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Is Medication Harmful For Adolescents with ADHD?

Updated on March 7, 2015

What is A.D.H.D. ?

People diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactive disorder have a difficult time controlling themselves such as their attention span, their impulsiveness and their hyperactivity. The typical symptoms of A.D.H.D may be difficulties in focusing, have learning and communication problems and children with A.D.H.D do not interact well with other children (Goldstein, 2011; Mash & Wolfe, 2010 as cited in Comer, 2012, p. 451-452). About 80% of children misbehave because they cannot control their emotions due to the fact that children suffering from A.D.H.D normally develop and experience anxiety and mood disorders (Gunther et. al., 2011; Julien et al.,2011 as cited in Comer, 2012, p. 452). Psychologists and other specialized doctors must gather a report of their child with A.D.H.D because children usually give poor descriptions of their symptoms (Comer, 2012, p. 452). The child must be supervised in order to assess whether or not they have attention deficit hyperactive disorder (APA, 2013 as cited in Comer, 2012, p. 452). The children will also have experiences such as having fewer than others without the disorder, lower grades, poor relationships with family and friends and a difficulty in keeping romantic relationships.

Factor and Perspective

A cause for A.D.H.D out of the several is a biological factor. Studies have shown that children with the disorder have an abnormal activity of the neurotransmitter, dopamine and abnormalities in the frontal-striatal regions of the brain (Julien et al.,2011; Hale et al., 2010 as cited in Comer, 2012, p. 453). From a sociocultural perspective, a second cause for A.D.H.D is the amount of stress is accumulated from the negativity by the child’s peers and family members which adds on to a negative self-image and negative self-esteem of the child with the disorder (DuPaul & Kern 2011; Rapport et al., 2008) (Chandler, 2010).

Treatment for A.D.H.D.

Approximately 80 percent of children and adolescence receive treatment for A.D.H.D (Winter & Bienvenu, 2011 as cited in Comer, 2012, p. 453) and the type of treatment that is given based on its success is methylphenidate. It is a stimulant drug that has been given for many years, and, is known as the drug, Ritalin (Comer, 2012, p. 453). This is known as drug therapy. The advantages for taking Ritalin when suffering from A.D.H.D are a stronger ability to focus, solve complex tasks, do better in school, and control emotion such as aggression (Mash & Wolfe, 2010 as cited in Comer, 2012, p. 453). There are many good reasons to take Ritalin as it is the most common treatment for the disorder. However, clinicians worry about the long term effects and if the positive outcomes apply to minority groups (Biederman et al.,2005, 2004) and worry about the possibility of children being prescribed the drug when they do not have the disorder (Rapport et al., 2008). A second treatment for attention deficit hyperactive disorder is behavioural therapy. With behavioural therapy in the case of dealing with adolescence, teacher and parents learn how to reward attentiveness and/or self-control DuPaul et al., 2011). This operant conditioning has been helpful especially when using drug therapy and behavioural therapy together (Dendy, 2011; Carlson et al., 2010). On the bright side, the child in behavioural therapy will not necessarily need a regular amount of drug treatment and therefore, will have less of the unwanted side effects to methylphenidate (Hoza et al., 2008).


What The Medication Does

Clinicians have typically tried treating patients with medication to reduce the symptoms, causing their behaviour but wondered if medication would affect pre-school children with A.D.H.D long-term physical and neurological development (S.A. Heriot, I.M. Evans, T.M. Foster, 2007, p. 121). A study has shown that drugs improve the behaviour compared to behavioural treatment despite the fact that it may depend on parent training in order to have successful outcomes (Heriot et. al., 2007, p.122). Medication works by decreasing the impulsivity and lack of control people have but with children whose brains have just begun developing.

Study Case

The study had 90 children to begin with. Unfortunately, it was shortened to sixteen because of various reasons disqualifying them from the test. It consisted of three girls and 13 boys. The symptoms of A.D.H.D had to be active for a period of 12 months as well as if the child could not function in society and was considered developmentally inappropriate and the children were then tested by a parent or teacher who ranked at the 93rd percentile or more on the Global Index subscale of the Conners’ Rating Scales (Heriot et. al., 2007, p.122-123). As for treatments, children were haphazardly given one out of the 4 types of treatment available. Those treatments were 0.3 mg/kg of a medicine called methylphenidate and a parent training programme, secondly, 0.3 mg/kg of methylphenidate and supportive non-training parent groups, thirdly, placebo tablets similar to methylphenidate and fourthly were the placebo tablets including supporting non-training parent group (Heriot et. al., 2007, p.124, as cited in Comer, 2012 p. 453). The parent-training programme was to better prepare the parents with their child. The programme had steps such as: programme orientation and review of A.D.H.D which included the knowledge of normal development and issues regarding A.D.H.D, parent-child relations and principles of managing behaviour, handling future behaviour problems and so on (Heriot et. al., 2007, p. 224). Results found that seven out of the 16 children did not meet criteria for A.D.H.D. Furthermore, based on parent ratings of their A.D.H.D behaviour, ten out of the 16 were doing well and showed significant improvement (Heriot et. al., 2007, p. 128). Another result was that when the children had done a verbal I.Q. test, the mean overall was 92.88 which was drastically lower than their performance I.Q. test that had a mean of 102.75 and the P value< 0.05 which in fact did not show importance in difference based on criteria of test manual recommendations (Sattler, 1992, p.1025 as cited in, Heriot et. al., 2007, p. 125). As mentioned earlier, there were factors involved based on the ineligibility of certain pre-schoolers attending the study for example parents declining the study to be done on their child, children who only had situational A.D.H.D which means that the child had one symptom from the disorder and parents were reluctant to their child taking medications (Heriot et. al. 2007, p. 128). This led to certain limitations for the researchers and clinicians’ findings which could have potentially been more accurate. The limitations as previously mentioned were that 38% of the ones who volunteered for the sample study, 43% of which only were able to meet the requirements to be permitted into the study (Heriot, et. al., 2007, p. 129).

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All in all, the respective findings for the study were that medication and behavioural therapy was the optimal result in treatment, many children could not meet criteria for the study and shortened the accuracy of the ratings and tests given. The results showed mixed developmental signs of the child’s intelligence being affected but could not exactly predict the outcome for the child’s future with continued uses of the medication, only present ones which were mostly positive.


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    • profile image


      3 years ago

      I appreciate your kind and groneeus advice a lot!. I have been trying it hardly and did not get those amazing results!. It is nice to see that you got my comment in a good way!God bless you!VA:F [1.9.10_1130]please wait VA:F [1.9.10_1130](from 0 votes)

    • Phil Perez profile imageAUTHOR

      Phil Perez 

      3 years ago

      No problem Aaron. I appreciate you pointing out the grammatical mistake I made! Thank you very much!

    • Aaron Lif profile image

      Aaron Lif 

      3 years ago from SW Florida, US

      I saw your profile in the chess forums. I just wanted to mention that I think the title should read 'Adolescents.' It's a homophone with adolescence and can be easily mistaken. Just wanted to help.


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