some individuals who have received medication when some other treatment might have been better. On the other hand, there are probably others who were not been diagnosed for years and could have benefited from medication. Finally, even if someone has attention deficit disorder (ADHD) and is on medication, is it the best medication, dosage and timing?
Medication can be quite helpful if prescribed in the right context. First the individual needs a thorough evaluation. If medication is prescribed, it should be followed closely. Small changes in timing and size of doses can make a difference.
Although Ritalin is the best known medication for ADHD, there are a number of other useful medications. For individuals who have an incomplete response to one medication, the doctor can often work with the patient to find another medication or combination that does control symptoms. Some of the secondary medications may require closer monitoring during the initial phase of treatment.
Sometimes medication failure is due to lack of communication between patient and doctor. (and sometimes school) The doctor, patient and family should be clear about exactly which symptoms they expect the medication to treat. Patients should ask questions. They should inform the doctor if there are side effects or if the medication does not seem to be working.
If medication is still not working as expected, it may be time to re-evaluate the diagnosis. Individuals with ADHD may also have other disorders at the same time. Anxiety and depression may superficially resemble ADHD. Occasionally a medical illness may masquerade as a psychiatric condition.
Medication can only take the individual part of the way to recovery. Therapy, community support, coaching and the individuals own determination are important parts of treatment.